Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
Do modern-day superheroes really exist?
In Clark Kent mode, Ken Alwine manages the TSA Command Center at the Portland Airport – challenging, high-pressure, even intense. He was also a firefighter on a naval aircraft carrier. And yes, he owns a cape. A gift he hasn’t yet worn, but still.
Where does he find real excitement? With Fences for Fido, a Portland nonprofit that “unchains dogs, one dog at a time.”
“Being there at the build and seeing the dog released is powerful,” he says. “You share in the dogs’ joy.” His first build was Sept. 2011. Driving home after, he saw another dog chained.
“I stopped and ran to the door and asked the guy about it — he shot me down that day, but I went back. The man, Jim, thought we were a scam — couldn't believe we would do something for nothing. It was April 2012 when we built a fence for his 12-year-old Husky, Hunter.”
Hunter lived 51 weeks longer. “Jim called me to help with him, and I found Hunter curled up beside Jim's recliner, by a heater vent, safe and warm. Now Jim has a little Chihuahua named Taco, who has the benefit of our fence. And Jim, who is fairly crippled, doesn't have to leash-walk him.”
When “the cape is off,” Ken’s guilty pleasure is crusty bread. . . ”I’ll eat it with just about any meal.”
“I said to my wife I've gained 10 lbs, I don't know why. My wife just tapped the bread . . . that can't be it.”
Their home is filled with “senior dogs who are old, fat, blind, and deaf,” he says. Also kitty Bella Bones, once thin, sickly and hurt.
“She’s fat now too,” he laughs.
The shoe that is so Ken? “My build boots, my muck boots. Waterproof, weatherproof, keep your feet warm and dry. Always in the back of the truck, handy.”
Another signature . . . “I keep a link on my keychain from a dog that I freed. Every time I reach in my pocket or get my keys, it serves as a reminder of the good work that Fences for Fido is doing. At builds, I like to give every volunteer a link from the dog’s chain.”
Ken and his wife have also fostered.
“My pack is great; they teach foster dogs to use the doggy door, and I really like the challenge. The last one was a Chihuahua who lacked confidence. She'd lived in the cab of a semi truck and didn't know what to do with herself, with her boundless energy. Turns out she loves big hairy boy dogs! That was the forever home she needed.”
In the true spirit of a superhero, Ken doesn’t condemn people for chaining dogs.
“Judgment has unchained zero dogs,” he says. “Non-judgment has unchained thousands.”
“There's this underlying issue that takes a minute to recognize,” he explains. “Of the hundreds of people and dogs I've met, nobody got a dog for the purpose of chaining it in the yard. Some life circumstance has brought that about. Compassion is not judging somebody for chaining their dog — it’s seeing the need, not the cause.”
“The ‘Fences for Fido’ community is amazing,” he continues. “We had one fence build where the mom talked about her daughter wanting to be a veterinarian. Her dad had recently committed suicide. So we all put some money together to help send her to a science summer camp. It's so much more than building a fence. Sometimes you're just a calm reassuring voice; talking to people, extending a little compassion.”
Among Ken’s prized possessions is “a note from my grandma, shortly before she passed. It's handwritten; I keep it on my desk at work.”
Ken loves coming home to “the song the dogs sing to me — the song for treats; they're all so happy. Walter just stares, like he's drinking me in. I tell him stories about how the sun and the moon used to argue about who got to help with a chained dog — and he just stares like I’m the coolest thing he’s ever seen. He just can't get close enough to me.”
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.
Christy Caballero writes from her soul about animals and their humans. She and hubby Herb compete for space on the couch with three big RagaMuffin cats, two retired racing greyhounds and one slightly neurotic foster greyhound -- who never wants to leave. Ever.
UPDATE: Slightly neurotic foster greyhound / failed foster number three. Never has to leave. Ever.