Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 8.28.08


Pet Participation
If you can’t have one, help one
words and photo By Cali Bagby

“You want me to get the great horned owl?” I ask my shift mate Peggy McConnell, who is a five-year veteran at the Cascades Raptor Center. I, on the other hand, am just reaching my seven-month mark, and sharp talons still make me nervous. I slide on gloves and reach into the incubator to retrieve the owl. As I hold the owl’s legs and it rests against my chest, McConnell administers its medication for the night. The owl is impressive, with large yellow-orange eyes and brown feathers spotted with little patches of white. For a moment the owl closes his feathered eyelids and as he produces a deep and haunting hoo-hoo hooooo, shivers descend our spines. 

Volunteer Melissa Hart works with Archimedes, a snowy owl

Volunteering with birds or other critters can be beneficial for people like me who love animals but don’t have our own pets. Making a connection with a feathered or furry friend can make dark days a little brighter.

During my four-hour shift, there are chores such as cleaning cages, defrosting mice for the owls’ dinner and sweeping floors, but every task sustains the birds. There are moments of splendor, like when I deliver dinner to Gandalf the great grey owl and he does not fly anxiously about but sits majestically as I walk in front of him.

 The Raptor Center is almost entirely run by volunteers who dedicate their time to the 60 resident birds, which include hawks, owls and eagles. The center rescues up to 200 orphaned sick and injured raptors every year in the hopes of rehabilitating and releasing these birds back into the their natural habitat

If winged creatures do not appeal to your senses, you may want to check out S.A.R.A.’s Treasures to get your feline fix. S.A.R.A’s Treasures is a thrift store which donates all proceeds to the homeless cats for which it provides a safe sanctuary. The organization is devoted to finding the right home for their pets. Potential parents are interviewed before they can adopt an animal. “We want the cats to be like family members,” says shop manager Melinda McCormick.

Volunteers spend their time working as cashiers and litter scoopers, gathering the cats for medications or spending time lying around in the back with kittens that like to cuddle and lick toes. Volunteers are also rewarded with discounts on high quality pet food and toys. S.A.R.A. is always looking for new volunteers to join their small but dedicated family. “We have 15 volunteers and 12 cats,” says McCormick, “It’s like working with friends or family.” Volunteers help to keep the business running so S.A.R.A.’s Treasures can continue saving animals from an unhappy fate. An easy way to support S.A.R.A. is to make a donation of new or used goods to the shop or, of course, to shop there.

Greenhill Humane Society supports a wide array of creatures, from guinea pigs to dogs to cats. The society maintains over 150 volunteers, including some that have racked up 604 hours. “Right now we really need help cleaning kennels,” says Kyla Coy, volunteer and foster care assistant. Greenhill also relies on foster parents to care for up to 800 animals each year. Foster parents are expected to nurture and house animals for a limited time. Fostering kittens usually takes three weeks before they can be vaccinated and then adopted. Older animals need foster homes to become socialized and eventually fit better into a new family.

Lane County Animal Services is another organization that appreciates their foster families, which have saved over 100 kittens this year. LCAS is also looking for dedicated volunteers to train dogs, “cat buddies” to help socialize cats, photographers for their online pet finder and skilled pet groomers to work at the bath station.

“Volunteers can be part of change in the community’s attitude towards homeless animals,” says Kylie Belachaikovsky, the volunteer and community outreach coordinator for Lane County Animal Services. “Volunteers can help to make a county that saves all animals rather than relying on euthanasia for population control.” 


You too can become a beloved volunteer at these organizations, just contact:

Cascades Raptor Center
(541) 485-1320

S.A.R.A.’s Treasures
(541) 741-7253

Greenhill Humane Society
(541) 689-1503

(541) 682-3645

For other volunteering opportunities check out:

Rideable, an organization that helps people with special needs enjoy the benefits of horseback riding.
(541) 684-4623

Save the Pets educates the community on the importance or spaying and neutering, while also finding animals homes.
(541) 683-PETS

Pro-Bone-O provides veterinary services to the homeless community.
(541) 607-8089

Luv-a-Bull rescues and cares for homeless pit bulls while locating new families for these orphaned pups.
(541) 345-7511

For a longer list of great places to volunteer: go to Animal Welfare Network Lane County at



2008 Pets Issue:

Tsst! The Dog Whisperer comes to Eugene 

Ferocious Felines CatBibs stop your kitty from killing

Ask the Dogcatcher! LCAS’s Kylie B. answers all your critter questions

The Scoop on Poop To compost, flush or trash?

Touchy-Feely Healing Eugene has alternative options for pet wellness

Petty Disaster The improbable stoner flick of the year features dogs on horseback 

Pet Participation If you can’t have one, help one

EW Pet Contest Winners Cute, Ugly and Best Dressed