Our Family. Meet the Family Dogs Staff.
You know those little girls who try to bring home every stray, help every wounded bird, the ones who wanna grow up to be a veterinarian? Well that was me. Except when I grew up I didn’t grow out of wanting to help every stray dog and wounded bird. I did however change my mind about becoming a veterinarian . In November of 1999, when I was 19, I started volunteering for a small SE Portland rescue called Family Dogs NW and from then on I knew that my real passion was working with homeless dogs; helping reduce the number of dogs being euthanized in this country every day. So volunteer turned into staff member, then into shelter manager, and finally shelter director when In 2004, myself and a few close friends, were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start up Family Dogs New Life Shelter. My childhood fantasy became reality. A real dream come true.
Running a dog shelter is hard work, emotionally and physically, but it sure doesn’t feel like a job. I love what I do, everyday I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given. But believe me, around here there is not much prestige that comes with being the ‘boss’- yes, my job duties do include picking up poop!
Since 1999 I have ended up with more then my fare share of pets, foster dogs turned forever dogs and plenty of shelter dogs I just couldn’t resist making my own. My husband Justin G, he’s part of the FDNL family too, so our house is filled with a double dose of rescue pets. Right now our crew includes 3 Pit Bull Terriers, an American Bully, a French Mastiff, and a 20 pound Pug mix. A few years back we made an important investment- a king size bed. A double just wasn’t cutting it, we had to make space for everyone, cuz you know they all have to sleep in the bed.
I feel so strongly that all dogs deserve a second chance, so I am sucker for the troubled and special needs kids. The big, the drooly, the over-protective, the under-socialized, the hard to handle. I have had several troubled dogs who have proven to me that difficult dogs can become the most treasured pets.
I must say ‘Pit Bull’ Terriers and French Mastiffs are my favorite breeds, but I’m not bias- any breed can steel my heart.
There has got to be more to Tasha then just dogs, right? Well sure, I love to travel to far and away places with Justin, I enjoy working in the garden, I sew ( although I must admit I am not very good at it! ) and I can bake a mean pie … but the pooches really are my passion.
“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”- Earl Nightingale
Tasha is pictured with 2 of her & Justin’s 6 dogs; Bertie a 2 year old Pit Bull Terrier and Beauregard a 6 year old Pit Bull + Basset Hound Mix.
If you had told the past me that the future me would be helping run a dog shelter I may not have believed you. You see, this all kind of fell into my lap when “Tasha’s boyfriend” was hired on 13 years ago to help clean kennels at the old rescue. A lot has changed since then…
Along the way I have learned a lot about dogs, maintaining a shelter and running a business and am grateful for all my experiences. I have learned everything from laying linoleum to wiring in lights to pouring concrete and building awnings- I have also had the pleasure of learning how to train dogs, recognize different breeds and their behaviors and how to best manage a pack of 20 dogs running loose together; lest I forget the beauty of a good all purpose disinfectant and best methods for scrubbing poo off of any surface. But most of all, I enjoy getting to know each and every one of the dogs that come into our care and I think that watching them communicate with one another is fascinating. The subtleties of a tail twitch or an ear prick up are gold to me, and I love trying to understand them the best that I can. I take joy in just watching a pack of dogs: from the three romping and playing, the two sleeping in the shade, the one off on their own sniffing the air, to the huddle around the water dishes.
At home I have what the average person would probably call ‘a lot of dogs’. They are made up of the outcasts and misfits, each with their own individual quirks. I find them all to be very endearing- even with their flaws, they remind me that life, and people, are not all perfect and I wouldn’t want them to be. I think that the unrealistic expectations we have set for our dogs is oftentimes why they end up in shelters in the first place. The journey with your pet through the best of times, and the worst, is what you will remember when they are gone. Which brings me to Zero, the love of my life (aside from Tasha 😉 ) who had a ‘bite’ of an issue with strangers. Zero taught me how to live with and love a dog with protective aggression issues. It took a lot of work, management and responsibility to keep her safe but I wouldn’t trade the 10 years I had with her for anything. She showed me the true meaning of companionship. And I miss her dearly. I am proud that everyday I am able to help dogs like Zero find their second chance.
Its been a winding road and I am thankful to everyone who has shown us support for helping us keep this unlikely dream alive.
Justin is pictured with 1 of he & Tasha’s 6 dogs; Georgie his 6 year old Pit Bull Terrier + Bulldog Mix.
As a kid, I often dreamt of what I wanted to be when I grew up. All throughout my childhood my dream jobs centered around working with animals (not counting the brief period of time when I wanted to be a princess and a pop star). I wanted to be a barrel racer, a veterinarian and then, as I grew older, a veterinary technician. I was obsessed with having pets too. I would feed the stray cats and bring home lost kittens (much to my mother’s dismay) and I constantly begged my mom for a dog. Finally around age 12 or so she gave in. I had to do my research though, and help find the right dog breed for our family. It had to be small, short-haired and not be a super active dog. We settled on a Miniature Pinscher and finally my mom surprised me one day after school with a little puppy named Bella. I was smitten, and I knew that I wanted to work with animals for the rest of my life. My fate was sealed.
For my senior year of high school I was required to do a final project– something based around my career interests. I decided that I wanted to volunteer my time at a dog shelter. Family Dogs New Life happened to be close to home so I went in and asked if they needed any help and it just so happened they did. I started helping out that very next Saturday, and volunteered every weekend for over a year. It only took a month or so and I had already realized that I found something I was truly passionate about. The organization itself was amazing but the people of Family Dogs, and of course all of the dogs that passed through, had touched my heart. Even after graduation, I planned on staying and volunteering with this amazing organization, and help this ‘unlikely dream’ continue, any way I could. Family Dogs must have seen something in me too, after a year of volunteering they had asked me if I would like stay on as a permanent staff member… And of course I said yes. I’ve been here ever since, going on six years.
They were stuck with me the moment I walked in the door! The FDNLS family kind of adopted me, and I couldn’t be happier 🙂
Tiana is pictured with her 2 dogs- Bella a 13 year old Miniature Pinscher and Gypsy a 3 year old Boxer.
In the interest of making a long story short, dogs are a thing for me. I love them. They’re fabulous and amazing, and if you watch and listen carefully, I think they have a lot to teach you. Like a lot of people, I always had dogs growing up, but it wasn’t until I had my first dog as an adult that I started to understand the deep and complex bond that people form with their companion animals. It was about this same time that I began to look more closely at how we treat and care for those animals. It’s an uncomfortable subject, and it’s also such a big one that trying to find a way you can personally make a difference feels almost impossible. Where would I start? What would I do? So many animals need help but I can’t save all of them. I didn’t have money, or influence, or resources, but I did have a camera. Photographs are powerful. They communicate in ways that words can’t. Something as simple as a single photo can alter the course of your life. I knew that was how I’d change the world, or at least a little part of it.
June 8th, 2005 was the very first adoption photoshoot I did at Family Dogs New Life. It marked the beginning of an amazing new direction in my life, one that would change the way I think and feel about everything dog. During the summer of 2014 I decided that I’d had enough of being a working photographer and started as a regular member of staff. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to be involved with Family Dogs. It’s the most important and significant thing that I can imagine doing with my life and I feel incredibly fortunate. Fortunate not only that I get to do this for a living, but that I get to work with such dedicated people who care deeply about the welfare of animals.
As I’m writing this, my 10 year anniversary is right around the corner. 10 years of saving lives. 10 years of adoption photos. 10 years of making a difference. 10 years of changing the world, one dog at a time.
Bob is pictured with Lily his 9 year old Corgi + Shiba Inu mix.
Since a very young age, dogs have been at the forefront of my mind. There was not a single dog I could walk by on the street without asking if I could pet it. I loved them all, big or small it didn’t matter. All I wanted was to cuddle and love every dog I encountered. I was that child that always begged my parents to adopt another dog, insisting that there was always room for one more. We had always adopted adult dogs but I remember when my parents finally agreed to let me have a puppy. I had to promise that I would be the one to take care of it and one morning they surprised me and took me to a huge adoption event with tons of little puppies. I took home a little black and white puppy and much to my parents surprise I actually did take care of her! I brought her and her little crate to sleepovers, took her on walks and woke up in the middle of the night to let her out into the yard. That was the moment that I realized that nothing made me happier than taking care of dogs.
When I moved to Portland, a friend of mine introduced me to Family Dogs New Life Shelter and suggested that we foster dogs for them. From that point on and for three years straight I became a volunteer foster parent and was lucky enough to meet some really awesome dogs who changed my life and made me realize that helping homeless dogs find forever families was my biggest passion. My family ended up adopting the first foster dog we had, Lola, a little Pit Bull with a big head, but I have had the opportunity to help all of the rest find their forever homes. When I graduated from college, I asked Tasha if there was any way I could be more involved with the shelter and a few months later I was hired on as a staff member. I never thought that my first job after graduating was going to be my dream job but I guess I was just lucky. It is truly amazing to have a job that you are excited to show up for everyday. It is equally as amazing to be surrounded by people who share my passion for helping dogs find homes. In my first month on the job I was able to personally help a little, old chihuahua mix named Pancake find a home when I adopted her myself! Anyone who knows me knows that all I ever think or talk about is dogs and I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity as it has truly been a dream come true and I can’t wait to help as many dogs as possible find their forever families!
Karley is pictured with Pancake her 10 year old Chihuahua + Dachshund mix.