PORTLAND, Ore. -- Inside a small, gray office complex at Northeast 82nd Avenue and Broadway on Sunday, more than 40 homeless and low-income men, women and families brought in their pets for free veterinary care, grooming services and pet food.
The routine wasn’t new.
Sunday’s was one of four “drop-in clinics” offered each year by the Portland Animal Welfare, or PAW, Team. In conjunction with regular, appointment-only office hours that run three days a week, it’s a service the non-profit has been offering since the 90’s.
What is new, said staff, are the numbers.
“The need seems to be growing, yes,” said interim executive director Maia Schwartz. “We're on track to serve twice as many animals as we did last year.”
That adds up to 800-900 dogs, cats and other animals, she said, by the end of 2017.
Most come in for low-level care, including spaying & neutering services.
David, who didn’t want to give his last name, brought in his dog Bella to have a sore on her back examined.
When he learned it would clear up on its own, he sighed with relief.
“This dog saved my life on March 1st of 2011,” he said. “I had a heart attack, and she alerted my wife. So, she’s my hero… I love her.”
A few rooms away, Loraine Murray sat with her dog Charlie tucked inside her sweatshirt.
“He’s a jacket Chihuahua,” she said, laughing.
She brought Charlie to the clinic for grooming and other care.
The trip is never easy, she said.
Murray is Schizophrenic. Charlie helps her push past it, enough to leave the house.
“He is very, very important to me. He's my lifeline,” she said. “If I didn't have him, I don't know where I'd be.”
It’s the type of story staff hear again and again.
Another story they hear often is one of concern.
Schwartz said she understands people worry about animals they see living on the streets or in emergency housing with their owners.
It’s why the PAW team, along with volunteers, take to the streets to check in pets living outside.
Last summer, KGW followed a team as they checked on animals living along the Springwater Corridor.
Schwartz said often, the animals don’t need any more care than any other pet.
“They will go above and beyond to make sure their pets are cared for, often times before they, themselves are cared for,” she said, of the owners. “The animals are in great condition.”
Schwartz’s biggest concern, Sunday, was making sure clients could get to the clinic.
The non-profit’s facility at NE 82nd & Broadway marks a recent move for them.
She worried owners, concerned about their animal, would mistakenly head to the old location.
If that happened, she added, they could make appointments during their normal office hours, Tuesday through Thursday.
“They’re very much a bonded pair, the human and the animal,” she said. “And it’s great to be able to support that.”
To make an appointment or donate to the Portland Animal Welfare Team, click here: http://www.pawteam.org/