Meet Heidi Shafford

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

She has the heart of a healer, the soul of a grizzly, and she watches over her patients like a guardian angel.

Always busy — Heidi Shafford loves gardening, hiking and triathlons — her guilty pleasure is sleeping past 5:30 or maybe, MAYBE the luxury of a nap.

Born into a pet-loving family in Homer, Alaska, by age 10 she was doing "everything from the chicken project to horses" in 4H. A gig at a vet clinic during junior high charted her future.

"I'm a veterinary anesthesiologist," Heidi says happily. "I provide anesthesia care for pets with medical conditions that make them a higher anesthesia risk. I also teach veterinary teams how to improve anesthesia safety."

Heidi is a rarity: there are only about 40 veterinary anesthesiologists practicing in the country.

"I give people peace of mind — that they have a specialist in anesthesia care completely focused on their pet, so the veterinarian can focus on the procedure."

"I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, but growing up I didn't know you could specialize in this. I just knew, as a high schooler, that pets died under anesthesia," she says.

"At the dental clinic, we get so many people who’ve never heard of this option for medically-fragile patients,” says Heidi. In fact, many veterinarians aren’t aware of it themselves. “It hurts my heart to hear people say they never knew this was possible. I've heard so many stories from pet owners — it's a tragedy for our profession when a pet passes under anesthesia during a routine dental."

Given the chance, Heidi wouldn’t choose any other profession. "I have found what I'm gifted to be — I love to teach, and I'm a teacher doing what I do. I connect with people, and care for pets." 

Pet parent to “two and a half cats and five chickens," Heidi explains playfully, "The half-cat is a stray that I've taken under my wing. He's still his own cat; he lives in our garage. We're working on transitioning him."

She hopes people see "that I'm compassionate, and passionate about what I do."

A lover of autumn and dahlias, she says, “They’re beautiful. Oregon gave that to me." Also among things she loves: family kindness. "My brother showing up unannounced to wish me bon voyage at the airport, or my sister sending me fresh fish," she smiles.

Princess Bride is her all-time fav film; as for music, "I really love bluegrass, folk, classical guitar."

What makes her giggle? "Braying donkeys! I cannot resist laughing when I hear them."

Her most prized possessions are her dad's paintings. "He's a watercolor artist, and he's given me a number of his paintings."

If she had two homes, she'd keep hers, and "add a cabin in Alaska."

The footwear that is so her? "My rubber boots! I wear them in the garden, and going fishing. That's what I feel most at home in."

Her passion extends to her bucket list. What’s on top? "I want to go observe brown bears in their natural environment at a park like Katmai in Alaska. I have a real strong connection with bears — I feel they are part of who I am," she says. "To me, the bear represents wilderness, and it's very important to preserve habitat for bears and to celebrate them."

Her favorite food? "Fresh halibut!" Must be a bear thing.

A ridiculous lottery win would "Let me start an anesthesia group that does what I do, but maybe a nonprofit, that helps people and pets."

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 Hunter live in Sherwood. 

Christy Caballero lives a few deer trails off the beaten path. Her two semi-feral kitties rule the outdoors, while indoors, her three big RagaMuffin purr-kids and aging sugar-faced Mojo, a retired racer Greyhound, OCCASIONALLY let her squeeze onto the sofa. Writing typically happens over the top of, around the edge of, or between the legs of a draping cat.