Rockne Roll/News-Register##Kimball Kiess describes the improvements made to her backyard south of McMinnville to help facilitate her animal rescue operation. Kiess holds lost pets found and posted to the Yamhill County Pet Heroes Facebook page until they can be reunited with owners.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Kimball Kiess describes the improvements made to her backyard south of McMinnville to help facilitate her animal rescue operation. Kiess holds lost pets found and posted to the Yamhill County Pet Heroes Facebook page until they can be reunited with owners.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Charlotte Goddard, a friend of Yamhill County Pet Heroes founder Kimball Kiess, pets Tucker, a rescued King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, at Kiess  home in McMinnville.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Charlotte Goddard, a friend of Yamhill County Pet Heroes founder Kimball Kiess, pets Tucker, a rescued King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, at Kiess' home in McMinnville.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##A pair of rescued dogs in a kennel in Keiss’ backyard.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##A pair of rescued dogs in a kennel in Keiss’ backyard.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping By: Getting them home

“We truly have caring hearts,” said Kimball Kiess, the longtime animal rescue volunteer who founded the organization. “We’re for the pets,” she said.

The nonprofit officially came into being Aug. 7. But Kiess had been helping secure lost pets and returning to their owners for at least five years.

The new Yamhill County Pet Heroes Facebook page builds on the previous efforts to increase the effort. Through it, volunteers not only pass on messages, but often rescue wandering animals themselves and provide interim shelter.

Yamhill County Pet Heroes is among Facebook pages related to local efforts to help animals. Yamhill County Lost and Found Pets, launched by Charlene L. Tew-Lefebvre, was run by volunteers for several years and now is run by Family Pet Partners.

Many dogs and cats are given temporary refuge with Kiess.

She and her husband, Jerry, have enough kennel space to handle two big dogs, and are in the process of developing more. Soon, covered, insulated, secure shelters for both dogs and cats will be in place, along with a dog run.

“Kimball is an inspiration for us and for the community,” said Cynthia Teruya, one of about 15 volunteers helping manage the Facebook page.

The page’s volunteer “admins” also monitor other social media sites for reports of lost, found or wandering pets. They post fliers, place calls and help transport and house pets awaiting disposition.

“Whatever Kimball needs, we help with,” Teruya said.

Volunteer Stephanie Cowles is currently fostering two kittens and an adult Siamese cat. She’s grown fond of them, but would prefer to see them find permanent homes.

Helen Peterson, another foster volunteer, cared for a 13-year-old dog for more than a month. After trying random names, in hopes the dog would respond, Peterson finally dubbed her Maggie May.

On the 32nd day, just at the point Maggie May would have been placed for adoption, a friend of her owner spotted one of YCPH’s fliers.

The dog, whose real name is Annie, was eventually reunited with her family. “She even has her own couch there,” said Peterson, whose sadness at losing the dog was tempered by her joy at seeing it back home.

Charlotte Goddard, another of the admins, said they’ve all been through caring for animals, then giving them up when the owners are found. “It’s the best part, but the hardest, too,” she said.

They know the outcome would have been different if Annie had ended up in a county shelter, Kiess said. “She would have been held five days,” and her owners probably would never have seen her again, Keiss said.

She and half-a-dozen of the admins recently gathered at the Kiess’ house to discuss their rescue operation. They reminisced about successful cases, commiserated over failed ones and teased each other like old friends.

“How many cats do you have to have to qualify as a crazy cat lady?” one asked.

“More,” someone replied, laughing

They’re actually new friends, having just met in the last year or so, thanks to Kiess and her Yamhill County Pet Heroes effort. But they share a longstanding passion for animals.

“I saw Kimball’s posting on Facebook, asking for volunteers,” Cowles said. Teruya said she heard about the program shortly after moving to McMinnville in February. 

Bree Trejo is an exception to the rule, as she and Kiess go back a decade.

She started out accompanying Kiess on animal returns. “I saw what was going on, and how much the reunions meant, and I got hooked,” she said.

“Animals are almost like kids,” Trejo said. “I want to make sure they’re taken care of and loved.”

Peterson also is an inveterate animal lover. She and her husband brought their seven cats — all rescues — with them from Minnesota in a truck. “How can you not love animals?” she said.

Goddard met Kiess at a public meeting on dog control. “The thought of seeing an animal hit or hurt ... that’s not OK with me,” she said, explaining why she became a Pet Heroes admin.

Goddard has a long history of helping animals. “We lived in the country and never turned an animal away,” she said, remembering watching her mother feed strays.

With Pet Heroes, she has fostered both dogs and cats.

“Now I have an opportunity to help more animals,” she said. “That’s why we do this, to reunite pets and their homes.”

Like Goddard, Teruya had a parent who rescued animals. “Dad brought home dogs, cats, rabbits, raccoons ... “ she recalled.

She felt the same way.

“I used my allowance to buy animals that were in bad situations,” she said. For example, if she saw someone on the street selling kittens for $1, she bought them all.

Fortunately, she said, she’s married to a man who feels the same way. They’ve owned many cats over the years, and are about to adopt Scooter, a rescue dog.

When she heard about Pet Heroes, she knew it was for her.

“I wanted to do something near and dear to my heart,” she said. “Kimball and Bree and the others are kindred spirits. They’re the kind of women I want to have as friends.”

Recent changes in the way Yamhill County officially deals with stray animals have made Yamhill County Pet Heroes’ mission all the more important, Kiess said.

Yamhill County Dog Control still licenses dogs. But she said it no longer has an officer to answer reports of strays or problem animals, no one to catch wandering dogs.

The need still exists, Kiess said, so she has led the effort to fill in the gap. Working within rules set by the county sheriff’s office, city police departments and YCOM, she and like-minded volunteers set out to secure strays and reunite them with owners.

Pet Heroes covers the central, southern and western parts of the county, anchored by McMinnville. Another group works the northern and eastern parts, anchored by Newberg. 

“It’s wonderful what Kimball is doing,” Teruya said, saying she admires her friend’s dedication and willingness to invest time and money in the program.

Kiess started searching for lost pets and looking for their owners several years ago. At first, she scanned Craigslist for reports, often matching an owner who reported a lost pet with a person who had found one. Next, she branched out to Facebook and the organization blossomed.

Kiess works full time, but she’s willing to continue her search for animals round-the-clock nonetheless.

If someone spots a stray in Willamina at 3 a.m., and gives her a call, she starts the car. If she’s on her way somewhere, and sees a dog running in the highway, she pulls over.

People call or forward Facebook posts 24/7. “My phone almost lives in my hand these days,” she said. 

She credits her administrative volunteers for their hard work. The real heroes, she said, are the community members who monitor social media, posting when they spot a wandering animal or passing along other people’s pleas about lost pets.

“Without the community, this organization would not be successful,” she said.

Not long ago, a woman found two dogs wandering in Amity. She brought them to Kiess, who happened to have an empty kennel that day.

The woman filled out some paperwork, listing where the dogs were found and what she knew about them, such as their breed. Kiess scanned the dogs but found no chips.

She put them in her kennel, planning to hold them for a few hours while their information flashed across social media.

By mid-afternoon, a friend of a friend of the owner contacted her. Kiess contacted the owner’s friend, who in turn reached the owner. The dogs went home.

“It took a lot of people in the community for that to happen,” Teruya said.

Kiess said she didn’t know much about catching frightened pets when she started. She learned on the go.

“Patience,” she said. “Don’t chase them. Offer smelly treats.”

“Smelly treats?” “Roasted chicken or hamburger fried in bacon grease,” she said.

Sometimes it takes a little reverse psychology.

“Ignore them,” she said. “Give the treats to another pet.”

Soon, she said, the subject of the chase will want its share, too.

Sometimes it takes a live trap or catch pole, she said. Once, a volunteer squeezed under a house to reach a distressed kitten.

The latter wasn’t a regular member of the Pet Heroes team, but a friend who was willing to take on the job.

“Everybody who knows me has to love animals, or they wouldn’t be my friends,” Kiess said.

Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or spointer@newsregister.com.

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