September 11, 2008

Dogs Await Bigger Digs Breaking Ground


While humans got ready to make the ceremonial groundbreaking dig into a vacant field on Northeast 192nd Avenue, Sam Shackleton the dachshund wasted no time in attacking the dirt. The Humane Society for Southwest Washington will build a 30,000-square-foot facility to replace its 11,000-square-foot one near the Port of Vancouver.

Sam Shackleton was digging in the dirt like he expected to strike gold down there - and as far as animals go, he succeeded.

He shares the last name of a famous two-legged explorer, but Sam Shackleton is a four-legged one: a miniature dachshund. He's a pet- facilitated therapy dog who visits with children and seniors needing companionship and comfort.

And he owes it all to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington's shelter on St. Francis Lane. That's where his owner, A.G. Flynn, found him four years ago and took him home.

"We're happy to have a new facility to keep animals healthier longer," Flynn said. "Our old building has been going 24-7 for 40 years."

Sam and A.G. aren't the only happy ones. A small handful of four- legged folks - and a big crowd of their two-legged friends - came out to an east Vancouver field Wednesday to cheer the groundbreaking of a new Humane Society home.

It'll be 30,000 square feet in size. The 40-year-old St. Francis Lane facility is 11,000. It'll boost dog capacity from 70 to 150, and cat capacity from 98 to 304. It'll include three dog runs, four cat dorms, visitation rooms, walking trail, surgery suite and plenty of office space.

And it will include a 770-square-foot Education Center where youth and service programs such as Critter Camp, Read to the Dogs and Be Doggone Safe can thrive.

Cost of the new facility: $7.5 million. That doesn't include a handy land swap the city offered to the Humane Society - 4 acres of new property in exchange for just under an acre at the current St. Francis Lane location, which is packed alongside the Port of Vancouver and zoned industrial.

The spot at 912 N.E. 192nd Avenue is a much better location, Humane Society Executive Director Chuck Tourtillot said: visible, attractive and welcoming to the community instead of hidden away among warehouses and railroad tracks.

Humane Society Development Director Kimber Webb said utility work will begin immediately and construction within a month; the hoped- for opening of the facility is autumn 2009.

Tourtillot was effusive in his praise for the city officials who blessed the project, staff members who fast-tracked it, donors who bankrolled it - including the anonymous donor of $2 million - and volunteers who have supported the mission of the Humane Society all along.

Chis Blue said she's a likely volunteer, now that the Humane Society is moving near into her east Vancouver neighborhood.

"We can walk here from home," she said. "I've been excited about this ever since I heard about it coming."

Also excited was Punkin, the fuzzy Havanese perched in her arms during the event.

"She's not spoiled or anything," Blue said. "Well, they deserve it. Every one of them."

ON the Web

Video: For a look at the groundbreaking, visit multimedia

Scott Hewitt can be reached at 360-735-4529 or

[email protected]


Originally published by SCOTT HEWITT Columbian staff writer.

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