Unchained . . . one dog at a time

We’ve all been there. Every dog lover knows the pain of seeing some poor furry being chained and living outside. Living in loneliness, misery and isolation.

We’ve all seen this scene too many times. One group of Portland women and their friends decided they’d seen enough — and would do something about it.

Portland resident Kelly Peterson, who works for leading animal advocacy group The Humane Society of the United States, loves dogs. When she and her friends heard a radio interview of Amanda Arrington of North Carolina, something clicked. Arrington was discussing a group she had started, “The Coalition to Unchain Dogs.” The group’s focus was simple: get as many dogs off chains as possible by building fences. To date the group has built fences for over 200 canines, free of charge, all with volunteers.

When Peterson and her friends heard the interview they thought, “We can do that!”

Within a year, Fences for Fido was born.

Peterson and her pals tracked down the folks who started it all and invited them to Oregon. The core four from the Coalition to Unchain Dogs responded, flying to Oregon to spend five hours teaching the fledgling group how to build a sturdy fence.

Chopper, “a sweet, kind-hearted Golden Lab mix” in Peterson’s words, was the first lucky beneficiary. Chopper had lived chained to a tree for nearly six years. It could have been worse; living across the street from a park he could at least watch the goings on. Still, he was chained. Now he plays frisbee with his owner and romps happily in his new fenced yard — clearly the effort benefited more than just Chopper. 

“Simply unchaining the dog has dramatically changed the relationship between dog and owner,” marvels Peterson. “The fence enables them to have a closer relationship with their dog.”

The premise is simple. Volunteers politely knock on the door of a home where a dog lives chained. They offer to build a fence, spay or neuter the dog if needed, and provide a doghouse, all free of charge. So far no owner has said no; all have been grateful and happy to get their pup off the chain.

Peterson says she’s humbled by how many Portlanders want to help families and their four-legged charges.

“Fences are expensive,” she says. “But we’ve figured out a way to build a safe, economical fence for about $500.00 with about 20 helping hands.”

Recently FFF partnered with Multnomah County Animal Services. While out and about, MCAS staff hand out FFF literature to prospective recipients, providing tips on the program and its benefits.

When asked what it was like when Chopper was released into his newly-fenced yard, Peterson was ebullient. “Words cannot adequately describe it. When Chopper was free of his chain it was a moment I will never forget.” She goes on to say that with all the craziness in the world, here was something amazing. Watching Chopper race around the yard, smelling and marking his territory, was a wonderful experience.

Since then, FFF has built fences for other lucky pups, and has a waiting list of 14

Unchained, one dog at a time.