The first thing one noticed at the recent Fences For Fido (FFF) Fall Gala at Nia Studio in downtown Portland, Oregon was the passion of the crowd. The next thing was the old chains and shining eyes — sparkling both with tears of sadness, and joy. A perfect Indian summer evening, the jazz was hot, the food outstanding, and the cool, cool vibe was one of spirit and community.
David Childs PhotographyFFF builds fences to release dogs who have lived on chains. The all-volunteer organization also helps with spay/neuter and provides warm, insulated dog houses. The cost to those they serve? Absolutely nothing.
Founded in 2009 by a group of women friends, FFF is deeply committed to local companion animals and their people. They literally live their motto, “unchaining one dog at a time.”
FFF volunteers say amazing things happen when a dog gets off a chain. The dogs and their people find a new freedom when a formerly chained, unhappy dog becomes happy, relaxed, and free. The change is magical, they say.
Since founded, FFF has freed 215 dogs.
When the group initially formed, volunteers had no idea how to even go about building a fence. They learned quickly though, and it just got better as the volunteer group grew to include experienced builders.
At the recent gala, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as before and after videos showed the stories of dogs now free from chains. Those in attendance saw for themselves the transformation of morose, depressed dogs into bouncy, happy creatures — running, chasing balls, leaping into the air, flashing huge grins.
David Childs PhotographyOn display were chains that were actually used — some gargantuan. Also on site were some of the dogs who have been freed — looking mighty happy these days.
Also on hand were many dedicated FFF volunteers. Courtney Dillard shared that she’d been brought into the group by a circle of friends. “I like to make a difference,” she says. “The sense of community is great and it’s even better to have made such a difference in the lives of these people and their companion animals.”
Emily AhYou has been involved in animal advocacy for 14 years. She participated in the first FFF build ever, in which a sweet dog named Chopper was released. “At first I was a bit intimidated at the thought of building a fence,” says AhYou. “But it was easy!”
AhYou says that on her arrival at the gala, seeing the chains again brought her to tears, even though she is a two-year FFF veteran. She brightened as she talked about Chopper’s release, saying the experience gave her “the ultimate satisfaction as a volunteer.”
Rhonda Giger got involved with FFF through her sister, Robyn Giger, an employee of Banfield Pet Hospital who is active in animal rescue.
“These dogs need to run and play and love life,” says Giger. We as a people should measure up.”
Interestingly, as one learns more about FFF it comes to light that many clients never wanted to chain their friends at all . . . they just did not have the resources to build a fence.
As FFF does not charge for its services many people have been helped who couldn’t otherwise have afforded the cost of a fence. Money is a concern for many these days, making the work FFF does without pay even more meaningful.
In addition to the reward of touching and transforming lives, FFF has earned plenty of awards and accolades. Last May, Michelle Blake, a dedicated FFF volunteer in the Salem area was awarded a Humanitarian Distinguished Award from Willamette Humane Society for her work with the group.
David Childs PhotographyLast February the group received a grant from Banfield Pet Hospital. While accepting the grant, FFF Co-Chair Kelly Peterson said, “The work of Fences For Fido is profoundly rooted in making deep change between a dog and his or her family. This gift will ensure that the chained dogs on our wait list will no longer be isolated and defenseless on the end of a chain, and will have well-built, insulated dog shelters providing the much-needed warmth through the cold, wet months.”
For Halloween, the FFF Salem chapter held a Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade and Blessing of the Animals.
Anyone considering volunteering in animal welfare might want to consider FFF. Passionate volunteers, a great cause, and a proven record of making a difference have proven a winning combination for changing lives. To see slideshows that tell the tale in vivid canine smiles, visit Fencesforfido.org.