Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
As a writer, Oregonian Pet Columnist Monique Balas isn’t as comfortable having questions directed the other way.
“I’m an introvert, so it's weird for me to be on the other end of this,” Monique laughs. “I'm definitely not used to being the interviewee.”
Monique has been asking questions about pets in the Pacific Northwest since she joined The Oregonian in 2010. After writing about various subjects for news organizations across the country, she believes she’s finally found her niche.
“I’d done some beats that just didn’t feel right,” Monique says. “But [The Oregonian pet column] really resonated with me. I felt like I’d found something that I could really put passion into, because I do love animals. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I don’t have that capability. Writing about animals is a way to be creative and hopefully learn something while educating people about caring for animals.”
Monique lived in various cities before finding her true home in Portland. Born in the small town of Canfield, Ohio, she moved to Virginia for college. Sadly, her father passed away while she was there.
“I had some emotional things that I went through when my father died,” she admits. “I knew I didn’t want to live in Ohio, because I don’t really like it there, but I also didn’t want to stay in Virginia. I wound up backpacking around Europe for a couple of months, which was so much fun.”
While in Switzerland, Monique befriended a Portlander who recommended she try the city when she moved back to the states. She took his advice and came out to visit in 1999. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “So I just randomly moved here without knowing anybody.”
Much of what struck Monique about Portland was how different it was from her hometown.
“I thought it was so beautiful,” she remembers. “All of the houses and shops had so much character, and it had the best diversity in terms of the climate and geography. There’s the coast, the mountains, the gorge, I mean, it was so different from Ohio in a lot of positive ways, and it just felt inspiring.”
One of Monique’s’ favorite things to do in the city that she loves so much is run. In fact, she recently completed the Great Columbia Crossing, a 10k across Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River.
“It was a really incredible and beautiful experience,” Monique says. “Definitely one of the coolest races I’ve ever done.”
Monique also enjoys a decidedly more sedate pastime: she’s a bookworm. “I know I sound like kind of a dork,” Monique laughs, “but I really love reading.” Favorites include Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Gamache series by Louise Penny.
Monique has even considered writing a book herself. “I've definitely given it a lot of thought, but it’s a daunting process,” she says. But that book wouldn’t be about pets or animals. “The other type of writing that I like to do is more personal essays. I’m really into psychology, so I think it'd be more about self-development.”
That said, Monique admits she does still find writing inspiration in the two cats that share her Northeast Portland home. Louie and a “tripod” named Espie (short for Esperanza), were both adopted from the Oregon Humane Society four years ago.
“They definitely give me story ideas,” Monique says. “A few months ago, I wrote about what to do when your pets fight. The picture I used was of the two of them snuggling together, but they definitely get into little scuffles every now and then.”
When she’s not running, refereeing cats, or getting lost in a good book, Monique is making music. The multi-talented writer recently joined the handbell choir at a church near her home — it’s one of three instruments she plays in addition to clarinet and the piano. She was on a handbell team in high school — “Yes, you read that right,” laughs Monique — and the choir is a fun way for her to continue playing music today.
As for her favorite shoes? Well, both choices are perfect for the city she calls home.
“Cowboy boots or some hiking shoes,” Monique says. “Because they get great views and exercise and probably get to see some cool scenery.”
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Jane Alexander is a promotions coordinator and junior copywriter at Entercom Radio in Portland as well as a freelance writer.