Blog

The Human Equation

PAW Team is the only agency that helps both people and pets. Our mission is to help keep pets and their people together during the most difficult times of their lives by providing free veterinary care to the pets of people that are homeless or living in extreme poverty.

Every day we get dozens of calls from people desperately looking for help. There are hundreds of exceptional human service agencies in our area that assist the same population we do but their resources only go so far. Many people consider companion animals to be "luxuries". Yet for many their pets are far from luxuries, they are the only thing that grounds them, gives them a reason to get up every morning and keeps them focused on moving forward. For a few people we serve, their pets are even more - they are essential survival partners.

Consider our clients "Mike" and his family. Mike is working hard to keep his family together and while they still have a roof over their heads they're living on the edge - the "working poor". Mike also has two pre-teen boys, both with autism. Their beloved family dog "Boots", has cancer on his paw and needs to have a toe amputated but the surgery is far too expensive for the struggling family. Yet Boots means the world to them all, and particularly to the boys who have an exceptionally strong attachment to the dog. Boots calms them, helps them to socialize and when the their dad has to go to work. Boots is not a just a cool dog, he's good medicine, and he's a part of the family.

Mike's vet suggested Mike call PAW Team. All I can say is in the thousands of calls we get, there aren't many that move us to tears. This one did. The Team sprang into action and thanks to the help of our wonderful partners Animal Aid and Pixie Project, we got the surgery for Boots taken care of. Boots is now back on duty as the Best Dog Ever taking care of his human family.

When people like Mike and his family need help, the PAW Team takes care of their pets. We provide basic vet care and in a few cases, like this one, we can get surgical services donated from vets and organizations that care deeply about pets and people. I invite you to join our Team and help us help dogs like Boots take care of his "boys". You can donate on line here.

Of Mouse and Children

Reaching kids through Mouse ears. Do you get better reception with those on?

Reaching kids through Mouse ears. Do you get better reception with those on?

No doubt about it, I'm an anomaly. I don't watch tv and the one and only time I went to Disneyland I had accumulated more than four decades of living. Despite these anomalies I still understand the power of media aimed at children. So when the Disney Channel called and asked to interview me for their local kids' programming I was happy to do it. Educating kids about taking care of their family pets can't start too early, and helping young people develop understanding and compassion toward those less fortunate is one way to change our world as we know it for the better.

The Disney show has four categories you can address in an interview - "good deeds" sounded pretty good indeed. Many young people have joined the PAW Team as Care and Comfort Ambassadors, Guides and even putting together videos and PSAs for us. The sixth grade class of the Creative Sciences School has done a day of service with us and the Girl Scout Troop at the school has essentially adopted us. These kids are amazing, and all about helping people. Their presence at our clinics is always a real delight.

What's a good deed a kid can do to help both people and pets? In addition to helping out at our clinics (always welcome!) kids could walk an elderly person's dog. They could do a dog bath fundraiser to buy flea treatment for the homeless at our clinics. Kids can learn good habits of how to treat pets. They could plant a catnip plant and make a toy for a kitty of a family that can't afford their electric bill, much less a cat toy. Perhaps most of all, by helping those less fortunate kids can see first hand that we all share the things in life that are truly important - kindness, understanding, love of family and fur family, gentleness and sharing - are the same for all of us no matter what our income is.

Hopefully I can get some of that across and reach young people that might want to learn a little more about doing good deeds. Oh, and no. That's not my dog - but he does look dandy in Mickey Mouse ears. I have three rabbits and a cat and they all feel their ears are just fine, thank you. 

June Clinic

The June 1 clinic was busy! 100 pets were seen at the clinic including six spays and neuters that were done at the Pixie Project and four pets that were Zeutered (non-surgical sterilization for male dogs) at the clinic.

We had four amazing vets - Dr. Mary Blankevoort, Dr. Isabel Wyss, Dr. Amy Horlings and Dr. Kim Maun. Once again the awesome students from PCC joined us and more than two dozen volunteers, both old and new, helped with intake, paperwork, guiding clients, handing out supplies, in the pharmacy, licensing, grooming and assisting clients and pets.

New this clinic, Lori Stephens, Certified Dog Trainer, joined us to help provide advice and information for pet owners. Thanks, Lori!

We're continuing to refine our intake process. Waits are shorter for clients that prequalify and we know that all the updates and changes are news to former clients that haven't been at the clinic for a year or more - communicating those changes, particularly to those without internet access or phones, is a still a challenge. Patience and preparation make all the difference!

If you volunteered at the clinic and have any suggestions or comments about how we might continue to improve things, please contact us at servicequestions@pawteam.org. Our volunteers are the very heart and soul of the PAW Team - without you, we could not make this amazing service available to those who need it the most. In the past year we've added some fantastic services and made some big changes thanks to suggestions from volunteers. We listen! Please let us know what you think.

Synergy and a haircut

Desiree reached out to the PAW Team a couple of weeks ago inquiring about donating her services as a dog groomer. She is completing her certification and needs to do a lot of "model dogs". She's agreed to come to the PAW Team several days a week until the end of September to serve our clients, shall we say, with style.

Working together - PAW Team style!

Working together - PAW Team style!

Because clinics are so busy our volunteer groomers focus on doing medically necessary grooming such as nail trims, mat removal, preparing a wound site for the vet exam, or trimming fur that is obscuring an animal's vision. By working with clients during the days that are NOT clinic days, Desiree will help pets that need a bit more than the medically  necessary treatments. She's bringing what for our clients is a real luxury - a  "fashion cut" - to the auxiliary services PAW Team can offer. 

Who can receive this service? Pets of PAW Team clients and PAW Team volunteers.

What is the cost? There is no cost but we would welcome a $5 donation if you are not a current PAW Team client.

How to prepare your pet: We have no hot water at the clinic so please bathe your pet before his/her appointment. If you do not have access to water, we can bathe dogs in cold water if it's warm enough for them to dry outside (80 degrees plus).

It's a win-win. Desiree will have an abundance of pets to groom for her certification and the pets will receive a fantastic service their humans could not otherwise afford (and the PAW Team couldn't offer during a clinic). 

If you're a client or volunteer with a pet that needs grooming, call us at 503-227-5477 for details.

Oregonian article on PAW Team

Portland loves it's pets. One of the things I (and thousands more like me!) always look forward to is reading Monique Balas' Pet Talk articles in the Oregonian. We're delighted she has done an article on the PAW Team.

Check out this article!

 

http://www.oregonlive.com/pets/index.ssf/2014/05/pet_talk_paw_team_reaches_out.html

 

Pet Talk: PAW Team reaches out to serve Portland’s neediest pet owners

Print

By Monique Balas | Special to The Oregonian 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on May 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM, updated May 21, 2014 at 1:02 PM

PAW Team volunteer Jillian Stauffer and clinic director K Anderson administer rabies and FVRCP vaccines to J.R., who belongs to PAW Team client Wayne McConico.Monique Balas 

The Portland Animal Welfare Team has rebooted its mission to ensure it serves the population that needs its help the most.

The nonprofit has provided basic veterinary care, parasite treatment, licensing and food to pets of Portland's homeless and extremely low-income population since 1999. It also arranges to have pets spayed or neutered, a requirement for all animals treated at PAW Team clinics.

The group continues to offer monthly clinics at its Front Avenue location, which opened in March 2012 after moving from its former location on Southeast Division Street.

In January, however, the PAW Team narrowed its eligibility requirements to those who are truly homeless or living in dire poverty.

The organization also offers more outreach clinics and has streamlined its screening process to make it easier for struggling pet owners to access services.

Never-ending need

After the recession hit, the need only grew.

"We went from quarterly clinics of 30 to 40 pets to nearly monthly clinics serving up to 150 pets by 2011," says executive director Cindy Scheel. "We opened our safety net to help as many as we could, and we served thousands of people and their pets."

Clients kept coming, and they were willing to wait hours for services.

Yet as the organization started collecting more client data, it realized that many of them weren't part of PAW Team's original target demographic.

"The general guidelines are that they have to be living at or below the poverty level, but there are always exceptions," Scheel says, noting each case is looked at individually. "We take the human quotient into the equation."

Clients are now screened and approved for services either during a phone call or by referral from one of the group's partner agencies.

The PAW Team established a network of about 15 social-service agencies that serve a similar population. Those organizations also screen their clients for financial need and refer pet owners to PAW Team, so clients only need to go through the process once.

Another partnership with The Pixie Project and Multnomah County Animal Services has enabled PAW Team clients to get their pet spayed, neutered or have other surgical procedures in the Pixie Project's newly remodeled space.

The PAW Team also coordinates more outreach clinics at places that serve the homeless, such as Dignity Village and Potluck in the Park, for people unable to access the Front Avenue location.

"Our goal is to get services to the people who need them," Scheel says, pointing out that one client walked nearly 10 miles to the Front Avenue clinic with her dog. "One of the barriers to being homeless will always be transportation."

An outreach clinic on Sunday at Transition Projects drew a total of 27 individuals and families and 34 cats and dogs, according to PAW Team's web site.

Dakota Bear, who belongs to PAW Team client Cindy Willcutt, received parasite preventatives during a PAW Team outreach clinic at Transition Projects on Sunday.Monique Balas 

One of those clients was Amie Warren, whose nine-year-old cat, Albert, was suffering from digestive issues.

Warren, 30, has owned Albert since he was born.

"It means a lot to be able to get him looked after," she says, "to be able to get his health care taken care of and still have him as my companion animal."

Helping pets, helping people

While the clinics treat pets, they help their owners too.

"By providing vaccinations and licensing, we help people get off the streets and into transitional housing," says clinic director K Anderson.

She points out that most shelters require proof that a pet is licensed and vaccinated.

And while the clinics improve public health by providing rabies vaccinations and parasite preventatives, they ultimately keep clients healthier too.

"They'll alter their behavior for their pet," says PAW Team volunteer Linn Clark, who assists with licensing.  

Caring for an animal gives people a purpose, gets them into housing and reduces the likelihood that they'll commit a crime, she says.

"I've had people say, 'I can't go back to jail, because then where would my pet go?'" Clark says.

Helping people keep their pets rather than have to abandon them during the most difficult time of their lives is greatly rewarding, Scheel says.

"One of the happiest days is when someone calls and says, 'I just want to let you know, 'I don't need your services anymore."

If you need help: The next PAW Team clinic will take place on Sunday, June 1, at 2700 NW Front Avenue, Building J. Call 971-333-0729 to find out if you qualify or visitpawteam.org for more information.

If you want to help: The PAW Team always welcomes volunteers with a variety of skills. The organization also hopes to offer an extra clinic day in addition to the Sunday clinics and seeks veterinarians willing to donate services. You can also help by donating money or supplies. Visit pawteam.org for more information.

--Monique Balas; msbalaspets@gmail.com

Life on the Streets with Mr. Page

Sunshine is her name. Mr. Page is her amazing cat. I met Sunshine and Mr. Page at the Outreach Clinic we had at Transition Projects this Sunday. Our fantastic PAW Teammates provided exams, scheduled spays and neuters, gave vaccinations, medications, licenses, supplies, and even toys to 34 cats and dogs, Mr. Page amongst them.

Sunshine has been on the street for years. She knew all about PAW Team but because she has no transportation she could never get to our Front Avenue clinics so coming to TPI was a huge plus for them both. She heard about the clinic from TPI and walked in to the Day Center with Mr. Page. I happen to be owned by a black cat, too, and was immediately drawn to this unflappable feline who perched on his human's shoulders. Sunshine hadn't registered for the clinic but we managed to squeeze Mr. Page in for an exam. "I just wanna know he's alright" she said. "He's my world." As we were talking, we both realized that we had met before. 

Looking out for his human

Looking out for his human

She remembered we had dropped off a load of medical supplies for both people and pets last fall at TPI. "That was a real blessing" she told me. "You don't know how hard it is to stay clean and sober on the streets. The stuff you guys brought by helped us get through a hard time. Now, we're both doin' better."

Mr. Page is a very opinionated black cat. He doesn't have any fondness of dogs and is ready to show any canine who's boss if necessary. He's fiercely protective of his human and is most comfortable draped around her shoulders. He saw Sunshine through her drug rehab and she proudly proclaims: "He's the reason I did it (got clean and sober). I wanted to be there for him like his is for me. Every day I knew I had to keep him fed and safe and had to be responsible for him so he was the reason I started gettin' responsible for me". 

The animal-human bond is never stronger than when each of you is all you have. PAW Team helps keep these incredibly important, unconditionally loved pets together with their people during the most difficult times of their lives - pets and people like Mr. Page and Sunshine. If you see Sunshine and Mr. Page, share a smile - Sunshine sure will. And if you're a dog... I suggest you give the indomitable Mr. Page a wide berth.

Outreach clinic at Transition Projects

This Sunday the PAW Team will have an Outreach Clinic with one of our Partner Agencies, Transition Projects. Transition Projects (TPI) helps get people off the streets and into housing. 

The clients for this specific clinic are all TPI clients. The caseworkers identify folks that are getting into housing that have pets require vaccinations, parasite control and licensing to qualify for housing. By providing these services, we help people get into housing with ALL their family members.

Our fantastic volunteers will set up at the Bud Clark Commons, providing the same basic services we have at our regular clinics. By working closely with TPI, we are delivering the most needed services to those who need it most, when they need it most.

Keeping families together, getting them into housing at the Transition Projects clinic this week.

Keeping families together, getting them into housing at the Transition Projects clinic this week.

 

 

Dignity Village "House Call"

Wednesday we went to make a "Village Call" to care for the pets of the residents of Dignity Village, the country's only city-sanctioned homeless encampment. Dignity Village is one of the PAW Team's oldest partnerships - since we started taking care of the pets of the homeless in 1999 we've been going to Dignity Village. 

Today the Village has more than 60 residents and the majority of them have pets. Because the trek to PAW Team with limited transportation and a lot of animals is to difficult to arrange we do mini-clinics or "house calls" at the Village. This time we gave vaccines, flea treatment, dewormer, and basic exams to 29 pets. One beloved old kitty was scheduled for a dental extraction to improve his quality of life. 

Dr. Kim Maun, Clinic Director K Anderson, and Executive Director Cindy Scheel spent the afternoon herding cats (literally), working with the Village's Pet Care Coordinator, and catching up on our friends at the Village. We also delivered about 100 pounds of pet food.

We'll see some of the pets again next month at our June clinic for boosters, and to examine a few cats that were too shy to see our visiting vet.

Thanks, Dr. Maun, for helping us reach those who need the PAW Team the most!

Changing for the better

PAW Team is about pets, people and the unique bond we share. We are a volunteer-based organization that does absolutely amazing things with an extremely small budget. We're about as grass-roots as it gets, and that's what keeps us focused on enhancing what we do and how we do it. 

This year we're changing and adding a few things to make the experience better for our clients and our volunteers. Here's a short list of some of the recent and soon-to-come changes.

Surgeries: Thanks to the generous support of vets in the area and the Animal Rescue and Care Fund we have always been able to provide one or two surgeries for our patients each month. Beginning in March, we'll be increasing that dramatically through a creative, collaborative effort between the PAW Team, Multnomah County Animal Shelter (MCAS) and the Pixie Project (PP). Equipment purchased by the county from a grant made a couple years ago to the PAW Team has been housed at PP. We are in the process of recruiting vets who can donate their services for vital surgeries and procedures that we can't do during our regular monthly clinics.

Partner Agencies: Folks that are experiencing homelessness or life-altering issues need their pets more than ever. These pets need care, regardless of the financial situation of their people. That's where the PAW Team comes in. We network with many social service agencies in the area to help let folks who are in crisis know about the PAW Team before their pets get sick. Our Partner Agencies include domestic violence shelters, organizations that work with physical and mental illnesses, emergency responder agencies, transitional and low-income housing organizations and agencies that work with all facets of homelessness. This has been a huge success: we're reaching people who might otherwise never hear about the PAW Team and we're able to apply our resources to those who need it most - before a health crisis for their pet happens.

Shorter wait times: The PAW Team clinics have traditionally been first-come, first-served. While this is the most equitable way to serve people, it isn't easy for many as that can create long wait times. Beginning this January, we moved to the pre-qualification system to shorten this and it's been tremendously successful. People who have completed their pre-qualification appointments now go to an "express" line and are the first group served.  We will always continue to serve folks who drop in on our clinics, but for those who live in the area and are current clients, the pre-qualification process is a huge time saver. We've also changed how we handle getting supplies to clients. Rather than add yet another half hour wait at the end of the day, our fantastic volunteer Guides will put together a list of the needs a pet may have for supplies, then our Supply Room Concierge will prepare a bag of supplies and have it ready for the client before they leave the clinic. We're also researching other options to help clients more efficiently, such as having set appointment times on clinic days. 

I welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can continue to improve.