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Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs

by Project Pooch, Inc.
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Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs
Change the Lives of Troubled Youth & Shelter Dogs

No person is an island. I think we’d all like to believe that we can do it all ourselves and that we’re self-sufficient, but the truth is it takes a village. We are all shaped and formed by our relationships with others, for better or for worse. No one feels this truth more deeply than incarcerated youth and the dogs in their care at Project POOCH. 

Humans and canines alike come to the kennel with baggage - broken and abusive relationships with humans that have taught them not to trust, and that no one else is looking out for them. They’ve developed bad habits and behaviors as coping mechanisms and a need to survive. Or for some, they’ve completely disengaged from the world. They’ve given up on trying, completely defeated.

That’s how Manotas came to us, at least. When I first saw a photo of Manotas, a Border Collie-Great Pyrenees mix, my heart sank. He looked so broken and sad. He was coming to us from an overcrowded shelter in California. They said he had been there a while and was having a hard time getting adopted because he was really shy and refused to interact with people who came to visit. 

Unfortunately, not much was different for him when he first came to the POOCH kennel. He didn’t have an appetite and was refusing to interact with anyone. He had shut down completely, and we were worried that he wouldn’t open up. A vet found multiple healed scars on Manotas’ head under all his fur, and his coat was incredibly unhealthy. He was underweight and suffering from an ear infection. Many of the POOCH dogs love playing with sticks, but when Manotas was presented with one, he flinched, indicating he had probably been beaten. 

Someone did change one thing for him though. His handler, Kade*, changed his name to Oreo because of his black and white markings. I think this name was also a bit of foresight into the dog he could be. While he might have had a rough protective exterior, Kade saw through it to the sweetness at his core.

Kade was the perfect match for Oreo. Kade is gentle and soft-spoken, giving each dog he works with an enormous amount of respect and space to learn. It wasn’t hard for Kade to empathize and imagine what Oreo must be experiencing - Kade had a past of trauma too. He knew about baggage. It was because of this knowledge that Kade was able to show Oreo patience and kindness as he overcame the trauma of his past.

Then, along came Ruth who, together with Kade, changed Oreo’s life.

Ruth volunteers at the kennel, and I was able to talk to her recently about meeting Oreo for the first time. She met Oreo when he was still in quarantine, about a week or so after he first arrived at POOCH. When Kade took Ruth to meet him, Oreo was curled up on the cement floor of his kennel. He turned his head to look at her and then turned back, laid his head down and closed his eyes, defeated. He wouldn't take a treat from her so she left it on the kennel floor and he took it. Then they took him to the play yard. He walked around, but whenever either of them approached him, he would walk away quickly. 

Eventually, after multiple similar interactions and a lot of patience, Oreo started to open up. He bonded with the youth and kennel staff, and the regular volunteers, including Ruth. There was a glimmer of hope forming as he learned to trust humans again.

Ruth knew Oreo needed a real home and offered him her home. So she took him with her for the 4th of July, and never brought him back. While he was nothing like that defeated dog, resigned to the cement floor of his kennel, he still had some challenges. A forever home for Oreo meant a lot of novel and intimidating milestones. He was lifted into her car every trip for the first week because he was unable to jump in. It’s likely he had never lived in a house before. He was not house trained, and every appliance frightened him - the toilet flushing, the shower, the washer/dryer, and the vacuum. When Ruth introduced Oreo to her grandkids, he was scared of them as well. 

But slowly and surely, Oreo relaxed and adjusted. It wasn’t all at once, but rather in small, nearly indiscernible steps, like the sun rising in the morning. When Ruth watches him now, she can’t believe he is the same dog. He has gained weight and has a thick, soft, gorgeous coat. He’s much more confident around kids and even lets them pet him at the park. When he gets tired, he moves away to another spot, but never growls or shows any form of aggression. He has two fur-siblings, a cat named Indigo and another Border Collie mix named Luna. He and Luna play non-stop, and he wags his tail like a helicopter when he interacts with her in the yard. He also makes sure to check on her every single night before he goes to sleep. Ruth’s favorite moments are when he asks for cuddles. “Sometimes Oreo leans himself against me for love,” she says. “He’ll come up and lay his head in my lap to snuggle with Luna and me. He loves when I scratch his back.”

Oreo’s story isn’t a short and simple one. No single person was able to fly in and save the day for Oreo, nor could he do it himself. His story is a long one, of continuous support, commitment, and empathy. There are many important characters in his story – the rescue who reached out for someone to help him, the staff at Project POOCH who gave him a chance when he had no options, Kade, who gave him kindness, respect, and trust, and Ruth, who gave him a home and unconditional love and support. Healing takes a village. It’s not something that we can do by ourselves, and we don’t have to.

I am so grateful for you: our village. For all the selfless people, like Ruth and Kade, who stepped up to help when they could. Your support, which comes in many different ways, makes healing possible each and every day for the youth and dogs in our program. Thank you.

 

With gratitude,

Rena

 

*Names in this story have been changed for privacy

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Daniel at Project POOCH
Daniel at Project POOCH

Learning patience, responsibility, and compassion for all life is the Project POOCH mission statement. Our hope is for the youth to leave the negative aspects of their lives behind while becoming the best versions of themselves. That’s exactly what Daniel, along with many other youth in our program, did.

Daniel discovered a love for animals working with Project POOCH during his time at MacLaren. The youth work with their dogs daily and practice the principles of positive reinforcement and behavior modification. As the trainers manage their dogs, they learn how to manage their own behavior. They also earn school credits, develop good work habits, and acquire valuable occupational skills. The relationships, emotional support and mutual trust established between the trainers and dogs are pivotal to the success. For some students and dogs, this relationship is a first experience of unconditional love, and it helps them develop the self-confidence and hope they need to build future relationships. Daniel impressed kennel staff during his time with Project POOCH with his passion for the animals. Makai, the kennel manager, described Daniel as patient, pro-active, and committed. “He was full of love for the dogs and always trying to learn and be the best trainer he could be,” says Makai.

After MacLaren, some youth spend time at "camps" or transition facilities under the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority(OYA). These camps prepare the youth to re-enter the community through schooling, training, and work experience, often even leading to career opportunities.

Daniel transferred to Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility and soon connected with the camp vocational coordinator who helped him get an internship at Osburn Veterinary Clinic in Florence. Daniel has found his calling in his internship and is studying to become a certified veterinary technician. He learned that along with training the dogs like he did in Project POOCH, he is passionate about supporting their health, and advocating for their wellbeing.  

It’s clear to those that work with him that Daniel has grown into a responsible, hardworking young man. His supervisors at Osburn report that he is a team player, willing to roll up his sleeves and pitch in anywhere.

Daniel is preparing to transition out of OYA custody this fall and hoping to find work as a certified veterinary technician, showing that he was always capable of being the best version of himself and creating positive change in the world.

Daniel at his internship
Daniel at his internship

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When we asked Gizmo's parents for an update on their little Jack Russell Terrier, we were planning on crafting a story based on the information they gave us. However, when we received their update, we were incredibly moved, and we felt that their direct words for so beautiful that we would just share exactly what they wrote. So here is a heartwarming update from Gizmo's forever family that exemplifies everything we love about the human-animal bond:
"Gizmo, his dad and I have been on a long journey of building trust together. Project POOCH had told me that after spending an undetermined amount of time roaming the streets on his own that he'd been through a handful of home visits with no family willing to accept his eccentricities and mental scars. When Project POOCH founder, Joan, brought Gizmo to meet me it wasn't like a Hollywood movie where Gizmo ran and jumped into my arms. He was nervous at first, or maybe just more interested in being outside and taking in all the smells of the spring. Our first meeting went well so I went to POOCH and saw him where he was most comfortable, with his absolutely wonderful youth handler (who by the way was honored for his immense love of Gizmo with his name being chosen as Gizmo's middle name :-D). He was excited to see me but I still wasn't sure, after all Project POOCH had so many dogs deserving of a loving home. After meeting one other pup, I asked to see Gizmo one more time. That was when I knew that I was meant to be Gizmo's mom. He came out to see me and without any hesitation he came over to me and sat on me with his little bum, a trait that would quickly become easily characterized as Gizmo's way of showing you he likes you. 
Fast-forward a few years. I met the love of my life who just happened to be as big of a softy for dogs as I am. Within weeks of meeting Gizmo they were best friends. It wasn't long before Gizmo knew him by the name of 'Dad'. He captured Noah's heart in the same overwhelming way that he did mine. It's just something about Gizzy's tiny body but huge personality. Gizmo has seen the world with us. He's explored every corner of the Pacific Northwest with us and when life gave us the option of living abroad the decision was solely based on whether Gizmo could come with us. If not, then it was not even an option. He is our boy. Luckily Belgium loves dogs (maybe even as much as Oregonians do). We packed up and prepared for the long haul, which if we're being honest was one of Gizmo's greatest challenges yet. But, being the fighter he is, he made it over 5,000 miles with his Gizmo spirit intact. 
It would be hard to chose one or two stories that really personify Gizmo's impact on our lives because he's just too important to be described with a summary. Despite Gizmo having been dealt cards of life that pushed him to his limits, he is always there for us. Long days lead to welcome home kisses, no matter what obstacles the day brought. The smallest of sounds and Gizmo is there to stick up for his home and family. He is by all intents and purposes of the word, family and we love him with every ounce of our hearts just as he does us. Our lives revolve around him, and we're okay with that because he has given us joy that nothing else could. 
Noah likes to say that Gizmo is the only dog in the world that has seen two different oceans from two different continents. While I am sure that isn't quite true, I'd bet he's one of just a few. Our journey has brought across the world but Gizmo always keeps us at home, no matter where we are."
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Blanca
Blanca

Blanca came to Project POOCH in October 2018 after she was found living alone at a lake as a stray. Blanca had been abandoned at a young age, and trusting people was hard when she initially came to the kennel. Scared of both people and other dogs, she tried her best not to interact with anyone.

Blanca was paired with an incarcerated youth at Project POOCH, and she was initially nervous. However, her handler continued to treat her with love and respect her boundaries. He took her for walks every day, gave her delicious treats, and sat by her side, doing everything in his power to show her that she wasn’t a threat.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, and Blanca had a new best friend. She loves nothing more than to spend time by her handler’s side. Each morning, she greets him with a huge smile on her face, and she has become popular amongst the other youth as well. While they trained her to pass her Canine Good Citizen Test, she gave them unconditional love in return.

A few months later, a small Jack Russell Mix named Minnie came to Project POOCH. Minnie was very reserved, just like Blanca was initially. Although Blanca was not interested in any of the other dogs at Project POOCH, she immediately bonded with Minnie. The two of them chased each other around the yard every morning and wrestled. Minnie found her forever home, and now Blanca is hoping to find hers, too.

Blanca is a unique dog—when we did a DNA test, the results showed that she was a Mega-Mutt because she is a mix of so many different breeds. She’s incredibly intelligent and loves being challenged, whether it’s through learning a new trick or solving a food puzzle. She also enjoys chasing the ball around the yard and going on walks.

Blanca has come a long way since she first arrived at Project POOCH. She’s come out of her shell and been an incredible companion to the youth. Because she loves her the youth so much, she can be protective of them when people come to visit the kennel. However, once Blanca’s trust is earned, she will love them forever. We believe that Blanca’s future forever family will be so incredibly lucky to have her.

For some dogs it takes longer to find their forever homes, but in the end it’s always worth the wait. Much like the youth at the kennel, Blanca has been through a lot in her life. However, we have high hopes that she will have an incredible future. To schedule a time to visit Blanca, please call our kennel at 503-981-2570.

Blanca and a Youth
Blanca and a Youth
Blanca Enjoying a Snow Day
Blanca Enjoying a Snow Day
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Buckley after passing his Canine Good Citizen Test
Buckley after passing his Canine Good Citizen Test

Buckley arrived at a county animal shelter, malnourished and suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, at only six-weeks-old. This sweet puppy weighed just over 6 pounds, and it was clear that he needed some immediate medical attention. The veterinarian discovered that Buckley had a persistent right aortic arch, leading to a rare medical condition called Mega-Esophagus. Little Buckley’s esophagus was enlarged and unable to properly pass food from the mouth into the stomach, causing regurgitation after every meal. The vet performed an operation that made it possible for Buckley to digest his food, but for best results Buckley would have to either eat his food from an upright position or eat multiple small servings throughout the day. For his entire life, Buckley would need extra attention around meal time in order to be healthy and happy.

For the next several months of his life, Buckley went from home to home, never quite settling in before being surrendered to the shelter yet again. While Buckley had all the characteristics of the perfect companion dog—he was affectionate, loyal, intelligent, and playful—his special needs proved to be too much to handle for most people. He would be able to keep his food down for a few days at a time and then regurgitate again, leading to frustration and hunger. In May of 2017, after he was returned once again, Buckley’s shelter reached out to Project POOCH. They knew that despite Buckley’s medical condition, he still deserved a chance at a happy life and that Project POOCH would be able to give Buckley some stability as well as the special attention he needed. At Project POOCH, our mission is “learning: responsibility, patience, and compassion for all life,” and we could not think of a better way to teach our youth the importance of this mission than to take Buckley in and care for him.

When Buckley first arrived at Project POOCH, it was a learning experience for everyone. However, it didn’t take the youth long to completely fall in love with their new four-legged friend and also learn what he needed in order to digest his food properly and prevent the regurgitation. Their relationship with Buckley was similar to that of a father and a baby. They trained him to use a Bailey chair, a device that positions dogs upright during meal time, allowing for smoother digestion. They would put a bib on Buckley and then serve him a “mush,” which they made themselves—from kibbles, wet dog food, and water—four times a day. They made sure that Buckley relaxed comfortably in his chair after his meals to digest before he did any kind of physical activity. They also trained Buckley to quickly pass his Canine Good Citizen test. In return, Buckley provided them with unconditional love every single day…for nearly two years.

While Buckley’s fellow dog friends at Project POOCH came and went, Buckley had a harder time finding his forever home. After a year at Project POOCH, only a few people had expressed interest in adopting Buckley, and for various reasons, none of the homes were quite right for him. Buckley needed an experienced, dog-savvy family that would be home frequently to carefully monitor his eating. Despite all of this, Buckley continued to greet the youth with a huge smile and wagging tail every single morning, teaching them the value of positivity and perseverance even during difficult or disheartening times. Buckley was even a runner up in contest held by a dog food company that showcased “underdogs” needing adoption, and he won a year’s supply of free food as a result. The nutritionist from the dog food company provided guidance on the kind of food that would be good for Buckley and how to prepare it for Buckley to succeed. The youth implemented this new strategy and perfected his feeding routine, while also doing all the regular doggie things with him, like walks, play time, and cuddles.

In January 2019, a young man called Project POOCH expressing interest in adopting Buckley. This man impressed us with all the knowledge he had about Mega-Esophagus. He had done his research on the condition and was aware of the extra attention Buckley would need during his meals. He strongly believed that Buckley deserved a chance and was excited to dedicate his time and energy to this special boy. POOCH founder Joan Dalton conducted a home visit, and the bond between Buckley and his future dad was incredible from the very beginning. It was clear that Buckley was right where he needed to be. The day the youth said goodbye to Buckley was one of the most bittersweet days we have had at Project POOCH. While they were happy that Buckley would finally get the life he deserved, letting go after almost two years of amazing memories was tough.

However, the youth continue to receive frequent updates on Buckley’s life and pictures of him living the dream in his forever home. His dog dad had a custom Bailey chair built for him, and continues to use a bib while feeding him. Buckley enjoys daily trips to the park and is absolutely adored by his Chihuahua fur-brother who follows him around all day. When we see the happy smile on Buckley’s face, we can’t help but smile too.

Just like many of the Project POOCH youth, Buckley had a rocky start to his life—countless trips to the vet, hunger-filled days, an invasive surgery, and several journeys from one home to another. However, he continued to greet the youth with his huge smile and wagging face every morning, showing them the value of perseverance. The youth went above and beyond to give Buckley the best life possible while he awaited his forever home—and all of their patience, responsibility, and compassion paid off.

Buckley playing with his friends at Project POOCH
Buckley playing with his friends at Project POOCH
Buckley and his big smile - in his forever home
Buckley and his big smile - in his forever home
Buckley in his custom-made Bailey chair and bib
Buckley in his custom-made Bailey chair and bib
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Organization Information

Project Pooch, Inc.

Location: Woodburn, OR - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Rena Mahajan
Lake Oswego, OR United States
$64,618 raised of $100,000 goal
 
1,455 donations
$35,382 to go
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