Meet Heather!

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

Heather Hines learned a very important lesson growing up as a skater girl in Southern California:  no matter what happens, you’ve gotta roll with it.

It's a good philosophy considering that life has brought the founder and Executive Director of Indigo Ranch and Rescue more than her share of challenges, starting with a difficult childhood that left her with no real direction as a young person — save her love for animals.

"All the neighbors brought me abandoned animals they found," she says.  "I can go back any time in my history and ask people 'what do you remember most about me?' and the answer would be that I loved animals."

Eventually that passion found its voice in at Fur-Free Friday protests on fashionista freeway Rodeo Drive, and at anti-vivisection demonstrations in her home state.  It was after an injury forced her to seek work in Oregon that Heather became involved in local animal welfare, and threw her tremendous energy into being a part of the then fledgling Cat Adoption Team.  She went on to propose and help develop the on-site spay/neuter and dog walking programs at Washington County Animal Services and, with the help of several others, founded Indigo Rescue.

All of this history is important because in fact, animal welfare is Heather's all-consuming purpose.  She is a pre-Raphaelite warrior in purple Converse, her shoe of preference since her skateboarding days in Huntington Beach.

What she is not, she says, is a fundraiser.  "I'm an animal rescuer.  I don't like to beg for money; I don't have money.  We were doing this out of pocket and it was killing us."

Which is why, following a large bequest, Indigo Rescue made the decision to try and become self-supporting by creating Indigo Ranch — a rural, home-style boarding facility in Vernonia.  

Unfortunately, that decision was made in late 2006 — just in time for the economic crash that immediately turned their mortgage upside-down, and reduced the number of people taking vacations.  Then Heather was diagnosed with cancer.

True to form, she rolled with it and kept working.  "As far as I'm concerned,” she says matter-of-factly, “if you lay in bed you're a sick person, and if you keep working you're not a sick person.  But I was a lucky person.  I survived cancer."

The ranch was not as lucky.  When the devastating flood of 2007 hit, "We lost thousands of dollars of fencing we'd just put up,” says Heather.  “Gone.  Buildings flooded, we had to rebuild.  Thank god for our adopters who kept us going."

However challenging, all those events have led to Heather's proudest moment.  "In 2011 we were in the black," she says proudly.  "To have recovered, to have come up ok after all of that — it was just like, ‘Holy s---t, we made it!’"

Which is not to say that Indigo — the ranch or the rescue — aren’t still in desperate need of support, both financial and in the form of experienced foster homes.  Part of the much-lauded reduction in euthanasia rates locally is thanks to rescues like Indigo, that take in exclusively hard-luck cases:  animals needing months of medical or behavioral rehabilitation who, without it, would be euthanized.

"A dog with a broken leg or too fearful to have his mouth examined [can be] considered unhealthy and unadoptable," Heather explains.  "This is why we work so hard and lose so much sleep trying to figure out options for those dogs to have a chance."

It's Heather's dream to one day see Indigo become successful enough to help fund other small rescues doing the same work.  When not pursuing that goal, she enjoys hitting yard sales and — just as with animals — taking what someone else considers disposable and turning it into something treasured.

That can often be a challenging, uphill ride.  Luckily, being a skater girl means Heather Hines knows that when you wipe out, you just get back up and keep rollin'.  

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, this year Dec. 9th 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. 

Michele Coppola is a Portland-based air personality for 99.5 The Wolf and copywriter for Entercom Radio.  When she's not talking, writing, or pursuing quality couch time with husband Bryon and their dogs, Cindy and Lucy, she's also a proud volunteer for Fences for Fido and Family Dogs New Life Shelter.