What kind of people ARE they??

I get asked a lot about the type of people we serve. I hear many comments that stem from both sides - from deep concern for a fellow human being and animals and from the other side of the spectrum with comments born of ignorance and prejudice. "Why do 'those people' think they should have a pet?" is probably the most common - and sad - question. By 'those people' the questioner is referring to single moms who've lost their jobs and homes and are struggling to keep their kids and pets together; they are referring to dignified old ladies who got 'gentrified out' of their apartments of many years due to rent increases, and they're referring to individuals who are struggling with illnesses and trying very hard to stay alive. They are referring to people who love animals as you and I do, people exactly like us, only without an income.

Daisy, on the right, and her new family! Megan and Ty rescued her after she was thrown from a moving car on the freeway.

Daisy, on the right, and her new family! Megan and Ty rescued her after she was thrown from a moving car on the freeway.

All of 'these people' are homeless. They've usually had their pets for many years and would no more part with a family cat or dog than they would a human child just because life has dealt them a harsh hand. Some of 'these people' are folks who find animals that are strays or abused at the hands of others and out of the kindness of their hearts take care of them. They share what precious little they have with the animals, always ensuring the animal eats first, has the blanket, and is protected. The animal-human bond is never stronger than when life is at it's most challenging.

I've worked with non-profit agencies for about 35 years now and I thought I'd heard it all. That is, until Megan and Ty showed up this week with Daisy, a beautiful and sweet dog with a bad infection on her neck. Megan,Ty and their handsome brindle pit bull are traveling through the area and heard about PAW Team from others who are living on the streets. They walked miles to get to the clinic. They'd just adopted Daisy, a lovely girl who had obviously had a terrible life as a breeder dog. I asked how they'd found each other. Ty hugged Daisy and she licked his face.

"We were hitch hiking on I-5 and someone slowed down a little. I thought they were going to pick us up but then the back door burst open and someone threw this dog into the traffic. They just slammed the door and drove faster" Ty told me.  Megan and Ty scrambled through traffic to rescue the terrified and injured dog. From that moment each of them knew they were now family. 

We treated Daisy's abscess and she's going to be just fine. She gets along wonderfully with their other dog and is totally devoted to her new humans. Megan and Ty were delighted to hear we could get her spayed through the C-SNIP grant from Animal Aid and are going to remain in Portland until we can get that surgery done. (Learn more about the great folks at Animal Aid here).They'd already neutered their male dog and know how critical this is to an animal's health. They care deeply for Daisy, this sweet dog that obviously had been used and abused by some uncaring, cruel and greedy breeder.

So when I am asked what kind of people our clients are, I think of Megan, Ty and Daisy. Our clients are caring, kind and devoted to their pets. They would do anything for them, even - as Ty and Megan did - rush into freeway traffic to rescue an animal that someone else has thrown away. They would walk miles to find help for their pet and alter their own lives to do whatever it takes to help an animal. 

If you were to ask me what kind of people our clients are, I can simply and truthfully say: "Our clients are the best pet guardians I know". It might be tempting to judge someone who is on a street corner with a pet and think they don't deserve the love, fellowship, protection and understanding of a companion animal but I would ask you to think about Daisy and her new people. Now perhaps you could consider what kind of horrifying circumstances that sweet dog had in her previous life when she was under the control of housed and "more traditional" people. If Daisy could talk, she'd no doubt tell you she's never been so loved and cared for as she is with this young couple who have so little. They have - and share - what is important in life: unconditional love.

Miracles do happen

What do you do when a member of the family has a life-threatening cancer and you don't have the funds to treat it? Here's a story of a mom, daughter and a dog that have stuck together through thick and thin, came to the PAW Team and hoped for a miracle.

Kris rescued Gracie seven years ago and ever since she's been part of the family. Karly doesn't remember not having Gracie in the family. About a year ago Gracie developed a lumpy tumor on her head that bled every time she rubbed her paw on it. The good natured standard poodle was hurting and Kris and her family suffered along with her. They'd had her seven years, rescuing her from a bad situation. A few years later, Kris' life took a turn for the worse but through it all, Kris, Karly and Gracie were together - and that was the most important thing to them all.

Gracie at the October clinic before surgery.

Gracie at the October clinic before surgery.

"About a year ago Gracie developed that tumor on her forehead. I took her to a vet and was quoted $800. I just didn't have it. Then I came to PAW Team and everyone was so concerned and so amazing" Kris told me.

Gracie attended her first clinic this summer, and the tumor had doubled in size by October. Another tumor on her hindquarters was also growing at an alarming rate.

At the clinic last week, Kris's young daughter Karly was with them and quietly asked if Gracie was going to be okay. Dr. Mary promised we would do what we could. We shaved the tumor sites, treated the infections and sent them home with medications and a little hope.

The next day as we cleaned up from the clinic we were discussing several of the more difficult cases we had seen, Gracie was chief among them. The general feeling was one of frustration - we knew we could save her but only if we could afford to do the surgery to remove the tumors. Then the phone rang. It was news we had been waiting for - a grant I'd been working on for months, from the Banfield Charitable Trust, had just been approved. A few emails later and the ball was rolling!

Dr. Christine Morris volunteered to donate her surgical services. We lined up the surgical suite where our surgical equipment is stored and within 24 hours the surgery was completed. Gracie didn't lose an eye, in fact, she looks better than ever. Kris and Karly were all smiles when they came in on Tuesday for a follow up. Gracie looked much more comfortable and the surgery was a great success. 

A very happy Karly and Kris, holding Gracie post-surgery. The PAW Team removed two life-threatening tumors from Gracie last week. Although a complicated surgery, everything went perfectly and the stitches will come out shortly.

A very happy Karly and Kris, holding Gracie post-surgery. The PAW Team removed two life-threatening tumors from Gracie last week. Although a complicated surgery, everything went perfectly and the stitches will come out shortly.

"Gracie's got a new lease on life" Kris told me. "We thought we were going to have to put her down but now she's back to her old self. It's a miracle."

Miracles do happen, thanks to the dedication of vets like Dr. Mary and Dr. Christine and organizations like the Banfield Charitable Trust that recognize the importance of the animal human bond.

Cindy Scheel, Executive Director, Portland Animal Welfare Team

Location, location, location

We moved in July from the sprawling warehouse in the industrial district to the St. Francis Complex in South East Portland and what a difference the location makes!

To be clear, our new digs are much smaller, by about ten times smaller than the old place. But contrary to what they say, size doesn't actually have to matter. Our first couple of clinics have gone petty smoothly, thanks to the many volunteers and a whole lot of proactive work.

We now operate out of what used to be an old school building (the clinic is technically in the fifth grade classroom!) and use the multipurpose room in the basement for a waiting room. That room is large and climate controlled, it was nice and cool on the hot summer Sunday of our first clinic. Thanks to Robin Smith, our Board President who just so happens to also be a substitute teacher, we were all using our "inside voices" to combat the echoing hallways. The clinic was actually very quiet, even with four pets being seen at the same time. 

Furby, his cart and his friend

Every day we register new clients who find us because of where we are. Clients who live out of shopping carts in the area like "Zombie" and his cat Furby, and clients that are just passing through and get a meal at the St. Francis Dining Hall like Darryl and his dog who just to happened to wander through and found us, getting food, flea control, a harness and leash for his four-legged buddy. We're also dispensing a fair amount of education to pet people to help them take better care of their pets such as why prong and choke collars shouldn't be used, and how to keep pets healthy in the scorching heat when you live on the streets.

I've been asked a few times if the location is good for the PAW Team. While this building is old and not exactly glamorous, it actually works really well for what we do and for our clients, it is in the perfect location. They can find us, even when they didn't know we existed. 

There's been a huge increase in demand for our services as a result of the move. We're in "homeless central" and word on the street spreads rapidly. The good news is that we're helping lots of animals that truly need help, although it's stretching our resources to the limit. We need to build a new ADA ramp and bathroom to accommodate clients with restricted mobility; we need to do basic, boring things like paint rooms and change out old (and icky) carpeting. From the costs of security our medications to making the building comfortable for the disabled, we can use your help

In a world where those we assist are the poorest of the poor, there's no shortage of people who need us and ways in which they need us. If you'd like to make a contribution toward our new facility, click here. It can make it a little easier for those who are struggling, not just financially, but with just physically making it to our facility.

Cindy Scheel, Executive Director, PAW Team 

PAW Team is Pet Charity of the Year!

We're delighted to share this article with you from the Portland Mercury's annual Pet Issue - PAW Team  has been chosen as Pet Charity of the Year!


Four Paws on the Street 

PAW Team: Our Pick for Portland's Pet Charity of the Year

By Marjorie Skinner @mjskinner800

PAW Team

1131 SE Oak,pawteam.org for information on upcoming clinics, opportunities to donate or volunteer, and more.

Four Paws On The Street

Helping pets and people stay together during the most difficult times of their lives. Photo by Chris Lazarus.

Helping pets and people stay together during the most difficult times of their lives. Photo by Chris Lazarus.

THERE ARE SO many non-profit pet organizations in this part of the world that it borders on ridiculous. There are boutique rescues all over Oregon, dedicated specifically to greyhounds, dachshunds, huskies, pit bulls, etc.—if a breed exists, there's a niche for it in the Pacific Northwest's network of charitable animal efforts. The overwhelming majority of energy and resources are directed at rescuing animals from bad situations and/or finding them happy forever homes, which is certainly necessary. But once ownership is established, there are far fewer entities at work to look after animals whose humans find themselves needing a hand in caring for them. That's where folks like the PAW (Portland Animal Wellness) Team come in.

Anyone who's spent even a smidgeon of time in Portland's urban core knows the city has a very visible homelessness problem. Dig deeper and you enter the maelstrom of conflict over Portland's affordable housing crisis—a problem that's spiraling out at a far faster rate than solutions. Social services agencies across the board are straining to meet increased need, and finding something as essential as shelter can make an already competitive endeavor incredibly difficult when you have an animal with you.

Nonetheless, a huge number of Portland's homeless have companion animals—whether it's a dog for protection, a cat for comfort, or a pet iguana who's been with you since better times. Maybe it's tempting to judge, and to wonder why someone would keep an animal they can't afford to care for, but PAW offers a more constructive, and kinder, approach than suggesting the severance of mutually beneficial animal/human bonds.

With a tiny staff of part-timers and a small force of volunteers, PAW Team offers monthly clinics that provide all manner of medical services to animals whose owners demonstrate need. The financial screening process is rigorous, meant to target those who'll benefit the most. Most of PAW's clients are either living on the streets, on friends' couches, or in their cars. Their animals provide love and stress relief that can be particularly healing to those suffering from conditions like PTSD, and many of the people who come through PAW Team's doors profess that their animal's welfare takes precedence over their own. The animals eat first. Still, life on the streets can be as hard on critters as it is for people, and going without even routine care like flea prevention can lead to serious health problems.

PAW Team's volunteer veterinarians handle everything from ear mites to neutering, and PAW can even help out when an animal needs more involved care like an operation. Though their new headquarters in the St. Francis of Assisi Complex (PAW's not religiously affiliated, but you have to appreciate the appropriateness of their location in a place named for the patron saint of animals) can't host surgeries on-site, they work with a network of agencies and facilities to coordinate a time, place, and surgeon to get it done at no- or low-cost. This makes it one of the rare organizations making a positive impact on the welfare of both animals and humans.

As rapid changes in Portland lead to an increase in displacement, PAW Team faces a rising tide of need. Executive Director Cindy Scheel relays a story from earlier this summer, of two elderly sisters who were evicted from their longtime home by a landlord who wanted to be able to charge more for rent. The women ended up living out of their car during the first big heat wave—along with their cat, who they were not willing to part with in order to get into a homeless shelter. Though somewhat out of their usual purview, PAW was able to coordinate foster care for their pet until they could find their way into housing that accepts cats, ensuring the health and safety of the animal as well as the women.

With tales like these multiplying around us, PAW Team needs all the help it can get, not least in spreading the word. While most non-profits coordinate referrals among themselves, it's an added strain for PAW to market itself to the city's population at large—in a city that loves its pets, PAW Team's work should be getting the attention it deserves, and a chance to benefit from Portland's many fun-loving fundraising efforts.

Perhaps the next time you're looking for a worthwhile cause to donate to or volunteer for, or a beneficiary for an upcoming event, or you're wondering what to do with your pet's leftover medications, you'll remember PAW Team. They, and especially their clients, won't forget you either.

18 months on the street, three vaccines, one happy family

Colleen called us last week with good news and a frightening deadline. 

Colleen had once had a pretty traditional life but circumstances beyond her control sent it spiraling. She lost her home and rather than take Cosette, whom she had had since a kitten, on the streets she entrusted her with a friend. She got to visit Cosette but it wasn't the same as being together.

After 18 months on the street, Colleen got "the call"  - she was finally approved for transitional housing. This was great news but she also had to have Cosette's vaccines and flea control updated before they could get into housing together. The window on transitional housing is very tight, with waiting lists of up to 2-3 years long it's critical to respond as soon as housing is available.

We got Colleen signed up as a client. Our Medical Clinic Director made a few calls and got a veterinarian to come in the very next day to do vaccines. Colleen, her cat-sitting friend, and Cosette came in, Cosette got her vaccinations. Everyone (except Cosette, who was being very stoic) had tears of happiness.

Helping people get into housing with their pets is one of the greatest joys of working at the PAW Team. Colleen refused to relinquish Cosette to a shelter when she lost her home. She's very fortunate that she has such a good friend that could take care of the cat while Colleen was homeless. She would have refused housing if she couldn't bring Cosette with her. Thanks to the PAW Team - and our awesome volunteer vet Dr. Cris - she didn't have to. 

Engineering Community Change

This week we welcomed 12 folks from Hewlett Packard to help us set up our new clinic. The buzz of a dozen Type A engineers working all together was incredible! They cleaned, painted, scanned files, strengthened the ADA ramp and helped make our new home a bit brighter and safer.

Each year Hewlett Packard encourages its new employees to engage in a community organization. We're honored they've chosen PAW Team two years in a row and shared their energy and expertise with us. 

Thanks, HP!

Evicting the elderly and their cat - from tragedy to triumph

TT the Cat.jpg

Last week I got a call from Rebecca, the Executive Director of Rose Haven, a day shelter for women and victims of domestic violence. Rose Haven is one of our Partner Agencies, organizations we work closely with to help provide veterinary care for pets of their clients. We've worked with Rose Haven for a long time and helped a lot of women take care of their pets. But this call was different.

Two sisters, both in their 70s, were evicted from their home a couple of weeks previously. During the 95+ degree heat wave the ladies took the few possessions they could carry and their seven year-old cat, TT and lived in their car, moving from space to space. They suffered more than the loss of their home and their dignity, they were faced with losing TT. Although Rose Haven had succeeded in getting the ladies a voucher for housing in two weeks, until then they would have to stay in a hotel that didn't accept pets. Everywhere they called required that they surrender TT and be parted from her forever. 

Then Rebecca called the PAW Team. She told me the story of their eviction, and how TT was the primary concern for the ladies. "They said they'd rather live on the street than give her up". But Rose Haven doesn't take pets. At the moment TT as sleeping happily in Rebecca's office, no doubt happy to be out of the scorching heat, but she needed to find the cat a foster home NOW, as in before the end of the day. Oh, and the cat wasn't used to any other animals. This wasn't getting any easier.  We see just about everything here, and get hundreds of calls with genuinely heart-breaking stories every week, but this one got to me. It's hard enough to be evicted and on the streets but in your 70s? I promised I'd do whatever I could and get back to her.

I hung up the phone. "This is so not okay" I muttered. Our office manager, Maria, and one of our fantastic volunteers, Carly, looked up. I related the story. "We need to find a foster home for a week or two." Foster homes are extremely hard to find, particularly on no notice. "Does anyone know of someone with a spare bedroom for the cat?"

"I've got one" Carly offered quietly. "I've got my own pets but I think we could keep them separate." I grabbed the phone and called Rebecca. I connected Carly and Rebecca and immediately the PAW Team wheels started turning.

Today Carly came in to volunteer with us for her usual shift. "They're back together!" she said happily. "It took less time than I thought. TT was a great cat. And the ladies are so sweet. Everyone's back together now."

PAW Team isn't an adoption agency, nor a foster care facility, but we do have the best, most compassionate volunteers  anywhere. Through our Partner Agency Network we make connections with people in great need, helping keep people and pets together during the most difficult times of their lives. Thanks, Carly, for helping out in this extraordinary situation. You've help make the lives of two elderly sisters, and the love of their live, TT the cat, better. PAW Team. We do the impossible every day.

Like Coming Home

Yesterday I closed the door at Front Avenue and loaded the last bits of PAW Team stuff into my car. Our new home at 1131 SE Oak Street is right where we need to be, in the heart of the community that supports the homeless. There's no glam here, and we're really tightly packed in but it's the right place to be.

We're now on five, count 'em, five, bus lines. Much better access for people using public transit. We have an indoor Waiting Area with restrooms. No more waiting in a cold, wet parking lot. Granted, the building we're in is an old school house and the restrooms were built for children, but it's still a vast improvement in convenience and dignity for our clients. There's also heat. Right now it's summer and we're plenty warm today but come fall and winter, but it will be definitely be nice to have an office where you don't have to wear gloves and two coats to function.

Coming to the St. Francis Complex is a lot like a homecoming for PAW Team. When PAW Team started, we started on the street corners, helping the pets of people living under bridges. We didn't have a lot but we made a huge impact. Now, 16 years later, we're right back where we need to be, amongst the homeless.

Outside my window there are about 20 shopping carts which hold all the worldly belongings of people. I'm getting to know the residents who live outside here - well, at least I know all the pets' names! There's Zombie, an extremely shy cat who rides atop the shopping cart in a carrier we gave his human. And Zeus and Apollo, two big beautiful pit bulls that live with Robert in his van. Star Rose came in today to register as a client, she just "inherited" a dog from her father who passed away. She's on the streets but she wants to be sure that dog stays in the family where he's known and loved. We set her up with food, a collar and a leash.

One of the the things I love the most about PAW Team is that we have such a direct, immediate and positive impact on pets and people. We don't have a fancy building, and we're really very condensed compared to our old location but we are changing lives every day. Getting a dog on our C-SNIP spay/neuter list, feeding a hungry cat, filling a prescription for a sick pet, giving flea control to a bunch of dogs that are suffering in this heat. Every act counts. 

I invite anyone who would like to make a direct, positive impact to give us a call and come visit us here at 1131 SE Oak Street. Got an hour? Right now we need help unpacking and organizing. Since the move, the phones are more active than ever with clients needing directions; we need folks who can answer phones and give empathy and information.  

But I warn you, volunteering here is addictive. Once you see the impact a little bit of kindness makes, you'll want more. You'll want to get to pet the handsome Zeus and Apollo, and see the look in Robert's eyes when he realizes that you, unlike most people, are treating him as human being. 

PAW Team. We help both pets and people. And we can make you feel pretty wonderful about yourself, too, by volunteering and help those who need it the most.

Cindy Scheel
Executive Director, PAW Team



PAW Team is moving!

It's farewell to Front Street!

We've been in the Front Street location for about three and a half years and we've been able to serve thousands of pets and their people. But this location has had it's challenges. We've listened carefully to our clients and volunteers and are moving to make changes for the better.

Beginning July 1, we will be at 1131 SE Oak Street in Portland, Oregon. Immediately after our June 7th clinic at Front Avenue, we are moving between the Front Avenue location and the Oak Street location. We'll have our first Oak Street Clinic on Sunday August 9, 2015.

Our new digs have a lot going for them! Located in the St. Francis of Assisi complex, we'll be much more accessible to the homeless. Many of our clients already go to the St. Francis Dining Hall for meals. 

Public transit is also a huge plus. A major obstacle for many folks at Front Avenue was the lack of bus service on Sundays. At Oak Street we will be served by five bus lines - #20, #19, #12, #6 and the #70 which goes right to the door!

Better conditions for everyone! We'll have things like heat, hot water, and rest rooms. There also will be an indoor area for clients to wait, rather than have to stay in the parking lot for hours in all kinds of weather.

We'll be starting later, and clinics will be shorter. Clinics will be between noon and four; clients should come no earlier than 11:00 a.m.; volunteer shifts will be much shorter too.

There will be a few challenges at the new location, too. The St. Francis complex is an active parish and all aspects of clinics will take place between services. This means that clients CAN NOT come any earlier than 11:00. So please, do not come early to "get a good place in line" as  we'll ask any who arrive earlier than 11:00 a.m. to wait at least two blocks away so that we can respect the parish services. 

We are tightening our focus to our core mission to help the pets of the homeless. At our new location you'll see people living on the streets, with all their belongings in shopping carts. It will be a welcoming place for the homeless and to ensure that our resources go to those in greatest need we are raising our financial qualification standards

The biggest change is going to be that we will only be able to serve about 40 pets for the first few clinics as we get used to our new space. As we adjust to our  new location some pets may not be able to be seen at every clinic. We expect that we'll be back to our normal numbers after a couple of months.

We are also adding in Week Day Clinics. Over the past year we've been testing this format with great success. Vets and techs can volunteer for these week day clinics any time on any week day. We carefully select the cases to be seen, essentially on a triage basis. Time-sensitive cases such as booster shots, or medical issues that can't wait for the next clinic are the first priority. This is a key change in our service model and is one that we believe will engage more of the veterinary community and make our regular clinics go as smoothly as possible.

All in all, the move to Oak Street is going to be a tremendous plus for our clients, our volunteers and the homeless community!

If you would like to help with this "farewell to Front Street" and help us pack, move boxes, paint, clean or otherwise get into our new digs, 

Questions? Email us at servicequestions @pawteam.org

"I live in Lake Oswego"

If you're from around here, you would know that Lake Oswego is a very expensive city in which to live. And if you've ever been to the PAW Team offices or visited on clinic day, it's not a phrase you'd except to hear from someone who is a PAW Team client.

In fact, when I asked Eric for his address, and he told me he was couch surfing but that for right now "I live in Lake Oswego" my eyebrows went up a bit. Here's his story - it's one of compassion, hard decisions, trust and a dog.

Eric was on the streets, and while he didn't come out and say it, was likely involved in a gang. Then he ran into someone who was giving away a puppy. He took the puppy and something very strange and wonderful happened - it kissed him.

"Yeah. My heart changed right there. I knew I had to do something else" he told me. As the puppy grew, so did Eric's conviction to change. He got off the streets, and through a random contact his puppy, now a rambunctious three months old, created at a dog park, another remarkable thing happened - he made a friend. 

It's this friend he's couch surfing with right now. He opened his heart and his home to Eric and his dog, and told them about PAW Team. After a three-hour long oddysee on the bus he finally made it to PAW Team. He was crestfallen to find out the clinics were early on Sundays, as bus service in Lake Oswego doesn't start until after 9:00 a.m. there. But the dog needed his shots and to be neutered. He was determined to make it somehow. I asked if he could find a ride, if his friend could take him, or if he could perhaps check Craig's List for a ride.

"Well, maybe not Craig's List" I corrected myself. "That could be kind of scary". It was Eric's turn to lift an eyebrow at me. "Usually I'm the scary one" he said. We both smiled. It was hard to imagine this kind and gentle guy as scary. He was dressed as many other twenty-somethings, with a baseball cap, a jacket emblazoned with his favorite sport team, and old running shoes. After a few minutes of discussing options he decided to ask his host if he'd take them to the clinic this Sunday.

"You know, I never knew what a difference it would make, having a dog". But once I got him, I just knew I needed to do something better for him. And I never knew what a difference living in a place away from the violence of the streets made. Now, I got a dog and I got a friend. But I only have that friend because of my dog. I owe him a lot".

Eric's trying incredibly hard to change his life and he has made huge strides. He's the kind of person who will give up anything for his pet, in this case, he completely turned his life around after just one puppy kiss. When Eric leaves his friend's house, he'll find a place that allows pets, he wouldn't have it any other way. It won't matter what city he will live in, as long as he's got his dog.