Breeder Leads Dog Outreach Program, Others Join In

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Nancy Martin has been involved in the dog show world since the 1960s, but these days the Portland, Ore., woman is embracing a new path in the dog world.

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Martin began by breeding Doberman Pinschers and Pointers. In the process, she worked with several high-profile professional handlers, including Bill Trainor, Bob and Jane Forstyh and Joy Brewster.

She branched out on her own in the late 1970s and married Bryan Martin in 1983, relocating to Chicago. The next three decades she handled and managed the careers of several top winning Italian Spinoni, Japanese Chin, Polish Lowland Sheepdogs, Samoyeds and Basset Hounds.

At FIDO’s Oregon City, Ore., warehouse, president Nancy Martin checks dates on canned foods for possible recalls.

Fast forward to 2013, when Bryan Martin was named an American Kennel Club executive field representative to be based out of Portland. Shortly after arriving in the Pacific Northwest, she was introduced to FIDO (Friends Involved in Dog Outreach), an all-volunteer organization, sending her on a fluid new canine pathway packed with emotional richness and spirited challenge.

“While unloading my moving containers I found 800 pounds of dog food from my closed kennel in Illinois and was looking for a place to donate it. Alas, FIDO appeared and welcomed the donation,” Martin said.

Since then, she worked her way from volunteer to board member and now president. Make no mistake about it: this is a hands-on group. In addition to a monthly board business meeting, all members work in the warehouse weekly.

The multi-faceted FIDO offers a Veterans’ Pet Program for those qualified, again with proper paperwork. Homeless veterans are qualified based on the individual case. Other outlets under the FIDO umbrella are Monika’s House Domestic Violence Resource Center, Salvation Army Veterans and Family Center, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 392 and Fathers Heart Street Ministry.

Trader Joe’s donates products to FIDO that it cannot sell, like broken bags.

Last year, its pet-food bank provided financially stressed owners more than 48,868 pounds of food. Its AniMeals program, teaming with the local Meals-on-Wheels, distributed 32,032 pounds of pet food, delivering it every other week to needy homebound recipients. Food-bank offerings to those who financially qualify, are on the third Saturday of each month. All applicants must provide proof of eligibility via acceptable documentation stipulated on FIDO’s website, www.FIDOAniMeals.org.

Virtually all food given to these worthy organizations is donated to FIDO from area pet stores. Additionally, several veterinary clinics and pet-food stores provide barrels for clients and customers to place food donations.

Volunteers at FIDO are a kaleidoscope of life, and all retired. Some are recipients of food, offering their thanks by assisting with warehouse duties. “There is no formal background check of these individuals,” Martin says, “since all have the same drive and desire to keep dogs out of the shelter and remaining in the home.

FIDO volunteers, from left, Karen LePlane, Marla Gaarenstroom and board members Mariann Buell and Sharon Swann stand outside the organization’s information booth at the Clackamas Kennel Club Dog Show.

Hope, an in-house Golden Retriever that is a fulltime service dog at the Oregon Health and Sciences University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, is a FIDO recipient. The hospital’s “chief canine officer,” handled by Sandra Westfall, a child life specialist at the facility, isn’t focused solely on the patients. “A Hope moment,” as Westfall characterizes it, is also in regular demand by staffers and families alike in the stressful environment.

Martin’s longtime connections with the purebred dog fancy have also paid huge dividends; FIDO supporters have come from clubs throughout Oregon and ranging from the Puyallup (Wash.) Dog Fanciers Association to the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Kennel Club. “My dog-show experience and exposure through the years has provided me with an extended family,” she explains, “so many have become life-long friendships and risen to the occasion here with donations, both of food and cash.

“From my vantage point, purebred fanciers try to give back through breed rescues and many donate or volunteer at local shelters. But, unless you are out in the trenches there could be a disconnect to the daily struggles of many in the pet-owning public. Bottom line, everyone needs to celebrate the human-animal bond in all its splendor, as that is the glue that binds.”

Martin concludes, “This is a way for me to give back to the animals that I have found so wonderful.” FIDO, she emphasizes, is dedicated to building the human-animal bond and helping ensure owners and their pets stay together.

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