Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
Faster than a speeding hurricane . . . stronger than a leash-reactive Pit bull . . . bungee-jumping into canyons with a single bound . . . she is Patricia McKinney, owner of Portland Mutt Strut!
And just how did this athletic dog trainer, business owner and emergency rescue volunteer get her start? Perhaps it was on a farm handling livestock . . . maybe taming tigers in the circus . . . or did she acquire her skills growing up in a house full of rescue critters?
Actually, none of the above. "I had asthma and was allergic to cats, so we didn't have any animals in the house," Patricia says. "I had fish."
Thanks to the miracle of modern pharmaceuticals, however —- and a true passion for helping pets —- this former Northern California girl has evolved into a sort of Indiana Jones of animal welfare. Her exploits include high-angle rescues of dogs who’ve fallen off cliffs, working in the chaos of a post-Hurricane Katrina emergency animal shelter, and aiding in the care of over 500 Pit bulls following the bust of a multi-state dog-fighting ring.
No surprise then, that when she got laid off from her advertising job in the economic collapse of 2008, Patricia opted to go bungee-jumping in New Zealand.
"And when I got back I was like, now what?" she remembers.
Her answer turned out to be opening Portland Mutt Strut, a pet-sitting and dog-walking business that was voted #1 pet sitter three years in a row by Spot Magazine readers.
"Even though I didn't have an animal when I was growing up, I've always loved cats and dogs in particular," she says. "The more I was around them, the more I appreciated their unconditional love."
By the time she started her business Patricia had already been volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) for many years, where she became part of their Animal Technical Rescue Team. "We trained every month using equipment to rescue cats up trees, and dogs that fell over cliffs," she explains.
It was because of her work on that team she was chosen to go with a group of OHS responders to help with animal rescue efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"We were there 24/7 for seven days," Patricia remembers. "We worked probably 18 hours a day. We were assigned Barn 5, which contained the 'challenging breeds' —- over 200 mostly intact Pit bulls. I love Pit bulls, and I think that enhanced my love of them. The most powerful part of my life so far was that experience down there."
While her time in Louisiana affected her profoundly, Patricia says there are other things in her life of which she's equally proud. Number one? "Being auntie and godmother to my two nephews, Ryan and Michael. They are everything to me," she says.
Also on that list is starting her own business, which has left her little time to pursue her love of dance, or to keep up with The Young & The Restless.
Turns out our fearless, adventure-seeking Pit bull wrangler is a soap opera addict. "In 7th grade I got hooked on All My Children," she laughs. "Watched it for 25 years! Then I converted over to The Young & The Restless and I still watch that."
Her companion when she's catching up on the residents of Genoa City is her cat Scooter, an OHS alumnus and her only pet —- not surprising if you consider the hours she works and the fact that she's already given her heart to the many dogs she cares for every day. "I have some [pet] clients I'm madly in love with," she says with affection.
Still, Patricia hopes her future includes a chance to slow down and do some dog rescue, specifically of senior canines. It will also allow her to spend more time in her shoe of choice: flip-flops.
"Retire from working, get two old dogs and live on the beach," is how she wistfully describes that dream.
Sounds like another great adventure.
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.
Michele Coppola is a Portland-based air personality for 99.5 The Wolf and copywriter for Entercom Radio. When she's not talking, writing, or pursuing quality couch time with husband Bryon and their dogs, Cindy and Lucy, she's also a proud volunteer for Fences for Fido and Family Dogs New Life Shelter.