Brandon Riemer of Coffee for Canines

Saving Sick Pets

Local groups raise funds for pet medical bills 

By Sachie Yorck

Pet medical emergencies can cost a pretty penny, putting owners in a delicate situation: To pay, or to put to sleep?

Thanks to two local nonprofit organizations, Eugene families can worry less about these concerns. The Bearen Foundation and Coffee for Canines aim to alleviate anxieties of pet owners by offering to help pay for animal medical procedures.

For almost nine years, the Bearen Foundation has served Lane County residents through numerous public events and fundraisers. As of this month, the group has contributed nearly $30,000 to saving 275 sick pets.

Megan Bendtzen began the Bearen Fund in 2000 after her cat, Bearen, experienced acute kidney failure and needed a pricey kidney transplant to survive.

“I was immediately impressed by her passion,” says Terry Reich, the foundation’s current secretary, who met Bendtzen when she was going door-to-door in Reich’s neighborhood, selling raffle tickets to the first Bearen Foundation event.

With no office, property or  steady income source, the Bearen Foundation works purely through the support of the community. The organization is volunteer-run though it aspires to one day have a full-time paid director. For now, all funds collected are strictly allocated to saving pets.

“When somebody donates, they know their money is going directly to a pet,” Reich says.

Originally the maximum contribution the foundation gave to any pet owner was $100, but that was recently raised to $200. Virtually any pet is eligible for consideration, so long as the family resides in Lane County. Pet owners never receive more than 50 percent of operation costs. Reich explains this is because the foundation wants to reinforce the idea that pets are a responsibility. The group also doesn’t commit to ongoing health care after the initial funding. 

The recession hasn’t helped the foundation any. Current predictions leave only roughly a month of secure finances, they say. After that, the group must begin declining applicants. The group is working on grant writing while long-term goals of expanding the geographic scope and increasing endowment must wait.

Coming up during the Eugene Celebration is the Bearen Foundation’s annual Pet Stroll. Previously called the Pet Parade, Pet Stroll welcomes all types of pets and owners welcome to participate in a competition-free atmosphere.

“It’s just as much about the people as it is about the pets,” says Reich. “We don’t just help the pets, we help the families of pets.”

Coffee for Canines, the espresso shop inside The District (formerly Indigo District) at 13th and Oak, is a new player on the pet philanthropy scene. The District is a trendy nightclub at night and a refuge for caffeine addicts and dog lovers by day. All profits from Coffee for Canines go to pooch procedures and pay for entire medical bills. Thus far, the organization has rescued two dogs, both needing expensive amputations.

District owner Libby Adams started the café service after meeting distraught families at the veterinarian’s office while her own dog was sick. Some families had to euthanize their pets because of costly medical expenses.

“I made a little vow to myself to help,” Adams says.

During Coffee for Canines’ hours, there are no age restrictions; all are welcome to come get caffeinated from 8 am to 4 pm.

“We wanted to be able to reach more of the community,” says Coffee for Canines manager Anna Bawn.

Divine Cupcake, a local vendor, provides organic and vegan treats, and Eugene roaster Caffé Pacori supplies wood-roasted coffee. “I’ve probably made the most plain lattes here of any place I’ve worked,” Bawn says. “People don’t feel the need to dress it up so much because it’s just good coffee.” And all of those good plain lattes translate into dollars for sick pets.

Although it’s difficult conducting a nonprofit business during this economy, Adams says it’s worth it when she gets to tell families, “You’re not going to lose your dog. We’re going to save them.”

Supporters of these pet foundations can contribute on their websites (or go for a latte, of course) and 

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