June 29th, 2015

IMG_2508Scott Provan is keen on scrappy terriers. His wife, Sheena, wanted a young dog to ease her sweet, but sometimes grumpy 16-year old cat’s adjustment to living with an uncouth canine. Hmmm’¦how to make everyone happy’¦

Pixie Project to the rescue!

Sheena began volunteering with the Pixie Project in 2013. In August, 2014 Sheena was helping in the dog kennels and taking the small dogs out for their potty walks.

Sheena wasn’t specifically looking to adopt a dog that day, but there was ‘œGeorge,’ a 5-month old scrappy black terrier. He was such an affectionate goofball, Sheena fell in love with him right away. She ran home to tell her husband that he was ‘œthe one.’

Sheena and Scott began to get excited about the possibility of bringing George home. Their cat, ‘œMoggy’ (short for Mogdalana), wasn’t so sure, but in typical feline fashion feigned aloofness, hoping beyond hope that her humans would come to their senses and realize that there really was no need to introduce a dog into their heretofore peaceful existence. But alas, fate had other plans for the Provan family.

IMG_2728When Sheena contacted Amy Sacks’”Pixie’s executive director and matchmaker extraordinaire’”to ask about George (then called Mel), the Pixie adoption team was put into action!

Pixie takes matching people and pets very seriously. They realize that when a family brings a pet home it’s a lifetime commitment, so it’s important to make sure that they know what they’re getting into, and even more important that they choose a pet that fits their lifestyle.

Pixie gets to know the personalities of the dogs and cats in their care, recognizing that an animal’s emotional needs are just as important as their physical needs. And of course, Amy had gotten to know Sheena through her volunteering, so when she heard that Sheena and Scott were interested in George, she knew instantly that it was a good match.

Moggy the cat wasn’t so sure, but George was smart enough to stay out of her way, and occasionally Sheena has caught them giving each other sneaky sniffs. Eventually they worked through their species-centric differences and settled in nicely together.

And George? Well, he thinks he’s died and gone to heaven!

IMG_2856‘œGeorge is one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I’ve ever met,’ says Sheena. ‘œIt takes an hour just to walk around the block because he has to say hello to EVERYONE! He does a full body wag when he sees people and never fails to make them smile.’

George is on a first name basis with most of the local pet stores and neighbors. He’s an affectionate guy who loves to cuddle and give kisses. Even if he saw you only a moment ago, seeing you again is occasion enough to justify a full on excited run, wag, lick, and snuffle!

Apparently, George has a penchant for legs and finds Portland’s hot, summer weather grand entertainment, as he has frequent occasion to lick the lower appendages of unsuspected café goers during the family’s afternoon strolls.

IMG_2683And what spoiled dog wouldn’t love going to doggy daycare, where he’s voted staff favorite due to his sweet nature and ability to greet shy dogs and help ease them into the group.

George has a sensitive side too. His favorite toy is a stuffed fox, which he’ll nibble on, but never hard enough to make it squeak. On the rare occasion the faux fox has given a squeaky ‘œyip!’ George looked super concerned, as if he’s hurt it and feels contrite.

George LOVES the sunshine and summer is his favorite season! ‘œOften when we go out for a walk he will reach the corner by the house, see a sunspot, and just lie down in it,’ reports Sheena. ‘œNo matter where it is sidewalk, shop, patch of grass, someone’s foot, next to someone’s table he’ll just lie down and refuse to move. Treats and tugs do nothing. If you go to pick him up he rolls on his back and just lays there with his legs in the air. No amount of cajoling will get him to budge, so we often just hang out there until he decides it’s time to go home.’

The Pixie team check in on George, Moggy, Sheena, and Scott occasionally to make sure everyone is healthy and happy. ‘œPuppies are hard work!’ says Sheena. ‘œBut the Pixie Project answered all our crazy questions and were just so amazing. They gave us everything we needed to help George integrate into our family. I can’t thank them enough!’

By Tamara Anne Fowler
Edited by Cynthia Ryan
photo 1 (4)

Daisy & Tova

Daisy Maisy has super powers: this little Minpin can walk across tables and counters tops and leap to the highest summits of fences in a single bound. She can open magnetic screen doors to let Edward and Nancy, a wild duck couple, into the house.

And, thanks to Pixie Project, Daisy found herself a forever home.

Daisy was adopted in 2011 by Michelle-Shari and Steven Kruss and their children, Tova and Noah.

Michelle-Shari and Tova started their relationship with the Pixie Project when they decided to throw Tova’s 11th birthday party at Pixie and asked party guests to bring donations in lieu of presents. Tova became a Pixie volunteer the following year, but eventually the entire Kruss family began volunteering. Amy asked the Kruss family to foster Daisy the Minpin in order to evaluate her for future placement. As soon as they took her in, the Kruss family formed an immediate bond with Daisy, even though they tried to keep in mind that she was only with them as a foster.

It was near the 4th of July when Michelle-Shari made a personalized ID collar for Daisy. She was concerned about the noise of fireworks frightening Daisy and didn’t want to risk her running out and getting lost. “We put our own phone number on it,” Michelle-Shari laughs, “which immediately made her ours and not a foster. She is such a great dog!”

No one said life with Daisy would always be easy. A wooden backscratcher was innocently placed up against the front door and ended up in shreds. Michelle-Shari remembers when she came home, “It looked like a beaver had entered the kitchen,” she said. But there’s a warm side to Daisy, too. Daisy Maisy loves to sun herself on the backyard rocks. Steven says, “She just plops herself down and lies as flat as she can. It looks like she was dropped from 30 feet!”

PIXIE PROJECT Daisy Maisy and Peekachoo

Daisy & Peekachoo

The Kruss family also had another dog, Peekachoo, a 12-year-old Alaskan Husky the family adopted at 10 months of age. After working through the transition with Amy and a behaviorist, the two dogs became buddies. Three years after adopting Daisy Peekachoo began to get sick, so the family decided to adopt another dog to help Daisy with the process of letting go. Amy recommended that they get a male dog smaller than Daisy, so the family began looking at a litter of Chihuahua/Papillon puppies at Pixie.

As the Kruss family got to know the pack of pups, Noah noticed that while the other pups would be fighting over a toy, Heally, a small male, sat quietly off to the side. Noah remembers, ‘œHeally just walked up and took the toy while the other puppies were fighting over it.’

Michelle-Shari was initially was drawn toward a female named Piper. However, upon Amy’s recommendation they chose Piper’s male littermate, Heally. Thanks to the special care the Pixie staff gives to each and every adopter, Pixie has an extremely high success rate for adoptions. The Pixie staff makes a personal connection with the animals that come through their doors and they take the time to really know what the adopter is looking for in an animal.


Michelle-Shari with Daisy & Heally

Michelle-Shari recalls, “Amy was right. She’s extremely intuitive about the animals. Heally and Daisy are perfect companions.’

As before, Amy helped transition Heally to his new home. Heally and Daisy have become great friends who love to go on long walks together, bark at the squirrels, and talk to the dogs on TV. Amy insists on all dogs taking puppy classes, and Tova reports that Heally did great. ‘œHe was so tiny compared to everybody else that it was hard for him to play. It was a great class though! And we continued training him at home.”

Humans and animals have a special bond. Pets fill our lives with laughter, comfort and unconditional love. And yet, their lives are too short, and eventually we face the inevitable moment when we have to let go. How do we know when that moment has come? Many times, our pets will tell us’”and it was Peekachoo’s time. Michelle-Shari and Steven knew it. Peek has lead a full life, and at 16 years old it was time to let him go. The vet they had been going to for a number of years was not available, so Michelle-Shari got in touch with Amy at Pixie.

The Kruss Family

The Kruss Family

Michelle-Shari recalls, “Amy always told us that if it was an emergency we should call her. Amy, Shannon, and Zack were all there, and they made Peekachoo, Tova, Steven and I comfortable. They laid out warm blankets. They gave Peek the wet food that she loved, and slowly and gently made it possible for her to rest.”

Steven was so indebted to Pixie for helping his family that he donated the LED lighting for the Pixie lobby in Peekachoo’s honor.

Thanks to the Pixie Project, Heally and Daisy are happy because they have found their forever home with the Kruss family.

Big News!

Pixie for The Next Ten

The  Pixie Project was selected by The Huffington Post as one of the nonprofits that will help shape the next decade.

As part of their ten year anniversary, the Huffington Post chose the causes and organizations they think will make the biggest difference in the next ten years–and Pixie made the list!

Help Pixie change the face of animal rescue!

Make a donation to Pixie as part of the Next Ten campaign!


February 1st, 2015

OpheliaOphelia walks slowly across the living room to the kitchen. She gives me that stare that says, ‘œFeed me now!’ So I open a new can of food a different flavor than yesterday’s food, which she decided she no longer likes and put it in front of her. A cursory sniff and she starts to walk off, then comes back and glares at me again. ‘œDon’t tell me that’s all you have?’ she seems to say.

So I heat her food in the microwave, stir it up, and try again. This time she takes a tentative lick at it and eats about three or four mouthfuls, than slinks off on arthritic limbs to curl up on her heating pad, which is where she spends about 23 hours a day.

Ophelia is my sick, old, cranky cat. When I found her as a feral they guessed she was 11 months old, but my current veterinarian thinks they underestimated by several years, possibly because she’s so small. She tested positive for feline leukemia (FELV), so I knew no one else would want her (not to mention the cranky part, which was more pronounced in her immediate post-feral days). So I took her in, and we’ve had a wonderful love/cranky relationship for the past nine years.

But about a year ago Ophelia started throwing up a lot and becoming really picky with her food. We ran every test under the sun and they all turned out great, with the exception of a minor heart murmur (we went to the kitty cardiologist to get that checked out, and $1,000+ later he assured us that her other health issues would catch up to her before her heart gave out). So with a tentative diagnosis of irritated bowel disease or lymphoma, we started to play the ‘œwait-and-see’ game to watch for any changes that would give us a better indication of what was going on.

I kept buying different kinds of foods and finally found that a grain-free canned food seemed to help the throwing up, but she still couldn’t eat too much at a time so she had to eat frequently. I found myself getting up two to three times a night to feed her. I’ve been pretty tired for the past year.


Ophelia basking in the sun

Maybe because it’s been so slow I haven’t noticed it, but she seems to be eating less and less, and at her last annual exam she’d lost another half a pound (she was only six and a half pounds to begin with). So every day I open can after can of cat food trying to find something she’ll eat, and I end up throwing out most of it because if it sits there for more than an hour or so she doesn’t want it anymore (same if the can’s been open for a while).

And all this while I ask myself, ‘œIs it time? When will I know if it’s time?’

I think most compassionate pet owners ask themselves that question at some point. Their beloved friend is getting old, maybe they have some health issues and they just don’t seem to have the same pep they used to. Are they just slowing down or are they in pain? How can we know the true extent of their suffering?

We can’t, so we have to watch their behavior for changes that indicate they may not be feeling well, and trust our veterinarian to assess their health and be honest with us about their quality of life.

Quality of life. It’s a term we use to assess our pet’s well-being and decide when and whether to help them by ending their suffering. It’s a subjective analysis because we all have different feelings about how much suffering is ‘œenough,’ and even whether it’s appropriate to intervene to end a pet’s life humanely.

My approach to humane euthanasia has changed over my lifetime. When I was 28 my cat, Snowflake, was diagnosed with kidney failure. He was 18 and I’d had him since I was ten. He was the first cat that my family adopted that was ‘œmine,’ so you can imagine how special he was to me.

I left Snowflake at the vet’s office so they could give him IV fluids. I would do anything to keep him alive so I didn’t have to face losing him. I couldn’t even ask that question, ‘œIs it time?’

Ophelia sleeping

As Ophelia ages she sleeps more and more

My veterinarian had to remind me that Snowflake was suffering. He suggested that we put him to sleep while he was still conscious enough to recognize me. I balled and balled and balled, for hours and for days. It was so hard to say goodbye.

I’ve faced this decision many times since then, and while it never gets easier, it has become more clear to me when the time is right to let go. I don’t like to see my pets suffer, and I recognize that by holding on to them for one more day or week or month I’m being selfish. I’m the one who is going to feel the loss when they’re gone, and I don’t want to face that. Sometimes letting go is the kindest and most selfless acts of love you can give to your pet at the end of their life.

Ophelia is still hanging in there. She’s a fighter, which is probably how she survived so long as a feral, despite her petite size. Sometimes I stop my busy-frantic-have-to-get-things-done running around and just sit on the couch so I can spend some time with her. Her motor starts running when I pet her gently, because of the arthritis and sometimes she starts to drool (did I mention that she had all her teeth removed due to gingivitis?). I want to spend as much quality time with her as I can, so that when the time comes I can let her go and we can both be at peace.

Author: Cynthia Ryan, Pixie Volunteer

– Grant Will Enhance Pixie’s Veterinary Assistance Program –

Portland, OR (June 16, 2014)   The Pixie Project (@ThePixieProject) announced today that they have received a $7500.00 grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust. The funds will be used to enhance The Pixie Project’s Veterinary Assistance Program.

In addition to their work as an animal adoption center, The Pixie Project provides veterinary services to Portland’s low income and homeless communities at The Scott Wainner Pixie Care Clinic.   This grant will help ensure that The Pixie Project can provide these services on a regular basis for the rest of 2014.   It will help cover the costs of surgical supplies, veterinarian technicians and the occasional veterinarian when volunteer veterinarians are not available. Services will range from emergency care, such as stitches and amputations, as well as basic veterinary care, including teeth extractions and tumor removal.   They will also provide preventative care.

‘œWe are incredibly grateful to Banfield Charitable Trust to partner with us on this project.   Veterinary care is expensive, and very often people are asked to surrender their animal if they want it to receive care’ says Amy Sacks, The Pixie Project’s Executive Director   ‘œWe believe that helping animals and keeping them in their current homes helps the already overloaded shelter system from becoming even more burdened.’

The Pixie Project offers support for local over-crowded under-funded county shelters by bringing animals into Pixie’s family friendly adoption center and matching them with forever families. Pixie also offers free and low cost veterinary services including spay and neuter surgeries for the pets of Portland homeless and low-income communities.  


About The Pixie Project:

The Pixie Project (@ThePixieProject) in Portland, Oregon is a non-profit animal adoption center and rescue. We love pets and people through personalized pet adoption and low cost veterinary assistance. For more information on the Pixie Project, visit  www.pixieproject.org.

Media Contact:  For Pixie Project: Brian Berger |  brian@brianbergerpr.com  | 503.701.2215

March 5th, 2014

There is no question that living in Portland sometimes makes it a bit of a chore to get dogs out for the exercise they need to be happy.   As much as we want to ask them to walk themselves they never seem to want to do that, so we go with the next best thing the dog park!  There, dogs of all sizes and ages can romp and play and tire each other out.   After 20 minutes, all are exhausted and ready to return home. In an ideal world, all dogs, and people, for that matter, would naturally know how to get along with one another, interacting in random, constantly changing social groups without a run-in or conflict. We know, however, that this is just not possible. There will always be different social dynamics, different temperaments and different play styles (yes also in both humans and animals). There will be some dogs that are naturally more social and some that are on the shier side.   There will be some that are extremely energetic, and others that slowly sniff their way from end of the park to the other. There will be the markers who live to pee on everything, and ball chasers who only see their owner and the ball’¦.or perhaps another dog’s ball.   There is a lot going on!   For many dogs, being at the dog park can be a fun, happy place to be, but it’s not the case for every dog.   In order to have the most positive experience, here are a few tips:  


Play  Watch how your dog is interacting with other dogs.   Just because she’s interacting with another dog at the dog park doesn’t mean she’s playing and having fun.   If your dog is spending all of her time running from another dog, there’s a chance she’s not playing.   Are the dogs alternating in their roles of chasing each other?   That’s good, but if your dog is just chasing or just being chased, this is a sign it’s not comfortable play and she might be stressed.   Play bowing and mirroring behaviors are generally signs that your dog is having a good time with her friend.

Balls and Toys    To some dogs, playing fetch is all that matters in the world.   My dog Boone most definitely falls into this category.   All he wants to do is chase the ball at the park.   We generally avoid traditional dog parks because he doesn’t really care if there are other dogs around.   Introducing a ball or a toy into a dog park can also bring out guarding behaviors in dogs- yours or someone else’s.  

Other Dogs  The whole reason to go to a dog park is because you want your pup to interact with other dogs, which can be great!   It can also be stressful, because like people, dogs have distinct and individual personalities. Watch for bullying behavior and avoid allowing packs to form, even loose ones.   If you see either of these happening, just move away with your dog.   Also, avoid opportunities where a leashed dog will encounter unleashed dogs.   The one on the leash may feel trapped and become aggressive.    

You   While you’re at the dog park, remember that you’re in charge of your dog and you are her protector.   Staying alert and present will help make for a happy experience for your dog.   Move around the dog park, so your dog has a chance to move away from a dog or situation that might be making her uncomfortable.   You are her safety zone and if you’re standing next to a meanie, your girl won’t have anywhere to go.

Puppies  We highly recommend keeping your puppies at home, especially if they’re four months or younger.   In addition to potential health risks, there is the potential of having a negative experience.   And as we all know, a negative experience when you’re young can stick with you for life.   So wait until your dog is a little older and more mature before taking them to play with the big dogs.  

If your dog just isn’t a dog park dog, that’s OK.   It’s better not to force it.   Expending energy while stressed isn’t necessarily a good thing.   A nice walk with you could be just what she needs to get some energy out and be the best thing for her well-being and happiness.   And of course, as we all know, there is nothing better than a happy, content, tired dog!!



February 13th, 2014

It is a very commonly held belief that rescue or shelter dogs are not suitable for homes with children. Let me set you straight right now, this is a myth! While it is true that there are dogs in shelters (and in people’s homes, of course) that are less kid friendly than others, it is most definitely true that many shelter pooches will not only tolerate but will really love and enjoy the company of kids.  

sebastion and little girl 2 copy

One of the founding principles of Pixie Project is that we are a family friendly animal shelter.  What does this mean? This means that regardless of your family make up, whether you are a family of two or six, have other animals or not, we will work with you to find just the right addition to your home. While we would love to help every family in their search find a perfect Pixie pooch, we realize that there are many great shelters and rescues out there and we fully support adopting from any of them!   In order to help eager adopters navigate the shelter adoption process, here are a few tips and tricks to help you asses if the dog you are interested in is good fit for your home with children.

Observe the pooch in his kennel:

Is he shy or reserved at the back of his kennel or is he up at the front seeking attention and responding warmly to your presence (think “wiggly”)?

We know a shelter environment can be stressful for dogs (no matter how comfy shelter staff try to make it!) which can lead to some dogs seeming more shy or shut down than they will be in a home, but whether the dog is truly shy or just reacting to the environment, when I am looking for a family with kids I always skip the quiet, nervous pooches.  Kids are going to be very excited (understandably!) about the new addition to their family and will want to be petting and playing with that dog from the moment it comes home. Shy dogs take more time to settle and will need extra support in acclimating to a new home.   Most will be uncomfortable with handling at the beginning, so time with the kids will have to be well managed.   Overall it’s much better for everyone to find a dog that will actively engage with the whole family right out of the gate!

Bring treats!

Whenever I am talking to families about shelter visits I always encourage them to take treats along. Good ones! Not milk bones’¦more like string cheese or HOT DOGS, yum! Once you have selected a potential pooch ask the shelter staff if they can take him out of his kennel for some one on one time. Once in the meet and greet room have both parents and child feed treats. If the dog is wary or does not want to take treats from the child move on to the next dog. Whether or not a doggie is willing to eat is a good barometer of the animal’s stress level. Not eating the super yummy treats you brought with you means the pooch isn’t feeling totally comfortable, so move on the next sweet doggie.

Does the doggie looooove your kiddo?

 It is not uncommon for kids to be a bit overwhelmed by doggies that want to jump on them, kiss them, play with them and love them. It can seem like a lot at first but these behaviors are easily managed with training. The key element here is that the dog actively engages the child and is curious and happy to be around them.  You can teach a dog to sit calmly, but you can’t change their basic temperament!


January 25th, 2014

Amy Walking Boone

Over the past 7 years, The Pixie Project has grown from a one room rescue operating out of the back of a doggie daycare into a 5,000 square foot full fledged animal shelter that can house 18 dogs and 20 cats. We have found homes for almost two thousand animals through our adoption programs and have helped over 3,000 homeless and low income pet owners with access to low cost and free veterinary care as well as spay and neuter services.

Despite all that we have accomplished, we feel like we are just getting started.   With the addition of our surgery suite our clinic program is really taking off and every day new vets and vet techs are signing up to donate their time to help the animals in our community who need it most.

We are also so happy to say that in response to our supply and demand problem we have way more loving wonderful families looking for pooches than we have dogs in the shelter we will be adding six more dog kennels to our shelter over the next few months!

 If there was one drawback about this incredible growth it would be that I feel less connected to the people who make Pixie what it is.   We have a massive network of people committed to helping us, and I love you all for your heart and passion.   It’s because of this that I want to start this BLOG.   I hope it can be the start of a conversation about Pixie, about animal training, a place to celebrate rescue successes and a place for you to ask questions and get non-judgmental answers.   We want to create a conversation around rescue and the amazing pets and people that make this the best job ever!

I can’t wait to communicate more with all of you and I encourage you to do the same with us here at the Pixie Project.

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    510 N.E. MLK Blvd.
    Portland, OR 97232

    Phone: (503) 542-3432
    Fax: (503) 542-3437

    Tuesday-Friday 11:00 - 6:00
    Saturday 11:00 to 4:00