THE BIG DOG showed up at our gate with a bullet hole in its head. My husband discerned that it went in under its left eye and came out around the jaw on the same side.
The dog was wiggly and happy, even though he’d been abandoned, left tied to a tree when his people went back to Alaska, or so the story goes.
Last Thursday, my kids took a cat to the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society after it adopted our house some time after its owners were arrested and sent to jail for a long time.
The cat was a very friendly and affectionate black-and-white short hair. But being an un-neutered fella who barely survived winter, he was scrapping with our older cats who also came to us from other abandoned households.
I love the West End and the people here are undeniably loving and generous. However, I am deeply saddened at the way animals are treated as disposable by some people.
Often there are drug issues, and sometimes mental health issues that interfere with people’s capacity to care for the animals they choose to bring into their lives.
As for the black-and-white kitty, I had contacted Friends of Forks Animals to get the guy neutered, de-wormed and vaccinated. Though ultimately we could not keep him.
I wanted to find out a broader picture of animal welfare on the West End. Juanita Weissenfels and Pam Winney of Friends of Forks Animals agreed to sit with me at Pacific Pizza and fill me in.
“It’s not an animal problem, it’s a people problem,” Winney said.
She sat across from me, loose shoulder-length blond hair and light blue eyes in contrast to Weissenfels’ curly light brown hair and eyes rimmed by glasses. They, along with Karen Beyer, make up the core of this animal assistance group, Friends of Forks Animals.
What these two compassionate women in their 70s described is the group’s effort to create an atmosphere on the West End where there is absolutely no situation where an animal needs to be abandoned.
“We are old dogs,” Weissenfels said.
Winney added, “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.”
Weissenfels is still wet behind the ears at just 17 years of assisting Forks Animals.
Decades ago, the group put a limit of assisting two animals per family. Now they are helping second and possibly third generation family members care for their animals. The group is also supposed to be assistance for low-income families, but that limitation went by the wayside a long time ago.
What has been made completely clear is that if assistance is denied today, it will cost the group more in time and money down the road.
“It’s all but free to have your animals spayed or neutered with help from us but people still don’t do it,” Winney said.
Indeed, when I contacted Friends of Forks Animals to get the tomcat neutered, Weissenfels quoted me $5.
While Dr. Pat’s Pet Care will do the neuter in Forks, it still costs $50 for a cat neuter, which means the group covers $45.
A spay is $90, but only costs $10 for families who go through the group.
“People will sometimes try to take advantage of us by scheduling a spay or neuter, but then we get a bill for something more,” Weissenfels the group’s bookeeper, said.
Money comes from annual dues, which are $20. The bulk comes from a patchwork quilt of sources: the Lloyd Allen Charitable trust, John and Kay Glover’s personal donations and a monthly table with a donation jar set up at Forks Outfitters store.
The store also gives 1 percent of sales on its own sales receipts returned through Friends of Forks Animals.
The small shelter used by the city of Forks and this group is at the edge of the Forks Airport on the south side of town.
Animals picked up by the city are placed there. However, it’s not city employees caring for the animals at this building.
“The shelter is our home away from home,” Winney said.
She explained that it is volunteers of this group that care for the animals two or three times a day through weekends and holidays, storms, blackouts and heat waves.
“There is never a break. It’s every day,” Winney said.
Someone is always there to care for the animals, which is sometimes better than the homes where the animals live with their people.
Weissenfels said, “It’s not our mission — it’s what we are forced to do because people abandon their animals.”
After the animals are at the shelter for a mandatory seven-day hold, the group can immediately begin the task of getting the animal placed with a rescue. Peninsula Friends of Animals near Sequim, Homeward Pet of Woodinville and Sequim’s Welfare for Animals are the Forks group’s usual go-tos.
Rarely are animals placed directly into homes from Friends of Forks Animals and euthanasia is only considered if an animal cannot be made well with love and medical attention.
“The rescue groups are all wonderful to us and they all have gone above and beyond,” Weissenfels said.
Both women agreed that it’s easy to get in over your head.
“When you have animals that come in and they are so scared, you get so close to them in caring for them, that when they leave you get heartsick,” Winney said as she showed me photos on her phone, a digital parade of dogs.
Weissenfels said, “If we didn’t keep going, there’s nobody else to do it.”
Forks Friends of Animals can be contacted at 360-374-3332 and on Facebook at Friends of Forks Animals.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be July 9.