Dogs and cats seem to have it pretty good in Cottage Grove. I see many dogs being led by their owners on walks all over town. We have LuLu’s Dog Park, where canines can romp off-leash and socialize with their own kind while their owners do the same in small clusters at the benches and tables. There are several large open-space city parks in the Grove, Coiner and Bohemia, where, I must confess, I have cautiously allowed dogs to roam off-leash.
Since most streets in town are pretty much low-traffic zones, cats often luxuriate on the warm pavement or wait to be petted by passers-by on the sidewalk.
Another advantage our furry friends have is living here; it’s hard to stay lost for long. Social media posts often end with the happy tidings of “Home safe!”
Thanksgiving, two years ago, there was the case of the missing “Anna,” a frightfully cute rescue puppy that had run away while visiting with its family in Cottage Grove. Anna’s owners were determined to get her back and made repeated trips back to put up flyers, make appeals, or just to search. Many Grovers got involved in the effort and were out there, literally beating the bushes. Whispers of intrigue and dognapping were heard, but at last Anna was found on Dec. 11, 2018. She was hiding in the briars by I-5, thin and injured. It was a huge relief to everyone connected to the effort. The owners reciprocated with a pizza and beer party to reward all those who helped Anna home.
This incident is just one example of how much love there is in Cottage Grove for the four-legged members of the community. But it was not always so. In the 1980s a group of disparate community members got together around their concern about the number of feral and abandoned animals who had it pretty rough on the streets of Cottage Grove.
This pet overpopulation problem had caught the attention of local veterinarian Dr. Keith Nicol, who encouraged two locals, Helga Sonksen and Janetta Overholser, who were also concerned about the situation, to get together. This led to a small group, the Animal Lovers Care Unit, forming a tax-exempt nonprofit that concentrated on adoptions and foster care of animals.
While enthusiastic and dedicated, the early group lacked the experience to be as effective as they could be. “We successfully muddled along for a while but a bunch of us didn’t know exactly how to make things run as good as it could,” Overholser said.
Things picked up when Debra and Lon Davis joined. They had the organizational and administrative skills to form the group into a smooth-working and stable team. The group changed its name to the Humane Society of Cottage Grove (HSCG) in the mid-1990s.
It was at this time that the local group began a relationship with Greenhill Humane Society. GHS has been looking out for animals in and around the Eugene/Springfield area since 1944. It is the only full-time animal shelter in the area. Animals that go there are given the best possible care. There is no time limit for animals lodged there, as Greenhill is known as a life-saving organization. Euthanasia is only considered as a last resort after all else fails in cases of severe aggression or in health conditions where there is no hope to ease suffering.
In 1993, Humane Society volunteers began shuttling strays and unwanted dogs and cats to Greenhill for adoption. This was a big assist to the Cottage Grovers who had difficulty getting there.
Humane Society of Cottage Grove’s mission has been clear: Stop animal suffering before it begins through a spay-and-neutering program. Bev Kelly let me know as soon as I started talking with her at This and That Corner, the thrift store operated by the Humane Society. “Spay and Neuter is our focus.” There is more, of course, but by eliminating unwanted animals it breaks the cycle of suffering.
Overholser walked me through some of the math connected to free-breeding feral cats and it was staggering. A single unspayed female including mate can produce 2-3 litters a year with anywhere from 1-12 kittens. The population at this rate increases geometrically, so that within four years you will have over 2,000 cats. Intact Tomcats are the other half of the equation. Neutering those guys makes unwanted kittens 70% less likely.
In the cases of feral cats, the HSCG encourages the trap-neuter-return strategy. For a modest fee, feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, given rabies shots and flea treatment, and marked so that they can be recognized, then returned to their community. This breaks the chain of population growth.
The Humane Society of Cottage Grove offers other services. It recently raised coupons from a $20 to $30 discount on a spay or neuter. These coupons are good at veterinarians in Cottage Grove and Creswell. There is also a low-income spay/neuter assistance program. The applications and coupons are available at the This & That Corner, 33 N. 8th Street.
The volunteer-run thrift store has always seemed to be the heart and soul of the HSCG. Self-professed baby-bottle kitten feeder, animal foster parent, and shop manager Bev Kelly said proudly, “We are all volunteers here, nobody is paid a penny: all the money goes to the animals.” She stressed items are inspected and cleaned by volunteers.
It is better for the animals and the planet if things are reused rather than heaved into the landfill.
Kelly started volunteering in April 2003. “I retired and realized that I had always wanted to work with animals. Been doing it pretty regular since then.”
Coronavirus, she said, shutdown fundraisers, which the organization needs for both money and items for the thrift store. Kelly said a man came in recently and donated part of his relief check for the animals.
HSCG can connect you to many organizations and assist with helping you make connections when looking for a lost pet.
Another local group working for animals is “Tucker’s Cupboard.” It seeks to provide food and assistance with medical care, medicine and special diet needs for canines whose families are struggling financially. Tucker was a beloved canine friend of one of the founders, and his memory is honored by the work they do. Contact them through their website: tuckerscupboard.org.
Stray dogs and animal control issues fall under the purview of the Cottage Grove Police Department. The department relies on dog tags and has a chip reader. Dogs that end up in the city kennels have pictures on the CG Police Facebook page. They hold a dog for three days if they don’t know its owner, or up to five days if the owner is known. After that, arrangements are made to pass them to Greenhill, where, if the owners still cannot be located, the dogs will be put up for adoption.
With so many folks working for the furry ones, Cottage Grove is, today, a pet’s paradise. Thank you everyone for reaching out a hand to the paws!
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