Dogs abandoned in Oregon suffer and die by the thousands.   But in the Salem area, volunteers give many a chance at life.  Hope’s Haven of Polk County and Dr. Arlene Brooks of Turner are two resources that these animals have going for them.

The problem of discarded dogs is significant; for lack of space and resources – and because of the sheer number of abandoned animals – most agencies and pounds cannot afford “no kill” policies.  Dogs who suffer fractures, neurological problems blindness, or who have experienced psychological damage that leaves them trembling, catatonic or aggressive – are considered “unadoptable.”

In the Salem area alone, thousands are euthanized every year.

“When I see these kids come through, with no decent chance in life, all I can do is help them one at a time,” says Dr. Arlene Brooks, 1994 Willamette Vet of the Year.  In the last six year, Brooks has treated 686 abused, gunshot, club battered and starving animals – her “kids” – through Homestead Vet Clinic’s Last Chance Club, her veterinarian home base.  Her donated medical and surgical services for this period are worth more than $300,000, and mean life itself to her patients.

Brooks often works alongside Marsha Chambers, who founded Hope’s Haven in Polk County.  In the past 20 years the Hope’s Haven dog rescue organization has saved the lives of more than 4,000 dogs.

Hope’s Haven receives animals from “kill” shelters in Oregon, Washington and Oregon, as well as from agencies who obtain dogs from “hoarders” (people who collect animals) and “flippers” (people who obtain animals for free and provide minimal, impersonal care before selling them.)

Once a dog has arrived at Hope’s Haven it receives a veterinary examination from either Dr. Brooks or Dr. Camille Connelly of Independence.  After treatment the animal stays with one of Hope’s Haven’s 30-odd volunteers where it is fostered, socialized and given affection until a “forever” home is found.

One recent wintery morning Dr. Connelly examined Whiskey, a frightened little terrier who had just arrived.  The dog nearly clung to volunteer Leanne Houngninou, who assisted.

Houngninou had paid for Whiskey herself just days before from a “flipper” in a nearby town.  She admitted the dog hated to be out of her sight ever since.  Deep feeling between the two was obvious.

Still, Houngninou plans to foster Whiskey – not keep him.  She coordinates volunteer foster homes for Hope’s Haven and is proud of how dogs are allowed to heal in foster situations while “forever homes” are found.  Fosterers can become deeply attached to the animals, as was already the case with her and Whiskey.  But the dogs go to their new families anyway because, as Houngninou explains, the volunteers work for a higher purpose.

“It breaks your heart every time,” she says.  “Every time a foster family or person gives up a dog, they cry.  I will for sure, to give up Whiskey.  The thing that helps is to know the animal goes to a ‘forever home,’ and that we made that possible.”

The Hope’s Haven website shows available animals and encourages both adoptions and fostering for “all the innocent dogs that have had their trust betrayed by unworthy guardians.”

Back in Turner, Dr. Brooks pats Jesse, a black shepherd who lost a leg from a bullet wound and who was her very first Last Chance Club patient.  He’s lived with her ever since.  Brooks’ wall is crowded with snapshots of many of the animals she has helped (some are also on the Last Chance Club website.)  It is typical of these animal advocates that she remembers the name of every animal.

She reflects on her figure, 686.  “I’m shooting for 1,000 before I quit,” she told us.  “Doesn’t it just sound marvelous?  To be able to say, ‘What did I do in my life?  I saved 1,000 dogs.’’’