"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.


Belly Dancing creates vaccines

Wondering what belly dancing creating vaccines is all about?

It's a magical recipe that is equal parts talent, love of animals and creativity. Enter Carol Love, 78 years young, who loves animals. She is also one of the foremost belly dancers in the NW and for the past several years has put on a belly dancing extravaganza with her troupe, Dancers NW, to benefit the PAW Team.

She takes her love of animals and adds her talent, mixes it up into a fun afternoon for all the family. All the proceeds from the event go to the PAW Team where we turn them into vaccines to help keep animals healthy.

This year's event is going to be extra fun. At the beautiful Kenton Friendship Masonic Lodge - 8131 North Denver Avenue, Portland OR  97217, the afternoon begins at 12:30 with a light lunch, followed by the show which starts at 1:30. After the show dessert will be served. The show runs until 5:00 p.m. You can come for all or part of the festivities. Lunch and dessert are just $5; the show is $5 and tickets are available at the door. $10 for a whole afternoon of fun and food - and helping the pets at the same time! 

Carol's an inspiration. It's not just that she's a billion times more limber and graceful than I am (she is, by the way) but that her heart is so very large and her mind so very creative. Just talking to her is inspiring. She wants to engage the community in supporting the pets of the homeless and poor and she does so not with preaching or depressing figures on the state of things but with beauty and grace.

Being a recipient of her kindness and generosity is humbling and inspiring. I hope you will join us this Sunday at the Kenton Friendship Lodge. Do a little magic of your own - turn $10 into a great afternoon of fun and oh yes, vaccines.

A Cat Named Bunny and Happy Endings

I was going to blog on our awesome C-SNIP program today but a cat named Bunny caught my attention. 

Why the work we do at PAW Team is so important is very simple to sum up: We keep people and pets together during the most difficult times of their lives. We're there when no one else is.

Pets and people come and go out of PAW Team care - that's actually our goal, to get them healthy so they can be with their people and not need to see a doctor! It's always gratifying to know that a pet is indeed healthy and doesn't need us, but it's doubly so when we find out that the person is doing well enough they don't need our assistance any longer because their lives are back on track.

Today on Facebook a PAW Team client, Patty D., posted this about her cat, Bunny. I couldn't have said it better myself. We're so happy things are going well for both Bunny and Patty!

"In 2012, I took my baby to your clinic in a rainy day. She had a large tumor attached to her right hand. Before you team removed that nasty mass successfully, she was not able to move nor play with her siblings. She always looked sad and in pain. Thanks to your team, the life quality of my baby ( Bunny) has changed totally to prove it I have attached her picture below:"

Something about Jasmine

Late last week a young man came to us to register as a client. His friend drove him nearly 30 miles so he could take care of his cat, Jasmine. I'll call the client "J". 

J had lost his job, he'd lost his apartment, his car, spent his savings and was couch surfing. This kind friend took him in and told him about PAW Team when Jasmine, a lovely marmalade cat, started getting sick. "I don't take people in" she told me. "But J deserves a break and there's something about Jasmine..."

J told me: "I've had her ten years. I rescued her, and I think she was about four then. Until last week, you would have thought she was a kitten. She was always jumping, playing, running around. Then she stopped playing. Then she stopped eating. I knew something was wrong, I knew I had to do something. She's my world. She kept me sane when the world got insane. Please do something for her, she's all I've got".

It's almost two weeks until our March clinic and Jasmine is very frail.  She couldn't wait for the clinic and at our recommendation, J took her to a Banfield hospital where they did a complimentary first exam and made test recommendations and gave him prescriptions for Jasmine. He brought her straight back to PAW Team - he didn't know what else to do.

J was shaking he was so upset. He sat in the lobby for hours cradling his beloved Jasmine and whispering comfort to her. It was clear to all of us that there was, indeed, something special about Jasmine. We've all had pets we've loved but there are some animals that just are different - they wrap themselves around your heart unlike anything else. In my circle of rabbit rescue friends, we call these special creatures "Heart Bunnies". They come along once in a life time. It was clear Jasmine was a Heart Kitty for J. 

"Call K", Maria, our office manager whispered. She doesn't do that - Maria's about as by-the-book as it gets. We don't have medical staff on week days and we don't call people in when they've clearly got things scheduled elsewhere. Maria had lost her own marmalade Heart Kitty a year before. I saw the same look in her eyes that J had. So I called K.

K rearranged her entire day to come in and look at Jasmine. She filled the prescription for appetite stimulants and ordered the tests Jasmine needs for a complete diagnosis. J will pay us back $5 at a time for the tests. Five bucks is all he's got, except for Jasmine, who is priceless.

Then K picked up her phone and made a series of calls imploring PAW Team friendly places to see Jasmine. She got Dr. Becky to agree to see the cat. Oh, we don't do that either - pull vets off of their regular jobs. Becky is a regular PAW Team volunteer and extremely busy in her own practice but she answered the call, looked at Jasmine and confirmed what K had thought - that Jasmine needed to be hospitalized. She took Jasmine in for overnight observation and care, at no charge to J. Oh yeah, they don't do that, either.

That was yesterday. Right now I don't know how this story is going to end. 

I do know that everyone is working outside of every box there is, doing all they can for Jasmine. I imagine J is frantic for his cat. But no matter how this real life story turns out, thanks to Jasmine, J is alive and well despite the world giving him an incredibly bad hand Jasmine has helped him make friends who are helping him as best they can. Jasmine is his life line, his world and his hope.

I meet every client personally. I see first-hand the tragic stories our clients have to deal with. And I see the bond, that incredible, powerful bond of love and trust and life-sustaining hope the animals have with their humans. And sometimes I see a Heart Kitty. And I can't stop thinking about that cat.

Send good thoughts to Jasmine and her J, please.

There's just something about Jasmine.

Top Dog!

We're pleased to once again be recognized by the Spot Magazine "Top Dog" contest for Innovative Programming. But what exactly does that mean? We've changed how people can access our services, and developed a way to ensure that those who need them the most get them in a timely fashion.

PAW Team is the only organization that helps both people and pets. Our core mission is to provide veterinary care for pets of the homeless. We also help people in very low-income situations - and that's part of the challenge we face. How do you ensure that the limited dollars available go to those that truly need them the most? How do you define "greatest need"?

Over the past two and a half years, PAW Team has refined how we qualify people that are not actually living on the streets, and it's working. A little backstory: When the economy crashed in 2009, we saw an enormous number of families and individuals facing extreme financial crises. We responded by opening our safety net to essentially anyone with a Food Stamps card. We helped thousands of animals and their families but that is not a sustainable model. In 2013, we began dialing back to our core mission of helping the homeless.

 We also reached out to human social service agencies that deal with the same core mission folks we do and created the Partner Agency Network. Through this carefully selected network of agencies we have been able to reach the homeless and people in true financial need earlier than ever. When their human services caseworker connects with them, they can complete our Partner Agency Network referral form which is essentially an affidavit that they've already screened them for financial need. With this, the client is automatically accepted as a PAW Team client for up to six months. We are now delivering preventative care instead of dealing with a crisis. This reduces the suffering of the pets, keeping them healthier and happier.

With this system, we are also able to help people. No one gives you a manual on "how to be poor". When people get on the waiting lists for housing they may not be told that in order to take their pets with them the animals have to be current on vaccines, or be altered, or be on parasite control. We provide these and other services, helping families stay together, no matter how many feet they have.

To qualify for PAW Team services, clients must meet two requirements: first is that all pets in the household must be spayed or neutered. The second is there must be a demonstrated financial need. Based roughly on the Federal poverty line, we treat people as households, not numbers. We consider all sources of income and subsidy for everyone living in the home. We look at all the expenses and what kind they are.

For example, if a potential client is within the income level established but is spending their dollars for non-essential services such as entertainment, dining out, cigarettes, etc. we will decline to accept them as a client until they can demonstrate that their pet is a priority for them; we encourage them to consider setting aside some funds just for their pet rather than for non-essential purchases for themselves. They're encouraged to come back in three months when they have had a chance to rearrange their financial priorities to demonstrate their pet is important to them.

On the flip side of the equation, when we meet with a client who might not technically fit into the income levels but is dealing with extraordinary situations, we listen to what is going on in their lives and can take them as clients if needed. As an example, we recently qualified an older woman who lives alone, has income and government subsidies slightly above the poverty line, but has extremely high utility bills due to living in a poorly maintenanced apartment, has large uncovered medical expenses but has a long history of taking her cat to the vet for regular check ups and vaccines. That person has consistently demonstrated that her pet is a priority and she's allocating her limited funds toward essential services such as heat and medicine.

What's so innovative about this is that we treat people like people and not numbers, and expect people to take care of their pets. Novel idea? No. Being able to use this method to help ensure that those who truly do have the greatest need get help for their pets? Yes. Thinking outside the box? Yes. We can do what government agencies cannot because we're not guided exclusively by a hard and fast set of numbers. 

We have also looked at how we can streamline our clinics. By pre-qualifying, people now only have to bring in their certificate of eligibility and photo ID - a lot less hassle than it used to be. We set appointments during the week when bus service is available, and they can do their paperwork one-on-one with a volunteer indoors, instead of on the streets as in the old days. This gives us an opportunity to talk to people in depth about how our clinics work, and answer any questions they may have.

So all told, our program is more innovative in that it identifies people in true need, looks at people's lives as a whole and not just a number, and gives a greater degree of respect and dignity.

Thanks, Spot Magazine, for recognizing the changes we've made to help those who need it the most. 



New Year's Resolutions and Reality Checks

Funny thing about calendars and lives is that lives go on regardless of what the calendar says the day is. So for PAW Team, New Year's day is like every other day - one filled with work and hope and help for those who need it the most. Personally I don't make resolutions, I follow a Strategic Plan. By taking little steps every day toward a specific goal I've found that I can actually do more in the long run. 

What's the Strategic Plan for PAW Team? 

Last summer, when the ice wasn't frozen on our windows, we had a Board Retreat where we created several committees that will help PAW Team carry out it's work in the community. Every task was tied to the mission to provide veterinary care for the pets of the homeless or those living in dire poverty. By breaking it down into groups of activities and from that smaller steps for each group or committee, it's pretty do-able. The steps, broadly stated, are all about serving the pets of the poor and homeless better and include:

Medical: increase number of vets at clinics, create weekday clinics to handle things that can't wait for the regular monthly clinics, increase Outreach clinics to reach those who can't get to us.

Board/Staff: expand board and expertise including volunteerism, fundraising, and improve Orientations for volunteers

Financial: increase funding base, recruit more volunteers for this area

Outreach: increase outreach to Partner Agencies (non-profits that serve the same population we do) and Veterans, enhance Information and Referral services

Fundraising: broader base of activities that includes traditional methods (grantwriting, Give!Guide, etc.) and new avenues 

While this is not by any means an "official" review of our Strategic Plan, I'm delighted to say we're really on track with all our objectives. Nothing in the Plan was so lofty it wasn't doable. Everything was focused on making us stronger so we can help those who need it even more.

If you're interested in helping us help those who need it the most, give us a call or fill out a Volunteer application on our website. PAW Team was started by folks who saw a problem and created something to fix it. 

Who do we need? People who love animals and care about their health, and their human families. We need folks who do social media, marketing, graphic design, fundraising, bookkeeping. Folks who like to talk with groups, who like to work with volunteers. We need you. Be part of our solution. 

See Spot Run

You've seen Spot Magazine in your vet's office and in pet-friendly businesses around town. The creation of Jennifer McCammon, Spot brings local pet-centric information, stories and calendars of events to our community. PAW Team is proud to be a 2014 Top Dog with Spot's annual pet services recognition campaign.

Now celebrating it's 100th edition, Spot has a, well, permanent spot in our hearts as well.

This week Spot has chosen to feature Cindy Scheel, our Executive Director, in it's "People in the Neighborhood" feature. Curious about what a dragon, The Wizard of Oz and rabbits have to do with PAW Team? Want to more about the woman behind the curtain?  Check it out here! Oh, and you might want to turn DOWN your speakers. She can't sing. Really. But please click in and see Spot run!

Adding meaning to the season

The holidays are upon us!  Ideally, the holidays are a time of peace and love.  My vision of a perfect holiday season includes family (the fuzzy kind too!), relaxing by the fire, and a mug of eggnog.  However, this season of peace and love can easily turn into a race to get too many things done in not enough time.  

Help keep pets with their people this holiday season by donating to the PAW Team

Help keep pets with their people this holiday season by donating to the PAW Team

I am always looking for ways to add meaning without adding time consuming to-dos.    Are you in the same boat?  If so, here are three cheap and fast ways to make an impact and contribute to the season of peace and love this week.

1) When you are shopping online using Amazon, sign in through Amazon Smile.  AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service. With every purchase, Amazon donates .5% to your designated non-profit.  No extra time or money required from you.

2) Giving Tuesday! I love this new tradition.  I love that after all the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday noise there is a day devoted to spreading peace and love.  Donate $10 to PAW Team through the Willamette Week Give!Guide and join the celebration.  

3) Like the PAW Team Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter.  This helps us connect with a broader audience.  I also make a point to post as much positivity there as possible – heartwarming stories, cute pet pictures and other things to make you smile.  A great reminder in among the holiday busy-ness that you are making the world a more peaceful, loving place by contributing to the PAW Team community.

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 