When Lynne Ouchida, community outreach manager for the Humane Society of Central Oregon in Bend, Ore., first met a 3-week-old stray puppy with health issues, she had no idea that the tiny dog would become an inspiration for her community – and pet lovers across the world.
Now, 13 years later, the three-legged Australian Shepherd mix is owned and loved by Ouchida. Maty is HSCO’s goodwill ambassador, and often travels with Ouchida to schools and groups in the Bend area, discussing adoption as well as responsible pet care and proper interaction.
Having lost her hind leg as a young puppy due to an infection, Maty spreads the word throughout Central Oregon that adoption is a great option. After all, she was adopted when she arrived at HSCO and went through her health scare.
Maty’s zest for life — even becoming the first three-legged dog to qualify and compete in two Skyhoundz Worlds Canine Disc Dog Championships — inspires everyone who meets her, including a young girl with a lifelong goal to help orphaned animals.
Mimi Ausland, who founded Freekibble.com in 2008 at age 11, began volunteering at HSCO as soon as she was eligible at age 9. In fact, she used to send coins from her allowance to the shelter, says Ouchida. When she launched Freekibble.com, Ausland made HSCO the first shelter to receive the free meals and continues to feed the organization’s dogs and cats, 5 ½ years later.
To date, more than 11 million meals have been distributed to shelter dogs and cats across the country, including those at HSCO. Mimi and Maty have even teamed up in a book, “Mimi and Maty to the Rescue!” (Sky Pony Press, $14.95), to raise awareness about rescue.
Maty’s position as ambassador, along with other innovative programs at the organization, create a strong bond between HSCO and its Bend community.
In fact, HSCO is one reason Bend earned DOG FANCY’s title of DogTown USA 2012, the most dog-friendly city in the land.
In 2005 residents donated more than $1 million to help erect a new facility for the organization. While some of the individual contributions were substantial, the vast majority of the donations totaled less than $100. Some even came from children setting up lemonade stands, says Ouchida.
As the community gave to HSCO, it gives back. It features a pet-food assistance program to help struggling owners keep from surrendering their pets, discounted spay/neuter services and, of course, the popular community outreach team headed by Maty.
Maty has come a long way from her beginnings as an abandoned, stray puppy to a symbol of hope for homeless animals. “Maty reminds us that every life is precious,” says Ouchida. “We believe this dog has a goal and mission in life and a story to tell.”
For more information about the Humane Society of Central Oregon, visit www.hsco.org