Duo's passion for dogs leads to full-time shelter in Tualatin
by: Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento Krystyna Schmidt and Deb Bowen play with some of the dogs at Oregon Dog Rescue’s new location in Tualatin.

Cats may have nine lives, but there's a certain group of dogs in Tualatin that have their own new lease on life.

After operating out of a pet store for more than four years, Oregon Dog Rescue now has its own, permanent home at 6700 S.W. Nyberg St. in Tualatin, where the founders are busy making sure each one of their dogs finds a home.

Oregon Dog Rescue consists of Deb Bowen and Krystyna Schmidt, along with any number of rescued canines waiting for adoption. Right now, the number is about 42.

'Shelters are a stressful thing,' said Bowen. 'That was something we knew we didn't want to do, just put them in rows. Here they get to be social, interact with humans, with other dogs. We knew that was something we wanted to do.'

With their new space, the rescued canines are free to run around all day at the back of the building, where volunteers and potential adopters can greet and spend time with them.

Bowen and Schmidt met in 2002 working at another rescue, and shared the dream of opening one of their own. In July of 2007 that dream was realized. Since then, their Saturdays-only operation ran out of the PetSmart on Nyberg Street in Tualatin. During the week, the dogs would go home with either Bowen or Schmidt, where each woman had converted their garage to host the rescues.

For the six months leading up to their move from PetSmart, Bowen and Schmidt upped the number of accepted rescues, hosting about 15 dogs at each of their homes, in order to raise money for the new building. The women managed to save up $30,000 for the new location, just a block away from PetSmart, and moved in within the past few weeks. They are now open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays by appointment.

Bowen and Schmidt lavish hours of attention on the rescued animals, most of which come from shelters throughout the county, and even from surrounding counties. Since their first day in 2007, the women have facilitated the adoption of 1,400 dogs.

'They're not afraid to take dogs that need medical care,' said Rescue volunteer Nancy Truax.

From deaf dogs to blind dogs, the rescue has funded a wide range of canine medical treatments as well.

'There was one dog that swallowed a tennis ball. The owner could not afford a surgery and was going to euthanize it, so we took the dog,' Schmidt said. 'We will always take a dog with medical issues, assuming we think the dog will thrive once the issues are taken care of.'

For Bowen and Schmidt, physical and behavioral issues have hardly been a roadblock when determining whether to take in a rescue. The team does its best to ensure that the animal is ready for adoption as soon as possible, while potential owners are always made aware of the dog's history and personality.

'We work on a lot of behavioral issues as well, rehabilitating them,' Schmidt said. 'We try to be really honest with people, (and) give them the tools to hopefully work through these issues.

'We're in the business of making sure that the dog and the people are really happy. Whatever that takes is really important to us.'

A foster program is often put in place, letting a dog go home for a week with a potential adopter, to see whether the home is a good fit or not. Adoption fees average between $250 and $350. Something else that Oregon Dog Rescue provides are owner releases, taking pets off the hands of owners who are unable to keep their dogs for certain reasons.

'We don't know that we'll find homes for some of the senior dogs, but they will at least have a good home and be taken care of (here),' Truax said.

Every so often, a dog will reside at the rescue for as long as eight or nine months, but turnover is usually pretty quick, according to Bowen and Schmidt. An adoption a day, or every other day, is not uncommon, with Saturdays being particularly busy. According to the women, the nearest rescue facilities are located in northeast and southeast Portland, as well as Aloha.

'They started with five dogs, and the fact that they could save $30,000 and form some of the relationships that they have…it's amazing to me what they've accomplished in such a short time,' Truax said.

PetSmart helps the Rescue with regular donations, as do individual citizens and dog-lovers. Donations of time, money and resources are always welcome.

For more information on volunteering, donating or adoption, call the rescue at 503-612-0111.

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