The PAWS Animal Shelter in Willamette saves eight orphaned ducklings, giving them a chance to survive and float the river someday
by: Vern Uyetake, Director Sharon Murphy fills up a tin pan to create a wading pool for eight orphaned ducklings that were recently brought to the PAWS Animal Shelter in Willamette. The ducklings have been sent out to a foster home and will eventually be released into the

Thousands of cats, 48 dogs, one rabbit, two turtles, a pigeon, a miniature horse, three baby squirrels, two baby raccoons and now, eight ducklings.

The PAWS Animal Shelter in West Linn has helped a lot of animals in need since its opening in June 1999. PAWS Director Sharon Murphy says that in seven years the shelter has 'pushed the envelope,' caring for a variety of animals even though its original mission was to rescue cats.

So, when eight baby mallard ducks were left orphaned after their mother was hit by a car in Beaverton early this month, the shelter immediately opened its doors, because, 'this is the place where happy endings begin,' Murphy said.

'When we got them they were (so small they were) like a puff of cotton. I've learned so much about ducks,' said Murphy. 'One of (the ducklings) sometimes acts as boss.'

Murphy says the 600-square-foot center is accommodating to a variety of pet needs, but mostly houses cats in need of a home. With three walls separated by screens, the cats can live in a relaxed atmosphere and roam freely while small animals - such as the ducklings and kittens - require the most attention.

People often visit PAWS looking to adopt new cats, but some contact the shelter to take animals they may not be able to care for. Murphy does what she can to help, but says she can't take them all with the limited space and funds currently available.

Ducklings in a row

After being under supervision for a couple of weeks, the ducklings were recently located to the Oregon City home of a shelter volunteer.

'I'm looking forward to seeing them grow up. They're a kick. I miss having ducks around,' said Amanda St. Thomas, who is caring for the ducks until they can be set free.

Growing up on a farm and raising numerous animals - including ducks - helped St. Thomas with the foster-care set up. She converted a large area in her garage for the ducklings, which includes space to roam as well as heat lamps.

St. Thomas will oversee all duck maintenance until the animals are released - in roughly two months - into the Willamette River in West Linn for what the women coined, their 'coming out party.'

And for now, the orphaned ducks seem to be growing up healthy and learning each other's personalities.

'They are very lovable,' said Phoebe Meek-Lyons, 7, while visiting the ducklings at PAWS last week. 'They're just so tiny. You just want to pick them up and squeeze them.'

The PAWS Animal Shelter is located at 1741 Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn. The center is open Monday through Thursday from noon until 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 3 p.m.

The shelter can be reached by calling 503-650-0855.

For more information or to donate to the shelter, visit the Web site at www.pawsanimalshelter. org.

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