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Better care for furry friends

A large bequest by East County couple means new surgical suite for Troutdale shelter
by: Carole Archer, Veterinarian Technician Nadya Burchette monitors black Lab Kate’s heart as Veterinarian Meghan Romney spays the dog. Kate’s new owners picked her up Tuesday evening. Six mornings a week, 10 cats and dogs are spayed or neutered. Thanks to a new surgical suite, employees have more space, better equipment and a recovery area for post-operative animals.

Their dogs meant everything to Robert and Ida Dixon. The couple, who lived in Northeast Portland, never had children and didn't have a lot of expenses. So they left a majority of their assets to the animal shelter.

For the Multnomah County Animal Shelter, that means a brand new surgical wing, replacing the mobile trailer they'd been operating in before. It means the state's only full-time veterinarian in a public shelter has the space and equipment to spay and neuter about 1,700 animals a year. It means stray and lost animals in Multnomah County are experiencing a level of care they'd get in any of the area's best veterinarian clinics.

'I think we've made a big commitment here to have a high level of care for the animals that come through here,' said shelter Director Mike Oswald. 'The county's strapped for money; it always is. So animals fall low on the priority list. People like Ida and Robert Dixon and our corporate gifts and donations from the public make a huge difference.'

The Dixons - Robert died in 1999 and Ida died in 2004 - left $219,000 to the Troutdale shelter. About $50,000 went to the surgical suite and the rest will be dogeared for a new canine kennel.

Neighbor Karen Bauske, who with her husband, Craig, took care of Ida in her last years, was also trustee of her estate. Ida left Tippy, her beloved terrier, to the Bauskes and asked Karen to take care of her will.

'Both (Ida) and Bob - their dogs were their life,' Karen said. 'They didn't have children, and Ida doted on animals. She used to send in donations to a lot of animal places.'

Ida was a homemaker, and Robert retired from Freightliner. They loved nature and enjoyed going on hunting trips in their Airstream trailer. It seemed like they always had one or two dogs, most of which they adopted from the Troutdale shelter.

'They were frugal, and Ida stuck stuff away in bonds,' Karen said. 'She'd be very happy to know their money went to take care of the animals.'

For veterinarian Meghan Romney, the new surgical rooms are a dream. Working full time for a year now, she had been operating in a mobile trailer behind the facility. Animals had to be carried up and down stairs, quarters were cramped and there was no recovery room. Workstations are now a desk and chair rather than a laptop in the corner of the trailer.

Romney mostly performs spays and neuters, but she also removes masses, extracts bad eyes, repairs lacerations, mends simple fractures and does some tooth removals and amputations.

The new surgical suite will allow the shelter to bring in interns and veterinary students from surrounding shelters and universities.

The surgery area is the second major improvement the shelter has seen this year. In March, a new state-of-the-art cat shelter room opened. The roomier area has much improved ventilation and viewing rooms and cages that don't face each other, making for a healthier and calmer cat environment.

Sometime in the next few years, the shelter hopes to remodel again and build a new dog kennel.

'The message that we're trying to communicate here is that we're providing a high standard of care, and a lot of that is a direct result of the generosity in our own community,' Oswald said.

For more information on the Multnomah County Animal Shelter, call 503-988-7387 or go to the Web site, www.multcopets.org.