Meet Cindy Scheel!

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

Giving back to the community seems to come natural to Portland native Cindy Scheel, executive director of the Portland Animal Welfare Team (PAW Team).

“My dad use to say, ‘Leave the world a better place than when you found it.’ I have always tried to live my life in that manner. I grew up knowing I wanted to make a difference and help others and my community as much as I could,” Cindy says.

Since the PAW Team provides outreach and free/low-cost veterinary care for the homeless and extremely low-income, Cindy says the best days are when someone calls and says, “Close my file — I found a job and am back on my feet.”

“I would describe myself as ‘quirky, friendly, outgoing and tenacious. I worked as a bartender to put myself through school at the University of Portland.” With degrees in Foreign Language and Business, Cindy speaks three languages (Spanish, French, German and English), and bought her first house at 22. “A real fixer-upper in North Portland where I‘ve lived ever since.”

An avid gardener, when looking to purchase her first home she sought one important feature: “I needed a hedge so I could create topiaries. I learned to create them from my grandmother. The main entrance to our home is an 18-foot replica of the St. John’s Bridge, as I love it so much. I also have an 18-foot dragon whose name is Uther — Uther Pendragon. I have a dozen other topiaries in all, they all have names and I dress them in hats and ribbons for the holidays. I joke that they come alive at night. People come by here all the time to view our corner lot. People seem to love it and look forward to the holiday displays.”

With built-ins that hold around 800 books, Cindy says she’s a Shakespeare Freak, who adores classical literature and also Harry Potter. “I have no time for TV, and really have no interest in it. When I do have a night out I love to attend the opera or a play. This is where I show off those ruby slippers. They’re my favorite shoe as they remind me of childhood. I love the sparkle and feeling of the magic in them. The ‘Wizard of OZ’ was my favorite movie growing up, and I have watched it over and over again. In fact I have worn out copies of my movies.”

When not in the garden, you’ll often find Cindy in the kitchen. “It gives me balance,” she says. As the owner and head chef of Exuberance Catering Company, this energetic entrepreneur stays true to her mission to give back by working primarily with nonprofits, generously allocating about 20 percent of the total bill back to the organization. Her favorite culinary creations?  “Chocolate truffles, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.” She also uses local nonprofit commercial kitchens, who also benefit from her business when they are closed. 

Cindy’s animals are all rescues, and include three bunnies and a cat. They all roam freely in her home, which is typically filled with activity. “One bunny we got from the humane society had been dumped; the other was brought back from Africa by a friend who wanted to ensure its survival. We have a bunny-friendly edible Christmas Tree with things like banana chips, cranberries and natural treats for them … it’s their annual snack bar. The lights are hung two feet up and they eat the bottom of the tree,” Cindy laughs.

“I think if people would give at least one day of service a year it would make such a difference,” Cindy says. “Volunteers are the heart and soul of what makes things happen.” 

About our Sponsor

Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years.  In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare.  Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood. 

Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers.  She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.