Local dogs freed from tethers by Fences for Fido
For six years, Chucko, a pit bull who lives in Woodburn, lived a chained life.
Like many dogs, he'd spent most of his days confined to a tether outside of his owner's house. His owner, Linda Cordova, didn't have the means to provide a better enclosure for him, which prevented her from letting him off the chain.
"I'm recently divorced and I don't have the funds for anything near that," she said of the cost of a well-built enclosure.
But the tether was negatively impacting Chucko. Sores began forming on his neck around his collar. Sometimes, his chain would get tangled or stuck under his doghouse, meaning he'd be unable to move toward shelter when it was cold or rainy.
Sometimes, Chucko would get loose, which made neighbors and mail carriers afraid of Chucko.
"They would say it was a nuisance," Cordova said. "He's not vicious or anything, but they were scared of him."
And, Chucko wasn't happy. "When we'd go back there, he'd just be slumped over," Cordova said. "He needed to be off the chain."
That all changed when Cordova found the Facebook page of Fences for Fido, a nonprofit based in Portland whose mission is to build enclosures for tethered dogs.
The organization, founded in 2009, aims to improve the quality of life of dogs living outdoors by building fences free of charge for families whose dogs live on chains, tethers and in small enclosures. In addition, the organization provides insulated doghouses for each dog, and offers spay and neuter services and emergency veterinary care when needed.
Fences for Fido has built about 1,070 fences and unchained 1,650 dogs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. That includes 37 fences in Woodburn and Gervais and 48 fences in the larger Woodburn area, representing nearly 150 unchained dogs, according to data provided by the organization.
According to the organization, long-term tethering poses risks to dogs, their families and their neighbors. "Dogs are social animals. Their wild ancestors live(d) in packs, and when dogs live with humans, we are their pack," reads the Fences for Fido website. "A dog on a chain is separated from his pack and forced to live a solitary life, which can cause emotional and behavioral problems."
Long-term tethering can lead to strangulation and other health problems if the dog is unable to reach its food, water and shelter. And tethering affects behavior: The Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association warn that chained dogs are as much as 2.8 times more likely to attack than dogs not on chains.
Fences for Fido says there are many reasons why owners keep dogs on chains, and the organization isn't there to judge. It has no financial requirements for clients needing fences, and seeks only to help and educate families who seek out or are referred to the organization's resources.
Cordova requested an enclosure through the organization, and it wasn't long before volunteers came and built the fence in October 2017. The changes in Chucko were immediate, Cordova said.
"(Before), he wouldn't be playful to where he would run up to us and jump. And now he does, he runs up to us and he jumps and he just gets so happy," Cordova said.
Fences for Fido said that kind of transformation is common among the dogs it serves. "It begins with what we call 'zoomies': The running, jumping, exuberant joy our Fidos display once unchained — many for the first time in years," reads the organization's website.
In addition to the initial transformation, Cordova said Chucko is now able to lead a healthier life. Now that he's untethered, he can run around and exercise on his own. As a busy working mom, Cordova doesn't have time to take Chucko on regular walks. The enclosure helps solve that.
And, Cordova said she appreciates the thoughtful details the Fences for Fido volunteers added to the enclosure. Unlike a typical fence, it goes several feet into the ground, meaning that Chucko won't be able to dig his way out.
The organization also provides follow-up visits to each of the dogs it serves at least once a year. Clients who receive fences sign an agreement to keep their dogs off chains for the rest of their lives and to call the organization if their dog has learned to open the gate or climb over the fence.
"I think it's an excellent cause," Cordova said of Fences for Fido. "He's so much happier, I can tell."
For more information on Fences for Fido, go to https://www.fencesforfido.org/.