Minutes after meeting to interview Scott Beckstead, Oregon Senior State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, a battle for supremacy ensued. Mere moments after sitting down I was faced with the defining question of contemporary American interactions — the question that would determine the pecking order of our time together —
“So how many Facebook friends do you have?’
With just a hint of machismos in the air, the challenge was hurled. Laptops and Smart phones were hastily opened; fists clenched, brows furrowed. The seating around us quickly emptied as guests nervously scurried out of the line of (verbal) fire. Which of us would control this interview — which would don the crown of sovereignty — which would be the coolest kid at the table?
Yeah, whatever dude. Game on. (I let him think he won, by the way.)
What this moment of congeniality actually demonstrated was that Beckstead is a savvy guy who understands that social media is an important tool in engaging with people and sharing details of the messages he values so deeply. This is a man with a burning passion for protecting animals — a man who has always loved animals, and is fortunate enough to be able to say of his job, “This is my life’s work.”
Scott Beckstead is Oregon’s leading lobbyist and advocate for the rights, protections and safety of our state’s wildlife and urban/domestic animals. He goes head-to-head on such emotionally charged and often culturally engrained issues as horse tripping (rodeo/sport activities), cougar hunting by dogs, wolf preservation, tethering laws, trapping reform, dangers of lead in ammunition, and unprotected sea lions vilified and targeted for being hungry. The need for protections for animals is lengthy and ongoing, as is the need for education, leadership and funding.
While a great deal of Beckstead’s work is focused on wildlife and farm animals, urban wildlife is there too, including neighborhood raccoons. Beckstead’s simple message: Don’t feed them. Just don’t do it.
You learn a lot about Scott in an hour; he’s easy to get to know, and to like — valuable traits when your job is to get people to listen, understand — and often change. Beckstead can bring you to tears when speaking of his horse Sheik, a beautiful white Arabian who passed away the day after Thanksgiving at age 32. Sheik and Beckstead were together all of the beloved horse’s life; in fact, 15-year-old Scott witnessed Sheik’s birth. 32 years later that boy, now a 19 years-married father of four, said farewell to his longtime companion.
Sheik’s memory and legacy are carried on by his son, Encore. They are pictured together, where they shared a home at Duchess Sanctuary, an 1120-acre facility south of Eugene, operated in partnership with the HSUS as a safe shelter for upwards of 200 formerly abused, abandoned, neglected, and homeless horses. Many were rescued from “factories” producing PMU, pregnant mare urine, used primarily to make Premarin. The sanctuary is “Committed to providing the highest standards of equine care and basic loving kindness that these horses — and any future residents — deserve.”
Caring for animals is a family avocation in the Beckstead home. His wife of 19 years, Jackie, is currently Director of Accreditation and Field Operations for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Prior to that, she was Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy, handling all animal-related cases in Lincoln County. The Beckstead home in Sutherlin houses Scott and Jackie plus four children, four dogs, four cats, and three mice. While not hinting at favoritism, it should be noted that Melanie the Mouse, pictured on the laptop, does have a significant place of prominence in family photos and stories.
In addition to passion, Scott is a memorable personality. He is the first in this series to expect a back-up band for his rendition of “Who Are The People in the Neighborhood.” And damned if he didn’t find one! Please enjoy this version before the song goes viral and on to iTunes.
Faithful readers of this series know that the star of each episode is asked to provide a shoe that is “so them.” As Scott talked about Sheik he reached into his bag and pulled out his. It’s a shoe that means the world to him — the last his beloved old gelding wore — a shoe as smooth and gentle to the touch as the memories left behind.
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, this year Dec. 9th 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.
Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd. She is herded on a daily basis.