This Saturday, May 31 PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap (PAWS) will host a dinner and benefit auction at Manor House on Bainbridge Island to benefit pets and their people. The third annual Spotlight on Community Hero Pets will celebrate just some of the reasons our pets are such important members of our families.
“Each day, our pets greet us at the door when we come home and provide comfort and unconditional love,” said
Elizabeth Stevenson, Executive Director of PAWS. “This event will shine a light on the local heroes that are doing remarkable deeds right here in our neighborhoods and are owned by our neighbors.” Stevenson concluded, “Now it is our turn to honor them for the heroes they are.”
I’m honored that this year, PAWS has chosen me as a “Hero for Pets” for my small part in helping shut down the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, WA.
The award is particularly special for me because, in previous years, PAWS only selected Hero Pets. This is the first time the group has chosen to recognize Hero’s for Pets.
Of course, lots of people deserve credit for helping save the Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs, but I want to recognize 4 of them who inspired me to to focus the majority of my time and attention on helping these dogs over the last 7 months:
- Pati Winn.A former volunteer at the “Sanctuary,” Pati was the first person to bring the plight of the OAS dogs to the public. Her pictures of the dogs and descriptions of how they suffered exposed their story to thousands of people.
- Jeff Burnside –KOMO News. Jeff was the only Seattle reporter that covered the suffering of the OAS dogs. His story about visiting OAS last fall gave the dogs’ plight a national audience.
- Tami Thayne and Robin Budin –Dogs Deserve Better. When they found out about the awful treatment the OAS dogs endured, Tami and Robin contacted “Sanctuary” founder Steve Markwell and asked him to return Sonny, a dog their group sent to OAS. When he refused, they traveled across the country to protest outside OAS for about a week last December. Their protests, and Tami’s arrest for violating a bogus retraining order filed by Markwell, inspired other people to protest in front of the OAS warehouse and created so much pressure on Markwell he fled with the dogs and eventually relinquished them to the rescue group Guardians of Rescue.
Although I can’t attend the PAWS event this weekend due to previous plans, I appreciate this incredible honor. PAWS is a fantastic group that does great work to save and find homes for pets on Bainbridge Island and in Kitsap County.
Below are the stories of the three Pet Heroes and the three Heroes For Pets, two of whom are a team of EMT’s. PAWS will honor them and also recognize the heroic efforts of the Oso mudslide search and rescue teams.
Companion Animal ~ Chevy, (awarded posthumously)
Autumn Kreifels lost her beloved St. Bernard, Chevy, last February, but it has been some small comfort that Chevy died a hero. Autumn, her family and friends – five adults, three children and three-year-old Chevy – had been sleeping inside a two-story Bremerton home when it went up in flames early in the morning. Autumn awoke to family screaming and pounding on her bedroom door. She and six others ran for their lives amidst heavy smoke, finally managing to crawl their way out through the garage. It was only once they were safely outside that they realized a family friend and Chevy were still in the house. But it was too late for both of them: Flames blocked every possible way back in. They could hear Chevy barking.
Later, after Kitsap County Fire and Rescue put out the fire, they found Chevy in the living room of the destroyed house, his mouth on their friend’s arm. Chevy had tried to pull the man out. As Autumn put it later that day, “Chevy did try. We’re very proud of him for that. But of course we wish he could have gotten out and tried to run at least. That’s what a dog does, what a St. Bernard does, is he tries to save the people that he can.” That’s what makes Chevy, a PAWS Pet Hero winner.
Companion Animal ~ Miss Bean
When Bainbridge Island resident Dee Johnson took a beautiful tortie home from PAWS so many years ago, she knew adopting Miss Bean was going to change her life. But, save her life as well? One night last summer, Johnson nursing a cold, fell into a deep sleep in her son’s bed while saying goodnight.
She was snoring so loudly, he soon left to sleep in her empty room. Meanwhile, Johnson’s husband had fallen asleep downstairs on the couch. Alone in her son’s bed, her deep sleep turned to unconsciousness sometime in the night.
Fortunately, she was not really alone. Fifteen-year-old Miss Bean always slept peacefully next to Johnson’s pillow, and that night, even in a different room, was no exception. Although that night, Miss Bean wasn’t so peaceful. At 4 am, she started yowling – loudly. So loudly in fact, that it woke Johnson’s husband up. When he found his wife, he immediately saw she wasn’t breathing, started CPR and called 911.
Johnson was later diagnosed with pneumonia, a pneumonia so serious, she had to be air lifted to Harborview, intubated, and ended up spending four days in ICU and then three more on a medical floor. She says she’s “doing great now, just regaining my strength,” all thanks to PAWS Pet Hero winner Miss Bean. “We love our animals,” Johnson says “as they love us, sometimes even enough to save our lives.”
Therapy Animal ~ Fenway Bark
Fridays are Fenway’s at the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) in Seattle. Fenway, a beautiful Golden Retriever, brightens the day for so many seriously ill children and their families; it’s hard to imagine how much persuasion it took to even get her in the door. If not for the tireless efforts (some might even say nagging) Louisa Malatos, Fenway’s owner RMHC might not have a therapy dog program at all. As a Seattle Children’s Guild Association trustee and a mother herself, Malatos well understands the toll serious illness takes on kids and their families. As she put it, “So much changes for [them]…. it’s important for Fenway and me to show up regularly.” Regularly, indeed. She not only started the therapy dog program at RMHC, but she and Fenway have been visiting children and their families there for eight years.
The extraordinary bond both have developed with many of the patients and families at RMHC is made possible by Malatos’ diligent training of Fenway to be comfortable around medical equipment and to interact patiently with even the most frail, severely ill child. As Malatos explains, “Petting a dog calms patients, puts a smile on their face and gives them a chance to open up about their experience. Sometimes children just fall asleep on top of Fenway. I think it’s an honor to be with people during really difficult times in their lives.”
Hero For Pets ~ Robert Pregulman
Calling all Greater Seattle area dog lovers! Ever wish there was just one internet spot for everything local about dogs? Check out Seattle DogSpot (“Where Dogs Reign”). Whether it’s finding a groomer, adoption events, articles on dog health written by local veterinarians, or resources to help locate lost dogs, Seattle DogSpot truly has it all. But, none of that makes creator Robert Pregulman a hero.
What makes Robert the first to win the PAWS Hero For Pets is his relentless pursuit of justice for dogs at what he called, “a jail for dogs” – the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks. Through his activism and prolific blog posts detailing the horrific conditions there, Robert was instrumental in getting this “hellhole” closed down. He not only documented the abuse with firsthand reporting from his own trip up to Forks, but called readers to action, providing contact information for local officials and politicians.
After the dogs were finally safe with Guardians of Rescue, in Arizona Robert didn’t stop. He continued his advocacy by soliciting donations and matching funds for their subsequent care, traveling out of state to report on their progress. Even now, he continues to post much happier pictures and stories, both of the dogs in their new forever homes, as well as those still in foster care but ready for adoption into theirs.
Heroes For Pets ~ Caitlyn Burbank and Casey Jo Clifton, Pacific County Fire District No. 3
It was the week before Thanksgiving, but the poodles didn’t know that – nor did they know just how much they would soon have to be thankful for. When a fire broke out in a Raymond home, the homeowners were not there, but their toy poodles – all ten of them – were.
As the fire and smoke quickly spread, the dogs were overcome and by the time firefighters got to them, several were suffering from smoke inhalation, one not breathing at all. EMTs Caitlyn Burbank and Casey Jo Clifton quickly went to work, trying to help as many as they could, but not holding out much hope. After all, they reasoned, as EMTs, they hadn’t gotten much training in animal CPR and besides, many of the dogs seemed to be near death.
Still, they sprang into action, hooking them up to oxygen, getting each one masked as fast as they could, all the while fearing that even with a lot of luck, they might only be able to save a few. It wasn’t luck after all, but the skill and heart of those intrepid EMTs that managed to save every single one.
The home, on the other hand, could not be saved, and as a result, the owners reluctantly relinquished their dogs. Launching “Operation Oodles of Poodles,” Harbor Association of Volunteers for Animals took over their care and put them up for adoption, noting that Sonny, Cher, Polar Bear, Snowball and all the rest just needed “somebody to love them. That’s all.” Not quite. They also needed PAWS Hero For Pets winners Caitlyn Burbank and Casey Jo Clifton.
PAWS will also respectfully honor the contributions of the search and rescue teams and their tireless efforts at the Oso Mudslide.
“Funds raised at the event will support PAWS programs throughout the year,” Stevenson said. “For folks who are unable to attend and still want to help us fulfill our mission, gifts are graciously accepted online throughout the year at www.PAWSBINK.org/donate.html.”