Roo Yori: The K9 Ninja Warrior

As a young student athlete, Andrew “Roo” Yori had Ninja-level skills both on and off the sports field. Soccer was his favorite high school sport, although he competed in others too. As a college athlete he held the long-jump record at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and still graduated as the outstanding male senior with a degree in Biology. Whatever he takes on, he puts his full self into the effort.

Today, 41-year-old Roo Yori holds an impressively brainy job in the genome sequencing laboratory at Minnesota’s famous Mayo Clinic. But, true to form, he’s matching brains with brawn as a multi-season competitor on TV’s American Ninja Warrior.

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To the uninitiated, the show looks like an otherworldly display of super-human strength and agility. To devotees of high-intensity workout programs like CrossFit – another of Yori’s passions – the show’s competitions are a natural extension of the barrier-busting workouts that have desk jockeys and dedicated athletes jumping, climbing, crawling, and balancing like caped superheroes.

Training for the competition would keep any superhuman fully occupied with workout schedules, travel, and qualifying heats. But Yori is making the most of the exposure, using the spotlight to promote his passion for rescue dogs. He uses each televised competition as a fundraiser, urging fans to pledge a donation for each punishing obstacle he completes.

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Remarkable Rescues

In his 2017 rookie season on American Ninja Warrior, Roo and his cheering section sported matching “Adopt A Dog” t-shirts, as his rescued dog Angus watched from the crowd. The now-departed Angus – a stately black Labrador mix with a graying muzzle and dignified air – served as the representative for the pack of beloved rescue dogs who have called the Yori household home.

It started when he and his wife, Clara, went to adopt a dog from the shelter where she worked. Roo instantly fell for the stately Angus, but his wife, Clara, had her heart set on a dog named Ajax. “We weren’t going to change each other’s minds, so we adopted both,” he remembers. The couple even timed the two dogs’ arrivals in the home to create a harmonious transition. “Ajax was doing well at the shelter, and it was a nice shelter, so he stayed there for about 10 days. Angus came home and got used to the house, and then Ajax came.”

Ajax and Angus soon became best friends, but Roo and Clara have made room in their home and family for other rescues who don’t get along with their dog siblings. With dedication and an abundance of dog smarts, they manage to keep a peaceful and active household no matter what canine characters currently live there.

His most famous rescue is the inspiration behind Yori’s Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation, which has raised more than $100,000 to promote rescue and adoption while tackling breed-related stigma. Wallace was a white and brown Pit Bull who had been slated for euthanasia. Soon after the Yoris adopted him, the muscular and driven dog demonstrated an over-the-top love for catching Frisbees. Under the training and guidance of his athlete dad, Wallace ultimately won the 2006 Cynosport World Games and the 2007 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship for flying disc. He also inspired author Jim Gorant to pen a best-selling book, “Wallace – the Underdog who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – one Flying Disc at a Time.”

The champion dog eventually succumbed to an aggressive cancer, but his image and story still grace the logo of the foundation he inspired and the line of merchandise that raises money for the cause, including “pawtographed” copies of his best-selling book.

It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations...

Smarts and Heart

The famous overachieving Wallace never fully overcame some of his pre-rescue quirks. “People assumed he did well with my dogs at home,” Yori remembers. “He didn’t. We had to rotate and manage at home. But he had a great life. I’d take him out on a long line and work with him and the Frisbee. When he was playing, he was focused. Working with him in the evening, in a big field where you can turn on the flood lights, those are some of my best memories.”

The hard-to-place dog thrived in his adoptive home because his training and competition provided structure, outlet, and Wallace-centered quality time.

“It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations, so he doesn’t get into something he isn’t ready to handle. It was a lot of management. I hate to say I was a little relieved when he retired, but I got to relax a little more.”

One of Wallace’s canine siblings, Hector, also enjoyed fame and raised money to help other dogs. Hector was one of 51 Pit Bulls rescued from the Michael Vick dog fighting case. The baby-faced brown Pittie overcame his traumatic history to pass the Canine Good Citizen test – TWICE – and become a Certified Therapy Dog. Visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, Hector spent the rest of his life busting stereotypes and winning hearts.

As age and illness closed in on Hector, Yori hung a victorious sign around the dog, who stood gray-faced and peaceful on a picnic table, after seven years of happy life that seemed to have erased his memory of the two he’d spent in the violent world of dog fighting. The sign reads, “Vick, 2. Hector, 7. I win.”

Training for Success

The Yori dogs have since included a rescued Pitties, a three-legged Corgi, and an ever-growing cast of canines with sad histories and sweet dispositions. Nobody in the pack is training for competition like their predecessor Wallace, but Yori continues to find time to nurture each dog’s interests and abilities.

“It’s that quality time,” Yori says. More than accommodation for their disabilities or management for their temperament issues, the dogs need happy, structured play with their favorite humans.

Whether training for competition or just for fun, Yori looks for the games and activities that light up each dog’s disposition. He tries to give his highly driven dogs a playful challenge that approaches the edge of their abilities. Dogs with more physical limitations get less demanding workout sessions, focusing more on mental stimulation and quality bonding time.

“We do whatever the dog enjoys, as long as we remain safe.” The balanced approach keeps dogs injury-free, even while leaning hard into weight-pulling courses or impressive Frisbee acrobatics.

Without canine competitions on their calendar, the Yori dogs’ training time now focuses more on dog/human bonding. Still, they reap all the benefits of more intense training. “They learn self-control, and a tired dog is a good dog. It gives them an outlet and it gives you that time together. That’s exactly it. Those are some of the best memories, the best times.”

One of Roo’s current dogs is a round-faced brown Pittie who slightly resembles his predecessor, Hector. And, like Hector, Johnny is a dog-fighting survivor, with tattered and scarred ears that tell of his abusive past.

On a YouTube video created in his backyard, Yori recreates the American Ninja Warrior obstacle courses with a homemade dog agility course. In the video, a grinning and focused Johnny hops among wooden platforms, scurries under a cargo net, and scales a ramp. In an awesome display of drive and strength, Johnny climbs a platform to grab a knotted robe in his teeth, which he keeps clasped in his muscular jaws while the rope rolls down a trolley line. At the end of the course, Johnny stands victorious on top of the final obstacle and repeatedly pats a big red button with his paw, much like his human’s victorious finishes on the competitive TV show.

The agility video mimics a Ninja episode, down to the gravel-voiced play-by-play that Yori dubbed onto the video. “Aaand he does it! Just like that, Johnny hits the buzzer! To think back to where Johnny came from just a few years ago, found chained in a basement with nine other dogs, rescued, adopted, and now hitting his first buzzer on Canine Ninja Warrior!”

The muscular dog’s tail wags as he pats the red buzzer a few more times. The gravelly narration sums up the story of a Yori canine athlete. “Congratulations, Johnny. You earned it!”


https://www.youtube.com/user/rooyori

https://www.rooyori.com/


Michelle Blake, Managing Editor

Beacon in animal welfare

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In the ongoing fight against animal cruelty, neglect, overpopulation, and homelessness, Petlandia is a beacon of justice and compassion. Here, we have a long history of passing laws and supporting programs that save lives.

Milestone for Oregon Humane Society

As the region’s oldest animal welfare organization, OHS has been fighting animal cruelty since before Portland had paved streets. This year, as the organization marks its 150th birthday, its Portland shelter achieves some of the highest pet adoption numbers in the western US and supports Oregon’s only dedicated team of animal cruelty investigators.

In 1884 and 1885, when mistreated horses used in farming and transportation were a common concern, OHS helped pass the first statewide humane laws. Legislators signed a law imposing a $100 fine and/or 60 days in jail for “Whoever overdrives, overloads, deprives of necessary sustenance, or cruelly beats” an animal.

Today, OHS Staff Attorney and Investigative Lead Emily Lewis says the region’s animal-friendly laws make Oregon a leader. Senate Bill 6 is a celebrated example, and one of Lewis’ favorites in her seven years at OHS. In that groundbreaking 2013 bill, lawmakers increased penalties for certain crimes against animals. It’s significant, she says, in that it “captures Oregonians’ reverence and respect for animals, acknowledging that they’re sentient, and experience pain, stress, and fear. They’re not just regular evidence in a case.”

Oregon is progressive for adding to the list of violations that are felonies, Lewis continues. “If someone has a prior conviction for certain domestic violence crimes, it can make an animal abuse crime a felony versus a misdemeanor. Also, if committed in front of a minor, that’s acknowledged.”

Lewis says she can’t imagine working in any other part of the country, but even in humane-minded Oregon, there’s always more to do. One example is the Oregon pre-conviction forfeiture law, which lets judges and humane agencies put animals in new homes while their alleged abusers await trial. In the past, shelters sometimes held animals in limbo for months or years while the legal wheels slowly turned. “Almost every year we work to make it stronger and more applicable to the cases and issues we’re seeing,” Lewis says.

At the shelter and on her unique team of law enforcement officers, Lewis says, “We’re always looking to help more.”

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Fences for Fido  Unleashes a Humane Trend

When a dozen Portland friends teamed up in May 2009 to build a free fenced yard for a dog named Chopper, they unleashed more than a dog. The friendly yellow Lab mix had watched the world go by from the end of a chain because his family couldn’t afford to fence their corner lot.

When news outlets picked up Chopper’s story, urgent pleas to help other dogs flooded in, citing dogs who had languished alone on chains, exposed to the elements, sometimes for many years.

Volunteers — this writer included — recall that the work took on a life of its own. As they formed the Portland-based nonprofit, Fences For Fido, and scrambled to meet the unrelenting need, the momentum seemed to pick them up and run with them.

Less than a decade later, that group of friends has ballooned to several hundred volunteers who’ve unleashed more than 1800 dogs in Oregon and SW Washington. They’ve also helped change Oregon tether laws and inspired others across the country to follow suit.

Oregon House Bill 2783 took effect January 1, 2014, restricting the number of hours a dog could be tethered to a stationary object and clarifies legal requirements for appropriate animal housing, bedding, and care.

In the years since, states and communities across the US have seen a proliferation of 90-plus laws either limiting or fully banning the practice of keeping dogs on chains. Fences For Fido volunteers supported many of those changes, guiding activists, providing sample bill language, and sharing tips through the group’s outreach effort, dubbed “Unchained Planet.”

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Multnomah County  Folds Up the Circus Tent

Responding to pleas from animal advocates and a flood of testimony and letters from residents, Multnomah County Commissioners voted unanimously July 12 to ban circuses and traveling shows that use exotic animals.

Local resident Andrea Kozil launched the effort in March, approaching Commissioner Sharon Meieran with proposed language for an ordinance. “Wild or exotic animals used in traveling animal displays suffer severe and extended confinement,” Kozil says, and the acts perpetuate the demand for the sale and breeding of the animals. After visiting an exotic animal show to see the practices for herself, Meieran told Kozil she’d champion the ban.

Portland resident Kelly Peterson, who works for the Humane Society of the United States, says her organization counts a total of 137 US communities and four states with similar bans. “I’m so pleased that Multnomah County has been added to such a distinguished list, especially since Oregon continues to be ranked as the second most animal-friendly state in the nation.”

- Michelle Blake

Sighting in on Puppy Mills

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Coming soon to a City Hall near you: advocates in Portland and the Willamette Valley hope to pass local ordinances barring pet stores from selling pets from so-called puppy mills. Stores would offer adoptable dogs and cats from shelters and rescues rather than sell animals bred in facilities known for unhealthy and inhumane conditions.

At an April meeting in Portland, organizers from Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of the United States shared experiences gleaned from passing 270+ similar bills now on the books across the US. “Some lawmakers worry that people won’t be able to buy purebreds if the bill passes,” said one organizer, “but this doesn’t ban breeding, and reputable breeders don’t sell their puppies in pet stores.”

Advocates are gathering support to introduce a bill in the next legislative session. Learn more at PuppiesArentProducts.org.

Letter to the editor

Dear veterinary professionals and pet parents, 

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 I am a longtime dedicated and knowledgeable dog owner with relations with many veterinarians practicing traditional, specialty, and holistic vet care. I am very appreciative of the great care resources we have locally for our animal family members.

Even with the most trusted animal care professionals, I have learned that communication can make a real difference in the outcome of a painful situation.

 I had a Lhasa Apso, Rusty, who had numerous health challenges. I loved him dearly. I was detailed, informed, and committed to his care and quality of life, and had a great team of vets. I took early retirement two years ago to devote my time to enjoy him.

I knew we were not long together as he was just over 16 and in failing health. One bad weekend in May I called the ER a few times with no resolve. Monday morning I rushed Rusty to our specialist, whose team I embraced as family. I directly stated that I did not want Rusty to suffer and that I was relying on the doctor’s guidance. 

Rusty had a high respiratory rate and diagnostics found fluid in his lungs; the doctor administered an injection and said we would know in a few hours. My wish was to say goodbye at home, but I decided to leave Rusty there for his best comfort in an oxygen pen with observation. 

Checking back as directed, I was told it was his time. I arrived, then waited through a two-hour staff meeting and an additional half-hour before seeing Rusty. Finally brought to me in a private euthanasia room, he was in a horribly stressed state and his chest rattled. He was not this way when I left him — I would never have let him get to this point. I asked if he needed to be let go immediately, if he was suffering, and was told it was best for both of us to spend additional time together. I was distressed, alone, and confused over Rusty’s agitation and rattling chest.

I played mental tug of war between Rusty’s potential suffering vs acting too quickly. As he gradually relaxed I felt he was okay to stay for a bit. At 5:30 pm, we said farewell, Rusty in my lap. He received one injection, stopping his heart. I quickly said goodbye as his head came to rest with mine. 

A copy of Rusty’s last day medical report arrived later, adding new questions and concerns as to why he had been so stressed.  Some were answered later, when I learned that Rusty, blind and with congestive heart failure, had had a BM in his pen. That he’d been taken off oxygen and bathed explained the additional wait and Rusty’s horribly stressed state when presented to me. As a caring reader you can imagine my emotions. I was tormented by guilt, which eventually affected my health, as I had chosen to leave him with trust.

I felt my request that Rusty not suffer was not honored out of concern for my ease. So I would not see him soiled, Rusty was removed him from oxygen and bathed, a known stressor for him.

I wish they had informed me and given me a choice. In their effort to “make it easier on me” Rusty suffered. His last day could and should have been one of gentle ease. Had his needs been placed first, his passage could have been peaceful — for him and for me.

My hope in sharing our story is to spark thought and discussion, and ultimately, to advocate improved communication between our outstanding Veterinary professionals and the guardians of our beloved animal companions. It is my hope that we can raise the bar, striving always to first do what is best for the animal.

—Rick Miller, Portland Oregon

Saving the Dogs of Kauai

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With its lush forests and gorgeous beaches, the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a tropical Eden for humans. But for some dogs it’s a nightmare. Hunters throughout the islands breed dogs for use in ferreting out wild pigs. Dogs who fail to serve this purpose are often abandoned, or worse.

Fortunately, there’s an underground railroad — with angels’ wings — hard at work rescuing some of these forlorn dogs and flying them to new homes on the mainland.

A bedraggled little dog named Dan-O made it all personal for Rebecca Nance of Salem. After she and her husband lost their Whippet, Duncan, their search for another Whippet led them to Lori Rose of Whippet Spaw rescue in Salem. There they found Dan-O and learned the tragic story of the dogs of Kauai.

“Mixed Whippet breeds are popular with pig hunters in the Hawaiian Islands because they are fast,” says Nance. Hunters breed Whippets with Spaniels, Bull Terriers, and Airedales, and must register their hunting dogs. Those who become aged or injured, as well as unregistered puppies, are often abandoned to fend for themselves. Many dogs discarded by hunters end up withdrawn and wary, often leading to their euthanasia.

Rescue groups in Kauai and the Northwest are working to save these dogs.

“When we adopted Dan-O — yes, in homage to ‘Hawaii Five-O’ — he was terrified,” says Nance. Semi-feral and malnourished when wrangled out of the wild by Kauai animal control, Dan-O could walk only a few yards before collapsing, Nance explains. He now sleeps happily under the covers, snuggling his family’s feet.

Dan-O’s ultimate good fortune defines the mission of both Whippet Spaw and the Kauai Animal Welfare Society (KAWS), with whom Rose works. KAWS is one of several Hawaiian organizations committed to the rescue effort. It takes in these ill-fated dogs, flying many of them to foster homes in the Pacific Northwest.

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KAWS cofounder Dinah Chao, a dog rescuer and special education teacher, has a profound love for animals and children who “aren’t the easy ones.” Chao and her husband fostered Dan-O until he was healthy enough to fly, and Nance says she can’t imagine what would’ve happened to Dan-O without them.

The way KAWS operates, each of the lucky dogs getting a trans-Pacific ticket makes the flight accompanied by an escort, who could be any animal-lover heading back to the mainland. Vacationers learn about the need for help via a poster displayed in a T-shirt shop where KAWS volunteer Marlana works.

Whenever a transport escort is needed, Marlana hangs a poster, and “within a week, she can find us one,” says Chao. KAWS then handles all transport costs and arrangements, meeting the travelers at the airport. Upon arrival to the mainland, the escorts meet fosters waiting to collect the dogs. Transport escorts never need handle a dog.

Dan-O himself traveled to the mainland with a family returning from vacation. In fact, most transport escorts are tourists flying from Kauai to Portland or Seattle.

“I think the escorts really like the experience, as they are able to give something back to the island they have enjoyed so much,” says Chao.

Fosters also treasure their role. “As an Oregon foster home for KAWS, I love seeing the little faces peering through their crates at the airport,” says Rose. “The pups adjust quickly to their new world . . . sometimes with help of a new coat or jammies.”

“Each KAWS foster is my favorite,” she continues. “The Kauai rescues give something special. It’s in their eyes and little hearts . . . their innate aloha spirit melts my heart. Seeing them placed in loving homes is worth every second it takes to be a foster volunteer.”

Other organizations also arrange rescue flights. “My friend Deanna Cecotti, of Greyhound Pet Adoption Northwest, is going to Hawaii early next year,” says Nance, “and both she and her traveling companion will be bringing back dogs.” Cecotti’s volunteers with Oregon Humane Society, which partners with Kauai Humane Society. Different groups partner in their own ways, all sharing the ultimate goal to rescue, foster, transport, and place dogs in loving homes.

If you’re a dog-lover planning a Kauai vacation and would like to help the rescue efforts, why not save a life, too? For more information or to arrange to be an escort, contact any of the organizations listed under “Resources” at the end of this article.

Pups who've found the broken road to home

Henrietta

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Henrietta’s shyness nearly earned her a bullet — her hunter owner’s version of retirement. But word of mouth intervened in the nick of time.

“She was so shut down I thought she wouldn’t come back,” says foster Cindy Cabrera. “She wouldn’t move. I had to carry her everywhere, and she would just curl up in a corner — it was so sad. Then, one day she came out of the bathroom on her own and lay on the floor near me. The rest is history.”


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Shyler

Some dogs put in years of service to hunters, and then are abandoned due to age.

“We adopted Shyler from the Kauai Humane Society almost four years ago,” says Valri Kriner. “She was a pig dog that was dropped off at the shelter at nine years old.”

Health issues led to a splenectomy and removal of Shyler’s right eye last summer, but Kriner says, “She is my furbaby.”

Shyler's broken road really did lead home.


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Mayzie and Angel

Some dogs, like Mayzie and Angel, travel that broken road home on three legs.

James Benkert’s adopted dogs Mayzie and Angel were both discarded hunters. And both are missing a hind leg. Mayzie’s leg was dangling and infected when she was found, and Angel was thought to have had a hunting injury that the owner "fixed" himself. Both dogs have torn ears, scars on their chests, and broken teeth. But they are now home, safe and loved, and Benkert says, “Both are super dogs.”


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Jax

Kimberly Goldsworth rescued Jax, a Whippet/Hound mix “with eyebrows that everyone loves.”

Once shy, Jax now bounds along busy sidewalks, accompanying Goldsworth to work in San Francisco. “He’s our official office comedian,” says Goldsworth. “Now he’s snuggling with his favorite co-workers and even ‘protecting’ us from office visitors.”

“Apparently many boar hunters starve the dogs, feeding them only once every few days to entice them to go after the boars, which I believe was the case with Jax,” Goldsworth says. “He was skin and bones when I got him. I imagine he was dumped since he’s such a passive, shy dog — definitely a lover, not a fighter — and thus not a great boar hunter. But he’s got so much love to give and wants nothing more than to snuggle and drape his entire body over mine and his family . . . never mind that he weights close to 50 pounds!”

Something of an Instagram star, Jax has nearly a thousand followers at “jax.the.hound.” Here this boar-hunting reject educates people to the plight of the dogs of Kauai.

“I’ve been encouraging anyone who will listen to adopt a dog from Kauai,” says Goldsworth. “They’re universally sweet and loving, and all so damn cute. And they’re just so grateful to be rescued.”


Resources

Kauai Animal Welfare Society (KAWS) kaws4paws.org  |  infokaws4paws@gmail.com

Kitsap Humane Society Rescue Me Program  |  360-692-6977 | kitsap-humane.org/programs-services/rescue-me-program/

Oregon Humane Society Second Chance Program503-285-7722  |  oregonhumane.org

Kauai Humane SocietyAloha Escorts Transfer Program  |  transfers@kauaihumane.org

Lori Rose  |  thewhippetspaw@gmail.com  |  on Facebook


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Christy Caballero writes from the heart about all things pet-related, from a couple deer trails off the beaten path, typically juggling a cat (or two) on her lap as black kitty AsTar teeters on her shoulder and Mojo the retired Greyhound quietly calls for reinforcements!!

Caring for “gray muzzles” in shelters and at home

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When people consider adopting a pet, they often think of puppies or kittens. They’re cute, warm and fuzzy, and their new family gets to watch them grow up from day one.

But it takes a lot of time and effort to make that puppy a part of the family. When you take on the privilege of caring for an older dog or cat, that work is already done. In essence, you can skip right ahead to the golden years. And as many will testify, it’s an extraordinary experience.

Portland resident Lindsey Ferguson adopted a senior dog, Gizmo, while in college. “I knew from volunteering in the shelter that senior dogs had trouble finding homes,” she says. “It was mostly because people didn't like the idea of getting attached and then losing them so quickly. But the truth was that they were the best-behaved dogs in the shelter. When it came time for me to start fostering, I requested an older dog.”

DNA testing showed Gizmo was a purebred Lhasa Apso. The shelter estimated his age at 10, but he lived 10 more years after finding his forever home with Ferguson. 

Many shelter animals are stray or abandoned, with no known medical history. Age is often a guess. Also, what is considered senior can vary by breed, based on average lifespan. While in shelters, senior animals often need unique care that can increase the shelter’s budget. In years past, shelters didn’t try too hard to place senior dogs or cats, but that is changing.

“Where our shelters used to be overcrowded now we’re at a point where some of our shelters are actually seeking out adoptable animals,” says Kim Alboum, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement Director at the Humane Society of the United States. “The messaging about spay/neuter and adopt don’t shop and visit your local shelter have worked.”

Along with this evolution has come increased services and resources to help place harder to adopt pets. “People have a special place in their hearts for the seniors,” says Alboum. “Many times we have shelters step right up to take in seniors because they pull at the heartstrings of the community.”

Senior dogs often have joint aches and pains, so they need comfy beds with support. They also need food formulated for their life stage.

“Many times senior dogs at shelters have lost their owners but were previously well-cared for, so we see obesity,” Alboum says. “And with senior animals we see dental issues. Dental care can be very expensive for shelters, so they do expect that their budget is going to be higher when they have more senior animals.”

According to the ASPCA, about 1.5 million animals per year are currently being euthanized in the US. Alboum says there was a time when closer to 14 million animals were euthanized annually. The likelihood of a senior animal being adopted was very slim. “But now far fewer animals are being euthanized, and these animals now have a really good chance of being adopted because they’re housebroken, they’re trained, and they’re just incredible pets,” she says. “These ‘gray muzzles’ as we call them are really special.”

Sasha Elliott, Community Engagement Manager for Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, says Greenhill offers reduced or fee-waived adoptions for any seniors in their care, including dogs, cats, and small animals such as rabbits. 

“Unlike puppies or kittens who require extensive training and activity, senior pets fit into your life — they’re already great dogs and cats,” Elliott says. “Whether you’re looking for a companion to go on long walks with, or someone to relax with on the couch or porch, a senior pet can be a great fit.”

Tina Aarth and Joe Martinez, adoption coordinators at Animal Aid in Portland, love their senior dogs. “We love being able to help them find their soft landing,” says Martinez. “After a lifetime of human companionship, the isolation of a kennel can be extremely depressing.”

Two key features of Animal Aid’s successful senior placements are in keeping their animals in foster care for as long as it takes to get them adopted — sometimes for several months or even years, along with medical support. 

“Many senior dogs have problems with their kidneys, hearts, joints, teeth, etc.,” Martinez says. “The Animal Aid Cares fund allows us to adopt dogs with ongoing medical needs into loving homes where the cost of vet care might be overwhelming. We do this by paying half of the animal's medical costs for the first year, and sometimes longer.”

Seniors at Animal Aid get more frequent vet check ups and whatever dental procedures or other medical treatment may be needed while waiting for their “furever homes.” At foster homes, seniors can have a more comfortable life while awaiting their new family, and, as in the case of Ferguson and Gizmo, that foster home may become their forever home. 

At home with Gizmo, Ferguson says routine was key. He had health problems that required twice-daily medication, so they kept to a schedule. “That made it easier to identify new problems and to monitor improvements,” she says. 

The extra vet care can be expensive, so Ferguson kept a rainy day fund and worked with her vet to manage her budget. Ferguson says she prefers senior pets because they are easier to care for and don't require the exercise and attention puppies or kittens do.

“There are far fewer unknowns with a senior pet,” Ferguson says. “And for the most part they just want a comfortable spot to nap and a belly rub.”

Animal Aid *animalaidpdx.org

Greenhill Humane Society * green-hill.org

The Humane Society of the United States * humanesociety.org


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Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home (who thankfully, her family accommodated). She lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene OR, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, chickens and kids.

Saving Lives takes a Village

We are the Village 

How to have a broken heart 

Bob Webster’s heart swelled for every adoptable dog he met. Browsing kennels from Salem to Portland, he saw the wonderful qualities in every set of puppy-dog eyes looking back at him. “They could be loved. They could be loving somebody right now. From an adopter’s perspective it’s hard. I want to help them all.” 

Single, active, 40-something Bob is an experienced adopter and lives on a large property with no kids or other pets. At 6’7” he seemed perfect for a gentle giant of a dog, especially one in need of extra attention.   

Bob was determined to use his unique situation to help a hard-luck case, which he found online with a regional rescue: an adult Rottweiler mix who had been in foster care for a long time. For this dog, the rescue required a commitment to working with a professional dog trainer. Bob dove into the challenge, working around the clock on training and socialization, which his new pal learned quickly.  

Then the unfathomable happened. In a surprise encounter with another dog, there was a terrible fight. Bob got hurt trying to break it up, and it proved fatal for both dogs. The second dog died from his injuries. Bob’s dog — after extensive heart-wrenching discussions with the rescue group, the trainer and the veterinarian — was euthanized.  

Bob (who is not using his real name here) is devastated. The life he tried to save is gone, along with another. 

The life and death struggle of rescue  

Shelters and rescues maintain detailed data on animals received, adopted, euthanized, returned after adoption, or transferred to other facilities. They have no means of tracking how every dog or cat fares in life after adoption, but outcomes like Bob’s are exceptional. 

While Bob’s case is unusual, it does highlight one important, sobering truth: adopters engage in a transaction unlike any other. A life hangs in the balance.  

Given increasing save rates and declining euthanasia rates in the Northwest, these days few dogs or cats die while waiting for adoption. Now, they live or die based on whether they can overcome the health or behavioral problems that made them homeless in the first place. 

“Everyone needs to know that there are no time limits in shelters in our area, so people don't need to ‘save’ dogs from shelters,” says BJ Anderson, executive director at Willamette Humane Society in Salem. There is no clock ticking, no “pull date” for shelter animals in our region. Thanks to hard-won save rates and collaborative efforts between shelters and rescue groups, the old “time limit” idea is an outdated one.  

Old challenges have been replaced by new ones. Anderson says, “Our shelter sees two trends in our local dog population: younger, larger, poorly-socialized dogs with mild to moderate behavior issues that impact adoptability; and geriatric, cute, desirable dogs with compound medical issues that require a lot of resources to be considered adoption candidates.”  

In the new model of cooperation, agencies can shift animals around the region to give them the best chance for rehabilitation and adoptability. 

Diane Young operates one of those agencies, Salem Dogs, which handles special-needs animals. Under her watch, dogs get medical and behavioral care while she searches out adopters most suited to their needs. Often, the ideal family isn’t the first one to express interest. “Adopting a young Border Collie to a sedate senior citizen home is usually not a good idea,” says Young. “Same with placing fragile dogs in homes with young children. Adopters need to cooperate with rescues to make the best match.”  

This brings front and center a primary pain-point between rescuers and adopters.  

“We have had people yell at us when we explain a particular dog would not be a good fit for them,” says Bobbi Roach, who volunteers with Oregon Dog Rescue in Tualatin. She wishes she could tell every adopter: “Please trust the rescue volunteers that work with the dogs every day.” 

Flexibility is key  

Roach likens her job to playing matchmaker between friends. “It’s a very real challenge, and often leads to fits of hair-pulling and head-banging,” she says. Adopters might arrive with their hearts set on a floppy-eared dog, but, “That floppy-eared dog may not like your children. You live in an apartment and Floppy Ear has severe separation anxiety, which will not endear him or you to your neighbors while you’re gone nine hours a day. You have a cat, you say? Floppy Ear hates cats.” 

The future of saving lives 

Pacific Northwest shelters are winning in the mission of saving lives. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, combining animal welfare resources in the Metro Area, has achieved an 89 percent drop in euthanasia rates in nine years. Just down the freeway, Willamette Humane receives half as many animals as it did a decade ago, and saves a larger percentage of those. 

Professionals like Anderson are now tackling the next life-saving challenge: preventing animals from becoming homeless in the first place. This will require a shift in expectations. “We live very busy lives and expect our pets to accommodate our schedules — to be quiet when left alone and grasp housetraining in 24 hours; to always get along with kids and cats and dogs, and to never have issues like resource guarding.” With more families properly prepared to handle behavioral challenges, veterinary expenses, and the pitfalls of moving with pets, shelters will move beyond being the “halfway houses for pets surrendered due to lack of resources or knowledge,” and more will stay in their homes for life. 

The Citizen’s Life-Saving Toolkit 

In the work of saving more lives, it takes a village, a city, a state, a region. Here is advice from our rescue experts on how every individual can lend a hand: 

1.     Advocate, but do it with care. “The social media fervor for rescue isn’t really doing the best it could,” says BJ Anderson. It may help to share adoptable pets on Facebook, but only if your post links directly to details about the animal’s current status. Remember too that California municipal shelters with higher euthanasia rates don’t reflect our local reality.  

2.     Remember the most basic things are the most effective. “Adopt a rescue dog, spay/neuter every dog and cat, license/chip every dog and cat, keep ID on at all times, and comply with leash laws,” says Diane Young. 

3.     If you’re looking to adopt a dog or cat, “trust what volunteers tell you,” cautions Bobbi Roach. “If it’s a good match, they’ll be more than happy to adopt to you.” 

4.     Expect the unexpected. Pet-friendly rental deposits and landlord restrictions can be steep. Veterinary expenses can run into the hundreds and thousands, especially as pets age. BJ Anderson hopes veterinary insurance will become the norm to help people budget. For eye-opening price ranges on everything from grooming to pet sitting to emergency surgery, visit howmuchisit.org/dog-costs


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know that she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Help pets affected by fires

Forest fires devastated communities throughout Oregon this summer, affecting not only countless human beings, but animals — including cats, dogs and other small animals, as well as livestock, including horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens. Local feed and pet stores, businesses and organizations have united to collect goods to help those in need through The Portland Metro Animal Relief Effort.

Participating member Lorri Bishop of Mighty Dog Daycare and Playhouse in Gladstone is working to make people aware of the need and the drive. Donations are being accepted at numerous locations, listed below, as is a list of items most needed.

Once gathered, donated items are taken to coordinators who deliver them to fire-affected areas with the most need for each item gathered.

Locations accepting donations:

Mighty Dog Daycare and Playhouse, 601 1st St in Gladstone – 503-305-7368

Clackamas Feed and Supply, 15734 SE 130th Ave in Clackamas - 503-655-9457

Coastal Farm and Ranch, 1900 McLaughlin Blvd in Oregon City - 503-657-5780

Urban Farm Store, 3454 SE Powell in Portland - 503-234-7733

Linnton Fees and Supply, 10920 NW Saint Helens Rd in Portland - 503-286-1291

Western Pet Supply, 6908 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy in Beaverton - 503-297-6644

Aloha Feed Garden and Pet, 18840 SW Alexander St in Beaverton - 503- 649-6723

AG West Supply, 185 W Main St in Hillsboro - 503- 648-4178

Items needed:

Medical:

Gauze (large and small)
Self-adhesive Elastic Bandages
Wound care products
Leg wraps
Bute
Fly masks
Fly spray/ gel/ wipes
Blankets

Housing and Care:
Dog and cat crates
Kennels
Fence panels
No-climb wire
Buckets, watering troughs, water dishes
Feed buckets, small pet dishes
Cat boxes, litter
Shavings and straw
Dog collars and leashes
Halters and lead ropes
Brushes for all animal types

Feed
Grain-plus Senior grain
Hay horse or farm-animal grade
Chicken feed and scratch
Dog and Cat Food
Mineral and Salt blocks