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 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 killed 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, a Neapolitan Mastiff, an English Bulldog, and a 15 pound Pug mix. In 2006 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 proved to me that difficult dogs can become the most treasured pets.
I must say Pit Bull Terriers and 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 a way places with Justin, I enjoy working in the garden, I sew (although I must admit I am not very good at it!) …… but the pooches 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 dogs- Owen a 5 year old Pit Bull and Vaughn a 4 year old French Mastiff. Sadly Vaughn lost a battle to lymphoma and passed away on 8/20/2009 at not quite 5 years old, then on 11/23/09 Owen passed away, his body had given in to a rare condition of his spinal cord. Needless to say, it 2009 was a difficult year.
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 at the old shelter 9 years ago to help clean kennels. 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 learned to train dogs, recognize breeds and manage a pack of 20 dogs running loose together- lest I forget the beauty of a good all purpose cleaner and best way to scrub poo. But most of all I enjoy getting to know the dogs that come into our shelter and I think that watching them communicate with each other 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 I can. I take joy in just watching a pack of dogs: from the three playing, the two sleeping, the one off on their own, to the huddle around the water dishes.
I have what the average person would probably call a very large group of dogs at home. They are made up of the outcasts and misfits 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 unrealistic expectations of dogs are 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 aggression issues. It took a lot of work and responsibility keeping her safe but I wouldn’t trade the 10 years I had 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 of tail wags and puppy dog kisses and I am thankful to everyone for helping keep this unlikely dream alive.
Justin is pictured with Jude his 2 year old Pug/Terrier Mix and Triffi – AKA Leather and Lace- our shelter mascot.
Name: Lisa Brooks
Occupation: Family Dogs Staff Member
AKA: Senior Adoption Specialist, Dog Care Technician extraordinaire and also part of the Cleanup crew.
Years in Service: Since the shelter opened its doors in February 2004. It seems like yesterday!
Dogs at home: Only three right now… I’d have more if not for my very rational husband. They are as follows;
Pooh-16 year old White German Shepherd mix—she is not the sharpest pencil in the box, more like a crayon. She just proves that living a long life doesn’t take a lot of brain power. She is the sweetest girl that has ever lived (if you don’t count her bad habit of killing small animals).
Hector-11 year old Rotti/Lab mix (A truly Rotten Lab). He is a former Family dogs resident and came to me with cute tricks and behavior problems. I love him dearly and he is one of my best friends.
Vida- 2 yr. old, she is the one and only miniature Pit Bull in existence! Rumor is that she may also be a Legendary Mexican Pit Fighting Chihuahua. The newest member of our family and we are delighted everyday that she is ours.
Favorite part of the job: The dogs of course.
Least favorite part of the job: Poop and Vomit of course.
Things I hear the most: “I couldn’t do what you do I would take them all home”. There is a lot of temptation when you fall in love but mostly it is just a great feeling to find them homes and know we have given them a chance that they wouldn’t have had without us. And, see crazy husband above.
“I have tried everything but I just can’t keep him/her”. Obviously the most frustrating!
“Thank-You for the work you do”. Obviously the most gratifying!
When Family Dogs NW closed its doors it felt like the ball was just dropped. Luckily Tasha and Justin were ready to pick up the ball and get it rolling again. With a new location, name and approach there was a lot of work to do. I am so happy I got to be a part of that transition and beginning of something new and positive. Now, six years later I am happy to say that we are still here. It is very rewarding to have a job where I can look back and think of all the success stories I have been a part of. There has been many times when tears of joy have come to my eyes when a long term resident finally finds the loving home they waited so long for.
Lisa is pictured with her 3 pooches- Hector, Vida and Pooh. Sadly Pooh passed away in Feb 2010 at 16 years old.
After 3 years Justin D. Fowler PHD has perfected the art of poop pickup. The ‘ol “P.P.” as we say in the industry… Along with this truly unique talent he has also spent time working with the dogs, feeding dogs, cleaning up after dogs, helping write their adorable little descriptions, helping answer hundreds of e-mails about dogs and speaking to potential adopters about new possible family members.
Now, just exactly whom is this man they call “Doc” Fowler? Well… He is an animal lover…. An animal enthusiast… And a doctor… A doctor of love so to speak…
Doc has had many loves come and go over the years, but only one true love remains… Nurse Vladimir. A true angel… A Martyr… A Saint… A beauty among beauties… They say Next to the wound, what women make best is the bandage… Well, not our dearest Vladimir, she is a full time healer… A savior of the soul if you will…
Nurse Vlad was a Family Dog rescue herself… A stray… A wanderer…Walking the lonesome streets of N.E. Portland in search a new life… She came to Family Dogs in the summer of 2006 where she was to be united with her forever companion Justin D. Fowler. Justin had just lost his Blue eyed Siberian Husky Duke “Vladimir the Impaler” Fowler of 5 years to an unfortunate health complication. With a heavy heart and a head full of sorrows Justin wandered into Family Dogs and instantly fell for a gal named Gretchen, now called Vladimir in honor of his fallen comrade Duke.
Doc Fowler came to work at Family Dogs New Life just after the adoption of Vladimir in 2006. Doc had been in constant contact with shelter director Tasha Williams and her life long love Justin G. for about 10 years. They had been friends, roommates, band mates, neighbors, and more than anything, fellow animal lovers. So ‘ol Doc decided to ask for a job and the rest is history….
Justin is pictured with his girl Vladimir a 5 year old Aussie mix.