Volunteering at PAW Team

My name is Alison and I recently started volunteering with PAW Team as the blogger and social media coordinator.  I want to tell you a bit about my experience as a new volunteer so you know what to expect if you are thinking about volunteering.

I volunteer with PAW Team because it is fun, allows me to develop new skills, and because PAW Team makes a straight-forward, direct impact on our community.  Outside of PAW Team, I work in education, host Meetups, and am on a quest to find the best fusion food in Portland.     

Even before starting with PAW Team, I was impressed with the level of organization at PAW Team.  I was able to get on the website, sign up for a shift and a volunteer orientation, and begin volunteering within a month.  This is the 4th organization that I have tried to volunteer with recently and the only one who was organized enough to get me trained and “on the floor” in under 2 months. 

The first clinic I attended was one of their biggest of year - over 120 pets served.  Despite this, things ran smoothly.  Volunteers – even those of us who were new – knew where to go and who to ask if we had questions.  The experienced volunteers were knowledgeable, warm, and welcoming.  I had so much fun!  The pets are super cute.  I also really enjoyed meeting our clients and hearing their stories.

If you are interested in volunteering, more information can be found here.  Say hi when you see me at the clinic 

Give!Guide kick off this week

Here's an easy way to help the people and pets of PAW Team - donate through the Willamette Week Give!Guide.  Give!Guide brings our community together and the funds raised during the next two months help us take care of pets all year long.

Your donation of $15 will vaccinate a pet and help his people get into housing and off the streets.

A gift of $40 will Zeuter a dog - that's a non-surgical sterilization process that's easier on the pets and the people and helps reduce unwanted litters, suffering of pets and overcrowding in shelters.

$250 buys flea control for a whole clinic helping more than 100 animals.

And then there's the 35-50 fun! If you're 35 or under and donate $50 or more you automatically qualify for the PAW Team/Pabst Party Bus! It's a pub crawl in the super fun double decker London bus at 5-7 pubs where you'll be treated to beer, snacks, and tons of swag ranging from t shirts to snow boards. (And if you're doing the math, yes, you get a whole lot more than $50 in fun for this donation - it's a win win!)

Donate now, help the pets of the homeless all year long. It's easy. It feels good. It changes lives.


My pet's cuter than your pet

There's one really great upside to the PAW Team that everyone, but everyone, agrees on: we love the pets. We especially love the CUTE pets! Okay, so every pet is cute in their human's eyes but some handle their photo sessions a bit better.

We're inviting all our clients, volunteers and supporters to send us photos of YOUR cute pet. We'll post it to our Gallery so we all can enjoy the incredible adorability of your pet. Don't worry, we will only post the pet's name. 

Let's get some cute going here! Check out our Gallery - and add to it!

Petey's PAW - a visit from a favorite client

Petey's PAW

Today we got a visit from one of our favorite patients - Petey. He brought his human family with him to get some food and a couple of big dog bowls. And to see his friends at the office. Maria, our office manager, and I dropped everything we were doing and rushed to greet him. This dog is amazing, and so is his story. 

The office gets busy during the week - although we don't have a vet on staff except on clinic days we give out supplies, food, prescriptions and handle about 60 calls per day. Clients come in to pre-qualify, a process that speeds up their clinic day by hours. Usually Maria answers the phone but when it's swamped, we all jump for it when it rings. One day this summer was as busy as it gets and I answered the phone.

Normally clients are desperate when they call us and you can hear it in their voice. They've made dozens of calls but there simply aren't free vet care resources out there except us, the PAW Team. It can take a while to find us and when they do, clients are frantic, if relieved. But this call was different. 

The man on the other end of the phone was quiet, resigned. But he was calling for his boys' dog, Petey. They had just come from their vet who had given the bad news that Petey had cancer in his toe and it was rapidly spreading and if the toe wasn't removed he wouldn't make it. He told me his name was Geoff and that Petey was the support network for two of his boys who are autistic. Without Petey the boys would struggle even more. "I just don't know what to do but I have to keep trying, for them" he told me.

In all the thousands of calls I've heard, this one was one of the most moving. The situation was medically "fixable", the pet more precious than usual because of the family situation. But the thousands of dollars he was quoted for the surgery, while the going rate for a special operation like that, was so far beyond their means it was impossible. But this is the PAW Team. We do the impossible every day.

I called our clinic director, I called vets. We got a vet to donate the surgery services, we came up with the meds Petey would need, and we arranged for the operation to take place at the Pixie Project, where our surgical equipment is housed due to the less than ideal conditions at the Front Avenue clinic. It looked great but then I got a call that Pixie wanted $150 or the surgery was off. 

By now there was absolutely no way that I was going to let Geoff and his family down. I called our friends at Animal Aid and Tina, so moved by the story, said they "would find a way to pay for that copay". In less than a day Tina called me back saying they'd come up with the funds. The surgery was back on!

Things went beautifully. Petey came in for several follow up visits at our Front Avenue Clinic and K, our Clinic Director, changed bandages and we all were amazed at the magical being that Petey is and the incredible bond he has with his humans, especially the boys.

Petey came in again today with his family. They needed food and some bowls. We also got to meet his doxie friend and gave them bags of food for her too. "Petey is back to chasing flies" Geoff told me. "She limps just a little, but she's so happy and so full of life again." 

We're PAW Team.  We do this with very little funding, with awesome volunteers and with help from great agencies like Animal Aid. We don't build silos, we build community. We help those who have the least and need it the most.

A perfectly healed paw for Petey!

A perfectly healed paw for Petey!

70 years of friendship, dogs, and bellydancing

Last month the wonderful dancers of Dancers NW sponsored a benefit for the PAW Team. More than 20 dancers, ranging in age from 9 years to 76 years, gathered to dance for the dogs and cats (and rabbits, ferrets, turtles, hamsters...) of PAW Team. Led by the area's foremost belly dance instructor, Carol Love, it was a delightful event, showcasing the beautiful and ancient art of the dance and the vivacity of the dancers.

They raised several hundred dollars for the PAW Team and an unexpected bonus of the day was  that the event also reunited two women, Carol and Suzanne, who had grown up together. Friends since age six, both women are now 76 and went to school together from kindergarten to high school. The demands of families and work separated them but they usually reconnected at high school reunions here in Portland. The last time they saw each other was at their 50th.

When Suzanne found out about the Belly Dancing for PAW Team benefit she immediately signed up to go. She remembered Carol with great fondness and was delighted to have an opportunity to reconnect with her life-long friend.

Why is this unusual? Suzanne moved to an assisted living facility earlier this year and felt that much of what she had known and loved for all her life was now out of her life. She had to give up her two beloved dogs, Sam and Baby Doll, when she moved. More than once she had said: "There's just nothing to live for any more. I was okay until I realized I'd never see my dogs again. They were the reasons I got up every day and they were my constant companions."

I hear this nearly every day from our clients. Living on the streets or in assisted living, our pets keep us going, they are our support network.

Suzanne had lost hope. But when she saw Carol again, the light came back into her eyes. She - as we all were - was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of her old friend. And she was helping animals. 

Like many of our clients, Suzanne, while not homeless, was facing a radical change in her life brought about by circumstances beyond her control. She lost her home, she lost her beloved pets. She lost her reason to live.

Belly dancing for PAW Team did more than reunite two dear old friends. It gave Suzanne a desire to live again. I'm not sure she'll buy a belly dancing costume (as I did at the event) but she has a rekindled spark to want to help people and pets again.

How do I know this?

Suzanne is my mother.

Synergy at its Best

Whisper and Salchi at Pot Luck in the Park Outreach Clinic

Whisper and Salchi at Pot Luck in the Park Outreach Clinic

It started with a phone call . Two young people living on the streets, Whisper and Happy, came to the Pongo Fund for dog food. They said their older dog, Salchi, needed wet food as she was nine years old and had bad teeth. Larry at Pongo called me and asked if there was something we could do. Salchi's teeth were causing her pain and she had difficulties eating. They had just gotten a new puppy from another homeless person who couldn't take. Neither of the dogs were spayed. Whisper and Happy were going to leave town in a few days. We got Whisper's cell number and told her about our Outreach Clinic at Pot Luck in the Park the following week. 

Whisper, Happy, Usnea and Salchi at PAW Team after surgery. Success! Two spays and a much-needed dental surgery. Thanks, Vista Vet!

Whisper, Happy, Usnea and Salchi at PAW Team after surgery. Success! Two spays and a much-needed dental surgery. Thanks, Vista Vet!

Dr. Mary examined Salchi and confirmed the dog had very advanced dental disease and would need surgery. We convinced Whisper and Happy to spay both dogs if we could get the surgery donated, and they agreed. Now we set out to do ' the impossible' - get the dental surgery donated. Virtually every older dog and cat will eventually develop dental problems and dental extractions are one of the most requested surgeries.

We reached out to Vista Pet Hospital, well-known for their expertise in dental issues. Dr. Davis is committed to keeping older pets healthy and offers dental surgeries at very affordable prices. We told them the situation and the quickly agreed to donate all three surgeries. Amanda, our Spay/Neuter coordinator volunteered to transport the dogs to and from Vista Vet. The surgeries took place in just a few days and Vista even kept the dogs overnight to help ensure a smooth recovery. Everything went perfectly.

This is a fantastic example of synergy at its best. What started as a simple request for food grew into a life-changing happy ending.

We are deeply grateful to Dr. Davis and his wonderful staff at Vista Pet Hospital for providing the surgeries and overnight stay, and most of all for their long-standing commitment to helping the pets in our community.  

Dignity Village Clinics - going monthly

Dignity Village is the only city-sanctioned homeless encampment in the US. Since PAW Team's beginnings, the fabulous vets of the PAW Team have been treating the pets of the Villagers, keeping the pets healthy and happy - and very importantly - together with their people during the toughest times of their lives.

This year, we are increasing our outreach to the homeless and very low income residents of our community through Outreach Clinics and Dignity Village will of course be a part of this. The pets at the Village are some of the most loved animals you'll ever meet. It's my privilege to drop by a carload of pet food every couple of weeks and check in on the residents and their four-legged friends. 

The residents of the Village have more challenges than most of our clients - transportation being one the greatest. There are nearly 40 pets in the Village, but only one working car so getting animals in for check ups, vaccines and even just flea control is a logistical nightmare. Did I mention some of the cats have a bit of attitude??

Now we are addressing this challenge by making regular, monthly visits to the Village to dispense parasite control, vaccines, and handle medical problems before they become emergencies. Seeing these pets on a regular basis makes it easier on the pets, the residents and also will shorten the wait for other clients the regular First Sunday Clinics at Front Avenue. 

This week Dr. Christina Ekness from Dove Lewis joined Clinic Director K Anderson and superstar volunteer Chuck Barton, CVT, at Dignity Village for a clinic. They treated more than 30 pets with parasite control, vaccines, exams, first aid and took some blood samples for tests for a particularly sick kitty. All this in 94 degree heat!

Outreach Clinics - lowering barriers to accessing our services

Our mission is to help keep people and pets together during the most difficult times of their lives. We help the pets of people that are homeless, in transition from homelessness and living in extreme poverty by providing vet care for their beloved pets.

But sometimes getting to our Front Avenue clinic is a real challenge. Transportation, particularly when you're carrying a sick animal and you don't have a car, is one of the biggest barriers to accessing PAW Team clinics. So we are adding a number of Outreach Clinics to our services in addition to our regular clinics. This month we're reaching out to the homeless through Pot Luck in the Park. Pot Luck has been providing a free meal to anyone who needs it every Sunday for more than 20 years.

The special clinics are exclusively for the clients of the agencies with whom we partner, and are a streamlined version of our regular clinics. We provide basic exams, vaccinations, parasite control, and we'll bring along some food and supplies as well. This will be our second year at Pot Luck in the Park and we're looking forward to helping their "regulars", many of whom go everywhere with their pets. 

Last year one of the folks who came to our tables was Shawnisha, a lovely young woman who, along with two friends, had been traveling across the country busking on corners - literally singing for their supper. They had a boistrous pit bull with them whom they'd had since he was a puppy. They'd saved up enough money to get him neutered when they were traveling through the south but he hadn't had any vaccinations or flea control for more than a year. We took care of those needs and sent them on their way with a bag of dog food, some toys and a halter and leash to replace the old rope they had been using.

One of the main goals of our Outreach Clinics and our Partner Agency Network is to help get our services to those who truly need them the most before there's a medical emergency, keeping pets healthier and happier. 

In the next year we'll be doing even more Outreach Clinics. We'll be at a low-income senior housing unit where all the residents have transitioned from the streets; we'll be at a community center in the area of the city that has the highest concentration of subsidized housing; we'll pack our med bags and cars and go to Transition Projects and we're even adding monthly "Village Calls" to Dignity Village, the nation's only city-sanctioned homeless encampment and a place where we've been providing veterinary care since PAW Team started in 1999.

If you'd like to help support our Outreach Clinics, you can click here to donate. Your gifts will buy vaccines, flea control and tests for sick pets of the homeless.

Oregon Public House Event

Today the PAW Team is at the Oregon Public House - we're not treating any animals, but earning money for the pets!

Pints for PAW Team is an all day event from 12:00 noon to 11:00 p.m. OPH is the world's first non-profit pub. It's family-friendly, and donates a portion of proceeds to charities. Today the PAW Team is the beneficiary. Staff and volunteers will be your wait staff. We'll have a silent auction, raffle prizes, door prizes and our cool new PAW Team t shirts for sale.

Come and raise a pint - or a soda - and help the pets by joining us in the air conditioned comfort of the Oregon Public House for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or a cool beverage on a super hot day!