Compassion and Companionship 3

Humane Society of Central Oregon

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  —Mahatma Gandhi

Maty used to love to run and catch frisbees. But, that’s pretty common for an Australian Shepard mix. She became so good at the acrobatics that she was invited to compete as a high-flying disc dog at the 2006 Skyhoundz World Championships in Atlanta, Georgia. An impressive fete in itself, but still not uncommon for an Aussie. What made Maty’s accomplishment extraordinary lies not in what she was able to do that year—and again in 2008—but in how she managed to do it with only three legs. Maty had a leg amputated a few years earlier after contracting a virus.

While her skills with a frisbee are impressive, Maty’s greatest gift to the world was serving as a therapy dog and a Humane Society of Central Oregon (HSCO) ambassador. She was 15 years old when she passed away earlier this year from cancer.

“Maty inspired people to look beyond any limitations they may have,” says Lynne Ouchida, HSCO’s community outreach manager and Maty’s “mom.”

The year Maty went to Atlanta, she met a nine-year-old girl with no arms and only one leg. Like Maty, the girl had been adopted after being discarded. The girl soon learned to toss a frisbee and Maty happily obliged the game. The girl’s grandma remarked it was the first time in three months the young girl had smiled and laughed. They played most of the day as they adhered to Maty’s rule to “treat her like you want to be treated.”

Closer to home, Maty was the “nanny dog,” as she fostered small bunnies and cats at HSCO. What Maty lacked in appendages, she more than made up for in heart.

Humane Society of Central Oregon

HSCO opened in 1961 and has grown to include a staff of 144, plus an additional 180 volunteers working at the Southeast 27th Avenue shelter and their South Highway 97 thrift store. Last fiscal year, HSCO saw 2,572 total animals, including 1,329 dogs, 1,095 cats, and 148 other animals such as rabbits, hamsters and birds. They currently operate with a $2.3 million budget through funding from private donations, the thrift store, fundraising events, and grants.

In addition to the animals they place, their value to the community is shown through many different programs. HSCO partners with the Bend Police Department and Deschutes County Sheriffs Department to provide housing for the animals they receive through patrol calls. While they receive less than 2% of their revenue through these contracts, HSCO saves the city and county millions of taxpayer dollars in facility, staff and oversight fees.

A major part of HSCO’s goals is to teach future generations about animal care and welfare through humane education, shelter visits by children’s groups, volunteerism, and tours. In addition, HSCO offers programs and services such as reuniting pets with their families, the Spay Neuter Assistance Program, Pet Food Assistance Program, Lost and Found Reporting, End of Life Services, Private Cremations and Dog Licensing.

“I’d like to say that we have had an influence on how over the last decade pets have gone from being perceived as ‘owned property’ to ‘sentient being’ that are part of our family and community,” says Ouchida.

Some of the events HSCO organizes include the Pup Crawl, Tuxes & Tails, Oktoberfest Weiner Dog Race, and the Adult Tricycle Race. In addition, they partner with local businesses for events such as the Pine Tavern PT80, Elk Lake Beer Festival and the Festival of Cars.

Over the last five years, under the leadership of Executive Director Sabrina Slusser, HSCO has grown in budget, staff and services. In 2011, HSCO had a $1.5 million budget, 29 paid employees and placed approximately 81% of their animals. Today, they operate with a $2.3 million, have 144 paid employees, and place roughly 90% of their animals.

“We have been able to do this by staying focused on our core areas of staff development, animal care and relationships with donors and the community,” explains Slusser. “We, including our talented and committed board, continue to look ahead at ways that we can improve and be a leader in animal welfare.”

Recently, HSCO has become a proud Humane Society of the United States emergency placement partner. The formal animal transfer program allows HSCO to bring animals from crowded shelters across the country and then find them new homes. By joining, HSCO was able to use grant money to buy a new van to transfer animals.

“We, including our talented and committed board, continue to look ahead at ways that we can improve and be a leader in animal welfare.” –Susan Slusser

One such placement, recently in the news, saw HSCO take in 17 South Korean dogs slated for death. They have placed 14 so far. One of the dogs, Zula, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever and Tosa Mastiff mix, was one of the “true rescues.” Upon arrival, she was fearful of her new surroundings, would not eat and could not be touched or handled. Through the help of HSCO and a foster family, Zula gained confidence and became friendly with both humans and dogs alike.