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Officer Dawn Pecoraro goes way beyond call of duty in assisting family

It all started out with a dog that was not getting enough to eat.

It ended with Lake Oswego Police Officer Dawn Pecoraro helping a local family in desperate need. Or, as she calls it, “giving them a push.” Whatever you call it, Pecoraro made a tremendous difference.

A nine-year veteran of the Lake Oswego Police Department, Pecoraro rarely handles calls on animal abuse, but she got one on July 3. It intrigued her because she is an avid pet lover (and owner of a mastiff) and the call concerned a really skinny dog that apparently had not eaten in five days. Pecoraro arrived at an appalling scene in which there was garbage everywhere, old cars with long-expired tags, and, yes, a dog that looked to be in woeful condition. When Pecoraro assessed the location, it was so full of trash that she could not see any open floor space. She assumed the house was abandoned.

“I did some digging and I finally found a number,” Pecoraro said. by: CLIFF NEWELL - Lake Oswego Police Department Officer Dawn Pecoraro went by a higher law when it came to helping a local family in bad trouble.

No, the house was not abandoned. Pecoraro would have been well within her rights as a police officer to have thrown the book at a family that was violating many city ordinances. Instead, she took a different course of action. The starving dog was only one sign of a very sad situation.

“I thought, ‘Something is going on here,’” Pecoraro said. “My compassionate side came out. When you see something as bad as that house looked, there is usually something underlying the problem. There were a lot of issues. It would not have done any good to start writing tickets. They were having a hard time taking care of themselves.”

The first item on Pecoraro’s agenda was the weight-challenged dog. She made sure the family took it to a vet, got it a license and made sure the pooch was getting enough to eat. As it turned out, the dog was of a very lean breed and always looked too skinny under the best of circumstances.

Pecoraro’s biggest problem was the massive and unsightly amount of garbage that dominated the home and yard. However, the problem was not due to negligence.

“The family’s father was dying in a hospital, and he was their main money earner,” Pecoraro said. “They were having major health and financial issues. They could not afford any garbage service, and that was a huge issue.”

While Pecoraro was looking into the matter, the father died. She continued to work.

“The city has a dumpster program, and it’s no good if you can’t get the backlog of garbage out of there,” Pecoraro said. “It was a struggle.”

With the help of Diana Smith-Bouwer, city information coordinator, Pecoraro was able to line up a dumpster. A big one. Then she tried to line up some volunteers. Unfortunately, on the day of the big dump-off the only volunteer who showed up was herself.

Thankfully, Pecoraro’s supervisors at the police department were understanding and allowed her to change her shift to better help the family. On dumpster day she brought her lawn equipment and filled the dumpster to capacity. In this case, one volunteer was enough.

Pecoraro isn’t done yet. She is continuing to help the family by helping to take care of its car problems. She praised the family for being open to her offer of help instead of freezing her out.

“Some people just need a little extra help” from someone, Pecoraro said. “In this case it happened to be me.”

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.