Derry beckoned me from inside her private room at the NOAH Center with a wagging tail and smiling eyes. I obeyed her call–within milliseconds I was talking to her through the hole in the plexiglas, reaching in to scratch her, and inching closer as she stuck her nose out of the hole to sniff me. After a few minutes of this, a staff member let me enter, to play with her and work off some of that black lab puppy energy.
Earlier, while en route to Vancouver BC, I had passed a sign on I-5 that suggested I turn off for the “NOAH Center and Off-Leash Area.” As I whizzed by the rustic-looking building, I saw a readerboard that told passersby “We need cat litter!” I was intrigued and vowed to stop in on my way home.
It turns out that NOAH’s highly-visible location is intentional, as the organization finds their big readerboard sign facing the highway is very effective at getting word out to their community as well as passersby (like me!). They also make a special effort to be a positive part of the surrounding community, offering a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, behavior classes, and facilities that are open to the public.
That’s not all that’s completely awesome about this organization.
- NOAH specifically takes animals that are at high-risk for being euthanized by animal services in the area.
- Rooms are not like kennels–they look more like unfurnished offices, and include an entry to an outside dog run, and a dog-level hole in the plexiglass for interacting. Even the cats get access to an outdoor area!
- The facility holds a fairly small number of animals. Most of the dogs and cats got their own space, with just a couple of rooms of two dogs, who I suspect were bonded. While I was visiting, there was never a headache-causing cacophony of barking and foul smell like I’ve often encountered at Oregon Humane Society.
- The outside dog runs are open to the public and their doggies! The organization owns 17 acres of surrounding woods as well for pup walks. If only I had Atticus with me that day!
After visiting all the dogs, I headed over to the cats. I said hello to Lucky, who was roaming freely around the building, but I soon met and fell in love with Ms. Cleaner, an affectionate calico whose curiosity about my camera was second only to her love of getting head scratches.
Having the animals so accessible to be touched by visitors serves a dual purpose: providing much-needed socialization and relaxation for the animals, and providing a bond for humans, making them more likely to adopt.
If you know me at all, you know how I pretty much have never met an animal I didn’t like. So besides Derry and Ms. Cleaner, I wanted to take Edison home–a gentle husky mix with short, stubby ears that made him look more like a teddy bear than a dog. Unfortunately, my doggy clearly wants to be an only dog, and Ms. Cleaner has flea allergies, so I went home empty-handed. (GOOD NEWS: According to the NOAH website, it looks like Derry has been adopted! Yay!)
Next time I’m in northern Washington though, I’m definitely going to stop in again, likely armed with a wish list donation.