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No paw left behind

West Linn animal shelter looks to relocate to larger space

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - Paws Animal Shelter prides itself for taking in animals of all shapes and sizes, and is looking to expand to a larger building in the near future.Sharon Murphy likes to say that what Paws Animal Shelter lacks in size, it makes up for in heart.

The West Linn-based shelter specializes in orphaned animals, but makes a point of taking in every needy animal that crosses its door. According to Murphy, who is the executive director of the shelter, that includes cats, dogs, chickens, small horses, even goats and sheep.

“A lot of people call us the little shelter that can do just about anything,” Murphy said.

Yet if all goes according to plan, the shelter might not be “little” for much longer. Paws will soon submit an offer to buy a new 3,800-square-foot building to replace its current 600-square-foot shelter. Murphy and other workers at the nonprofit have operated for 14 “phenomenal” years out of the old shelter on Willamette Falls Drive, but they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to expand their boundaries.

“It would be a dream come true, and allow us to do so much more,” Murphy said. “We’re working really hard, and we have a fundraising plan to get there. It takes a community.”

The shelter has raised $2,185 of the $150,000 it needs to make a down payment on the building, which is located a block away from the current location in the Willamette area.

As an extra incentive to donate, the shelter will create individualized wall decorations for every contributor who gives $1,000 or more.

“At some point, the shelter will be filled with names,” Murphy said. “You’ll own part of the shelter.”

Should Paws indeed acquire the new space, its services would broaden dramatically. Murphy said there would be a small vet clinic inside where animals could be spayed or neutered and also receive general care. The extra space would also allow for a larger and better organized shelter area, and Murphy also plans to add what she calls a “pet café” area.

“So as you come to the shelter and enjoy the animals, you could also have a coffee and pet a cat, or watch the chickens,” Murphy said. “And support the shelter by buying a cup of coffee.”

If people ask why they should donate to the shelter, Murphy has plenty of success stories to reel off. There was the dog with a broken pelvic bone who was eventually adopted by his surgeon’s son; the “tiny” kitten, only a day old, saved by Paws workers; a pigeon that had been poisoned and needed to be nursed back to health.

Murphy is particularly fond of the story about a “pitifully ugly” dog who was sold to the shelter, the owner assuming he would be euthanized. Paws instead found a home for the dog, who went on to become a hero by alerting neighbors after his owner collapsed from a diabetic attack.

“A little dog with no value saved someone’s life,” Murphy said. “All animals have great value.”

Of course, with such an open mindset, the line between joy and heartbreak at Paws is perilously thin. Just recently, the shelter took in a cat named Buddy Holly who had fallen from an apartment building and broke his front legs.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Buddy Holly the cat arrived at the shelter with two broken legs, and though he died shortly after surgery, shelter workers can take solace knowing they did what they could to help.

The cat survived for three days outside during a bitter cold spell before he was found and eventually taken to Paws. The shelter nursed him back to health and paid for his surgery, but he died shortly after from unforeseen complications.

“It was a huge loss felt by a lot of people,” Murphy said.

Indeed, the “Buddy Holly the Cat” Facebook page has 194 “likes,” and Murphy said it might remain open as a tribute page.

Sadness aside, Paws workers can take solace knowing they did everything they could to help — and will do so for the next animal that arrives at their door.

“Shelters like ours fill a huge void for animals that would be outside suffering,” Murphy said.

To donate to Paws Animal Shelter, visit http://facebook.com/PAWSOregon or http://youcaring.com/nonprofits/a-new-home-for-paws-animal-shelter/109163.

Patrick Malee can be reached at pmalee@westlinntidings.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl


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