Meet Sharon!

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

  Sharon paddle boarding with Fizzy

Sharon paddle boarding with Fizzy

When you spend 10 hours in a car with someone you've never met, there are two ways it can end: you can become friends, or you can become the story you each tell your friends that ends with the words "never again."

Lucky for me, I made such a road trip with Sharon Maloff Cram, owner of Club K-9 in north Portland--a truly state-of-the-heart dog boarding and training facility. More about how we ended up as traveling companions later.

Sharon is a woman whose devotion to animals is almost certainly in her DNA. Growing up in San Jose, California, her school teacher father became known as the go-to guy for help with animals, and was even on the local humane society call list as a wildlife rescue volunteer. That reputation resulted in a suburban house full of non-traditional pets in addition to multiple dogs and cats.  "We had a turtle show up on our lawn. We had a cayman alligator, we had a mockingbird, and we had ducks in our bathtub," she laughs.

Sharon eventually wound up at UC Davis--a preeminent veterinary school--and during that time she volunteered at an emergency veterinary hospital, which changed the course of her life. "It was just so sad for me, animals dying," she says. "And I know from friends that are vet techs and veterinarians that you have to develop a tough shell. I realized quickly that I would just get really depressed."

That put her on a path to a career in dog behavior and training, something Sharon feels is equally life-saving. "It's bad enough that so many dogs are dying from injuries and illness," she remembers thinking. "Let me see how many I can keep alive by helping their parents work with them [so] they behave in their homes and can stay there."

Two dogs who definitely owed their lives to Sharon were a red-nosed pitbull and an American bulldog bystander who were both sentenced to die in Redding, California after the former killed a cat. This was the early-90s, and at the time the state was regularly euthanizing all pitbulls after the fatal mauling of a young boy in Gilroy.  Sharon had been a long-time pitbull rescue volunteer and advocate with the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation, and after hearing her testimony, the judge released the dogs to Sharon with the stipulation that she take them out of the county.

"It was one of the proudest moments of my life because they were on death row," Sharon says. She eventually found permanent homes for both dogs.

It was after moving to the Pacific Northwest, however, that Sharon clarified her mission. She became so well-regarded as a dog trainer and behavioral consultant here that her clients often begged her to board their pets while they traveled, or to foster them for extra training. Opening Club K-9 twelve years ago was a natural--and necessary--next step. 

"How can I create a facility where dogs are going to be as safe, if not safer, than they would be at home with their own families?" Sharon recalls asking herself. "And how can I make this the most enjoyable vacation for them while their parents are on vacation?"

The result was a kennel painted in bright colors, with homey suites and big open playrooms which attest to Sharon's commitment to happy canines. It's also apparent in the fact that there's always room at this doggy-inn for rescues.

"We're open to pretty much any organization that wants to use us for foster care," she says. "What we accept are dogs who get along great with other dogs, so they have a really great time socializing. We're also careful with helping the rescue organizations screen who's adopting them."

When she's not knee-deep in dogs at work, Sharon shares her Vancouver home with three of her own canines, a couple of cats, her husband Jeremy and two sons: 11-year-old Jack and 7-year-old Adam. She regards her two children as her greatest accomplishment, and not surprisingly, the animal force is strong with them.

"They love animals, and they're both really kind people and they care about other people and other animals feel," she says with obvious maternal pride.

The boys are also vegan, just like their mom and dad. Sharon has been so most of her life, and when she and I traveled to Forks, Washington together last year to protest the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, her non-judgmental passion for an animal-product-free lifestyle made an impression on this bacon-worshipping omnivore. Sharon hopes that her future includes opening a small eatery in southwest Washington full of accessible vegan treats.

 Michele and Sharon

Michele and Sharon

"I went to a really cool place in Hawaii when I was there that was a vegan-raw foods cafe," she says. "[I'd like to] open up something like that up in Vancouver that exposes people to healthier options--vegan foods that taste great--and makes them easy to get."

She recommends that anyone who is interested in a vegan lifestyle start with a visit to Out To Pasture Animal Sanctuary to understand the whole story of where much of our food originates.

 And if you should decide to drive out to see it, I can highly recommend Sharon for the shotgun seat.

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.