Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tribute to Max

In the normal bustle of the holiday season, PAW Team would like to stop for a moment and honor the life of Max, the little Shitzu mix who crossed the Rainbow Bridge a week ago, after 14 wonderful years with his person, Vicki Sittinghawk.

Vicki and Max were a well-known sight on the streets of Portland, often on the corner of Powell's selling Street Roots papers. Vicki got Max in 2004 from a friend who had cancer and couldn't keep Max anymore. Vicki was homeless for a decade before that, alcoholic and depressed. When she got Max, she had just gotten into Section 8 housing, and she and Max became instant friends and best buddies.

Vicki says that "Max keeps me from wanting to drink. He's always in good spirits, he's just happy and brightens my day. When he's with me, I feel better."

Vicki and Max came to PAW Team very soon after we started. Vicki brought Max to one of our clinics in the basement of the Outside In Arts building, in 2004, and I happened to be the vet who first treated this happy little guy. He needed his shots and a pet license so Vicki could keep her housing, and also some treatment for eye and ear infections. Vicki was also very worried about his feet. "He gets little rocks in his paws, caught in the hair in his feet, when he walks with me on the streets selling papers." So in addition to medications for his eyes and ears (typical problems in this breed), we also gave Max a full-body haircut because his fur was so matted. We didn't have volunteer groomers that day, and it was near the end of the clinic, so Barbara and I stayed a little later and got Max's fur all cleaned up. He was such a patient little guy, submitting to everything with his usual aplomb, and relaxing with magisterial dignity on the table as we turned him all around, the clippers humming and fur flying everywhere. He looked so happy and clean afterwards, and Vicki was thrilled! She gave us many, many of her trademark "double blessings" and her beautiful wide smile.

That was the start of many encounters with Vicki and Max at PAW Team. Vicki would bring Max for an annual haircut in the spring, and would stay to sweep the floors for us at the end of the clinic. As Max got older and had a little more trouble walking for the long distances that Vicki traveled in selling the paper, Max would spend more time in the baby stroller that Vicki pushed him around in, and she would let him out for romps in the Park Blocks. He was King of the Pearl, riding along in his buggy throne, watching the antics of lesser dogs and people with a kingly grace.

Max was a feisty little guy when he wanted to be, but he knew he was special, and he was so patient and calm while we were treating him and cleaning up his fur. He didn't like his face touched, though, which is understandable for a dignified guy like Max, but it definitely made it a little more challenging to put drops in his eyes and ears! But Vicki was loving and patient with Max always, and you could see the powerful bond between the two of them.

In the past couple years, Max began to have seizures, and PAW Team was able to use our emergency funds to send him to Rose City Vet Hospital for some tests and treatment in between our regular clinics. Max stabilized on medication, and we treated him for the pain from his growing arthritis in his neck and back. Although he was pretty much blind and nearly deaf, and could only wobble around a bit when he walked, he was still King of the Pearl, perched royally on a stack of blankets in his stroller, and dressed warmly against the winter chill in sweaters and coats from PAW Team's supply of dog winter gear.

 One day Vicki came in pushing Max's stroller which had lost one of its wheels. Amazingly, someone had just donated a stroller to us, and so we were able to get Max ensconced in a new, fully-wheeled buggy so Vicki didn't have to half-carry, half-push the broken one. We all received many double blessings that day.

Over the past few months, Max was on increasing doses of pain medications to keep him comfortable, as his health declined and his life-spark waned. Max passed away peacefully in his sleep, crossing over the Rainbow Bridge to wait for Vicki and his many admirers on the other side... he will be missed until we see him again.

We wish Vicki and everyone a peaceful and safe holiday season, with double blessings, as we remember the love that we share with our four-legged family members. They leave us too soon, but they keep us alive and fill our hearts with joy while they are here with us...


(top photo by Lynn Lippert, 2004; other photos by Karylee Harrison, 2011)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sweet Sammie Sue - a tribute

Sweet Sammie Sue passed away in April of this year, most likely from cancer. We saw her in 2009 for a rather large mass on her lower eyelid, and referred her to Rose City Vet Hospital for surgery to remove it. The surgery went well, but we did not have enough funds to pay for pathology to see what kind of tumor it was. But Sweet Sammie Sue was a happy girl for another couple of years, living out her elderly years with her person SZ.

When Sweet Sammie Sue died in her sleep late one night in April, SZ left us a message, and shared with us the truly amazing story of their relationship.  He met Sweet Sammy Sue in the Mohave Desert.  He was disabled and she was feral and freaked out.  It took him four years (yes, four YEARS!) to get her to play with him without her falling to the ground, trembling. He related to this poor little dog immediately, believing that her behaviors were a reaction to abuse, as SZ had been abused as a child, raped, beaten, and locked in closets. SZ consequently struggled with addiction as an adult, but he has now been clean for 24 years. 

PAW Team is honored to have been a small part of the lives of Sweet Sammie Sue and SZ, and we salue their courage and their shared love for one another. We know Sammie Sue is waiting with a wagging tail somewhere where her loved one will find her, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge...

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Tucker is a sweet boy who came to the first of the clinics at Bud Clark Commons.  He came for vaccinations, flea treatment and a general wellness checkup.

There is nothing better than a belly rub to calm frayed nerves before seeing the doctor, Tucker highly recommends it!  He was a little reluctant to have his picture taken so I can to surprise him but he is, without a doubt, a delightfully affectionate gentleman.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Volunteer Shawna

Here's a lovely photo from one of our clinics a few months ago on Division. Shawna is one of our regular vet assistant volunteers, and she and her daughter have helped so many pets at our clinics.

This little kitten was about to get her first shots. It's wonderful to have a caring volunteer like Shawna to provide a little comfort during this first big experience!
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bud Clark Commons

I want to start by apologizing for the lapse in posts on the blog.  Rest assured the PAW Team is working hard to provide the best service possible to the community and I admit I was distracted by other tasks.

However, since the last post, the PAW Team has had its first clinic at the newly opened Bud Clark Commons.  It is a really amazing space that provides all kinds of services including lockers, showers, internet access and so much more and now they have opened their doors to us so that we can help serve Portland's west side population.

We got all of our stations set up well in advance so that we could get comfortable with the space.  The room provided was large, open and filled with light.  Due to the smaller space and the fact that the PAW Team had to travel with supplies to this location we took appointments rather than the normal first-come-first-served approach so that everyone who came would be guaranteed to see a veterinarian.

All the supplies were carefully sorted and the volunteers were given a brief orientation.

While our patients arrived many were subjected to the affections of the volunteers while their people filled out the requisite paperwork.

Everyone agreed at the end of the day that the clinic was a great success.  Everyone was seen in a timely manner, the staff at Bud Clark Commons was great, and the clients, four-legged and two-legged alike, were delightful.

Thank you everyone for making this clinic the triumph that it turned out to be!  Our Division Street clinic is this Sunday, mark your calendars!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mr. Higgins

This sweet fella is Mr. Higgins.  At seven years old he has had a run of bad luck.  Before he moved into his current home he had been hit by a car resulting is the loss of a leg and a bad jaw.  His bad luck ended though when Deborah brought him home though, he is the happiest guy you'll ever meet.

While so many of the other dogs were getting excited and rowdy Mr. Higgins would just wiggly contentedly at the other dogs and greet everyone who stopped to greet him.  He and Deborah arrived bright and early because Mr. Higgins has been having some skin issues.  It itches constantly and as a result he is chewing and licking and probably making his irritation worse.  Maybe he is allergic to the three cats that he lives with...

Thursday, July 7, 2011


 Hello Dolly!  This silly little lady just loves having her picture taken, the only hard part is that her long lashes sometimes block her darling face.  Dolly was too busy strutting her stuff to pay much attention to the other animals although I am told she loves all her feline friends.

The main reason Dolly came to the clinic was to get licensed.  Her owner Kim said that licensing is a condition of having a pet in her rental (what a responsible landlord) and in order to get her license Dolly needed to have her vaccinations updated.  From what Kim said it sounds like this sweet girl might also have a little separation anxiety, Dolly reported barks quite a bit when Kim leaves but will eventually settle down, so Kim also wanted to get a little advice about how to cope with the little chatterbox.

From everyone at the PAW Team we hope you all had a wonderful, fun-filled and, above all, safe Independence Day!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy 4th of July

We're just days away from celebrating Independence Day so it's time to go through your home safety checklist. First and foremost, know your dog! If you have brought a new dog (or any pet for that matter) home in the past year it is probably best to ensure that someone is going to be home to supervise their reaction to the inevitable fireworks and firecrackers that are going to be set off for the 4th of July.

Dr. Ilana Reisner at the University of Pennsylvania School fo Veterinary Medicine reports that:

Dogs can respond with profound fear to loud, booming noises such as thunder or fireworks. In fact, some dogs appear to develop a worsening fear over time that eventually is characterized as a phobia. Noise-phobic dogs can respond with extreme efforts to escape the noise. What starts as mild signs of distress, such as pacing, trembling and panting, can develop into chewing and digging at points of exit, particularly if the dogs are alone at home. It is not unusual for unsuspecting owners to come home to extraordinary destruction of doorways, windows and other routes of "escape" Dogs with severe noise phobias have even been known to chew through drywalls and jump through plate glass windows.

How can you tell if your dog is having an adverse reaction to fireworks? Generally you will see any of the following behaviors: panting, pacing, trembling, and clinginess.

Here are some recommendations for helping your dog to cope.

1. Do not take your dog out for any of the Independence Day festivities. Even if fireworks do not normally upset them the cumulative effect of the percussion of explosions, the crowds of people, the excited voices and exposure to new places can cause unforeseen dismay in your pet. It is best to leave them safely at home.
2. Close the doggie door! On days like the 4th of July you HAVE to close it. While your pet may not have shown you how easily they can escape from your yard the stress of the holiday may be the encouragement they need make their escape. Once in "flight" mode your best friend may run and run and run until exhaustion.
3. If you already know that your pet is upset by fireworks make an appointment with your vet to discuss options. While we should all hesitate to medicate our pets unnecessarily it is better that they are medicated and safe that paniked and injure themselves in the process.
4. Did you keep up on crate training when you brought your dog home? Great! Then set the crate up again tonight and start feeding them in it. A crate will provide you dog with a safe place in your home to retreat to if they get upset and should the noise and chaos cause a little incontinence at least it is contained in one area.
5. Separate your pets! Many of us have a lot of love to give so if you have a multi-pet household you should take measures to protect them from each other. Yes, I know they've lived together forever and have never had a problem before but perhaps you have some new neighbors or have moved to a new house. If there is something new this year that makes this 4th of July especially stressful you can not know how your animals will react. They could startled at precisely the wrong moment and get bitten out of fear.
6. Check their collar and identification. Make sure that the collar is nice and snug so that if you buddy somehow escapes they can be identified and returned to you.

If you are planning on being home remember that in times to stress you should avoid the impulse to comfort your pets. Under these conditions comforting them only serves to reinforce the behavior. The best thing to do is to try to distract them and if that doesn't work then encourage them to find a safe place to hide. While we tend to believe it is best to confront our fears but if your dog or cat chooses to hide at least you know where they will be and so long as they feel safe the will not get hurt. Sometimes music can help to distract your pets from the fireworks or at least reduce their impact.

Play it safe and happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Teddy Bear

Next up is Teddy Bear, mentioned in the previous post.  This handsome guy is six years-old and was happy to cuddle in Gail's lap and watch all the other animals parade by.

This is Teddy Bear's second attempt to be seen at the clinic.  Like Cash he arrived too late to be seen at the previous event so he arrived extra early.  Mostly Gail just wanted him to get an annual checkup and to have his vaccinations updated.  In the process Teddy will also be given flea treatment.  He is a happy healthy guy and Gail is doing her best to ensures that he stays that way!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Meet Cash.  Named in honor of Johnny Cash this one year-old lab who came with his person Dan and his little friend Teddy Bear (who will almost certainly be featured in a future post) to be seen at the clinic.

I suspect he found all the activity a little stressful at first, he made his concerns heard.  However Cash quickly settled in to the bustle of the crowds and watched people and their animals parade past his comfortable seat.  Recently he has been chewing on himself a bit so Dan came to get some flea treatment and to get his one year vaccinations completed.  Otherwise Cash is as fit as anyone could hope for and as Benjamin Franklin famously said "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

At each clinic we have a vaccination team so that if all you need are some shots and flea treatment we can get you in and out with greater speed.