Graduating this year with a 3.3 GPA from Beaverton High School’s International Baccalaureate program, you could say Jill Wardrop is a good student. As the three-year president of her local Becca’s Closet chapter — an international organization providing dresses and accessories to high school students who can’t afford these things for prom — you could say Jill is a social advocate. Taking all that and adding in her work in the animal community, these categorizations don’t do her justice.
“It’s this whole, crazy dog world! I never knew I’d be a part of it, but here I am . . . in the middle!” she says.
Jill was 13 the first time she — along with her brother Jimmy and parents Shannon and Dave — got involved in rescue work. The family took in a Cattle dog/Lab mix that was, according to Shannon Wardrop, “just a wonderful dog.”
Jill Wardrop brought up the puppy question again a year later after reading an article online about Guide Dogs for the Blind. Guide Dog puppies come with support and training assistance, along with the eventuality of moving on to guide dog “finishing school.”
Since her first Guide Dog puppy — who Jill says tested her skills and patience for 14 long months — she’s raised five more, including her current golden furball, Marina. Rather than working with a dog for a whole year (the norm), Jill “job shares” with another trainer. She takes either the first three months — working on housebreaking, crate-training and basic obedience — or the last nine months, gradually exposing the pup to the human world.
Successfully training six guide dogs in four years is quite a feat; but Jill doesn’t take all the credit. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without my parents,” she says. “My mom was a huge help. She co-raised the first, second and . . . third guide dog puppy.”
Her parents also played a big role in her more recent adventure in rescue. “It all started with Craigslist,” Jill begins. “Nobody should ever look at the Craigslist pet section because you’ll end up Girl to the rescue with a dog, and that’s exactly how we got Bubba.”
But it wasn’t just Bubba Jill found when perusing the Craigslist pet pages in June 2008; she also found the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter (TCAS) in Pasco, WA, which led to a brief stint fostering for the organization.
Like many small rural shelters, TCAS is constantly pressed for the space required to keep adoptable animals as long as it takes to find forever homes. When Jill learned what happened when homes weren’t found in time, she decided to do something about it.
Coordinating with TCAS and a driver named Mike — who she found through the rideshare section on Craigslist — Jill accepted her first shipment of two dogs from the Pasco shelter June 10, 2008. In return for gas money, Mike dropped off Melissa, “a little Black Staffie,” and Bubba, “a Chocolate Lab/Pit Bull mix.” Jill says her mom’s only rules were: “No Pit Bulls” and “It can’t involve me.”
Understandably, there was some surprise when the Wardrops met Jill’s first foster puppies. Shannon Wardrop remembers thinking, “Are you kidding me?”
“I think my mom was a little upset when I first brought them home,” remembers Jill. Yet she had faith it would only be a matter of time before her parents would see through the breed’s maligned reputation.
Jill got busy getting the dogs fixed and immunized, then started the hard job of inter-species matchmaker. Jill introduced a former guide dog trainer to Melissa, and “there was an immediate connection,” she says. She told the candidate, “She’s your dog; what can I say!”
Finding Bubba’s family wasn’t so easy.
“After three months and three other foster dogs . . . we decided to keep him,” says Jill. “That’s how we got Bubba.”
After three months, three rideshare shipments, and successfully homing five at-risk dogs from Pasco, Jill decided to take a break from independent fostering.
Even with support from her parents and a donation from Suzanne Hein, owner of LexiDog Boutique and Social Club in Portland and Jill’s employer, independent fostering is expensive. One arrival from Pasco caused great concern: she had no appetite. “Oh no,” Jill says she thought. “This is going to cost me thousands in vet bills; what am I going to do!” To her relief, she says, “It turns out she just wasn’t hungry.”
Jill’s experience in fostering locally and her affinity for Pit Bulls and other Bully breeds led her to Pacific Northwest Pit Bull Rescue (PNWPBR), where she applied as a foster last May. Her first charge arrived in June and was adopted in July. She expected her second arrival late last month.
On top of guide dog training, fostering and helping care for her own family dogs, Bubba, Riliey and Elvis, Jill also volunteers at See page 19 for more details. Mutt Mixers PNWPBR events, working to educate people about the breed and recruit new foster families. Jill says there are currently six PNWPBR foster families, and that adding more means being able to pull more dogs out of the shelter system.
While she says she’s “mostly just taking a little break this summer,” Jill is still working at LexiDog on Macadam (she’ll be there two years in November), and is helping start a new Guide Dogs Puppy Raising club in the Gladstone/Lake Oswego area. Realizing the irony, she laughs and says, “I like being busy . . . if you couldn’t tell!”
Her life will stay busy after starting college at PCC this fall. After two years she plans to transfer to Carrol College in Helena, Montana, minoring in its unique “Human Animal Bond” program, majoring in Biology. After that? Jill laughs and says, “Surprise! I’d really like to be a vet.”
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