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'It is such a blessing': Portland nonprofit helps care for veterans' dogs

For veterans, companionship with service animals is critical but the cost of caring for them has become a hardship for many, especially during the pandemic.

PORTLAND, Oregon — For the last five years, Army veteran Jake Lind and Jasmine, his German Shephard service dog, have been inseparable.

“She's the greatest. She's definitely the best dog I've ever had,” said Lind, 31. “We can't really go many places without each other so, she’s pretty great.”

For many vets, it's the kind of friendship that gives life and often saves lives —especially for vets experiencing homelessness.

“The veteran's going to take care of their dog,” said retired Army 1st Sgt. Tina Kennedy. "Sometimes their dogs eat better than they do."

After serving 22 years in the Army, Kennedy opened Fort Kennedy, a nonprofit day center for homeless vets in Southeast Portland. They offer showers, services, help with housing and supplies including pet care. Since the pandemic hit, Kennedy — who also benefits from a service dog — said their stock of pet supplies has greatly diminished. It's a resource that has meant a lot to vets like Lind.

It is such a blessing,” said Lind. “I wouldn't be able to make ends meet unless I had some help like this.”

Lind is now a volunteer at Fort Kennedy but before he got help from the nonprofit, he spent a short time living on the street. It’s the kind of situation where pet care is even more critical.

“Especially living in the car,” said Kennedy. “You can't have an animal with fleas living in a vehicle, it's just too much.”

Sellwood Pet Supply is stepping up to help meet that specific need.

“Especially with the warmer weather, it's really important to get flea treatment for your pets,” said Aileen Valadez, of Sellwood Pet Supply. The business is offering 20% off flea control products purchased as a donation to Fort Kennedy and will match each of those donations through the month of May up to $300.

“For some people it's survival to have pets with them,” said Valadez. “It’s definitely super important to help.”

Kennedy said she appreciates people’s willingness to help them in any way they can, especially during this time.

“It's amazing to know that the community is actually supporting the veterans here,” said Kennedy.