Nel's New Day

February 13, 2014

Activism with Fences for Fido

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:17 AM
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My partner and I share many things in common. We both like to read and write, we both like to walk the beach, and we both want to change the world. But our journey toward our goals sometimes diverge, as Robert Frost describes in “The Road Not Taken.” Together we edited a cookbook, along with another friend, but my partner writes lesbian mysteries and I write this political blog. I read books for youth and with LGBT content for the purposes of evaluating and reviewing while she reads for pure pleasure. At the beach, she sees the surrounding details—fossils and tiny creatures, for example—as I look at the horizon and throw a ball for our standard poodle.

Something that we’ve had in common for our 44+ years together is activism. While we taught in Phoenix (AZ), we tried to make lives and learning better for our students. Once retired, I turned to politics with a vengeance, occasionally irritating people with my obsession. My partner supports me in my projects, but again she follows her own path.

Recently, her road “less traveled by” has taken her to Fences for Fido. At 80 years of age, she can no longer do much of the building and remodeling that so engaged her for many years, but in this project, she can continue to make life better for creatures that have no voice.

Fences for Fido began on May 23, 2009 when a small group of people built a fence for Chopper, who had been chained to a tree for six years. The dog’s person had no idea that Chopper was unhappy. When he started playing with Chopper in the fenced yard, their relationship became rewarding for both of them.

Chained dogs are either listless or violently aggressive. They are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs and become a threat to the neighborhood if they get off their chains. Pack animals need companionship and a social life. When their persons understand this, they either give the dogs new lives or surrender them to people who can provide the love that the dogs need.

At this time, the wind chill is 8 degrees in Portland (OR) with snow and sleet coming tomorrow. This is a miserable situation for dogs who are chained outside in all weather. Fences for Fido provides not only fences but also raised wooden dog shelters with shingled roofs and dog beds.

The small group of people that built Chopper’s fence has expanded into a number of volunteer groups throughout northwestern and central Oregon and southwestern Washington. There is no government funding for Fences for Fido; it is a volunteer nonprofit group of activists who want to change the lives of dogs tethered outside with no company and no comfort.

Activities include cutting ground wire, tying fence ties, transporting dogs for health needs, delivering and/or assembling dogs’ houses, checking up on dogs, and providing foster homes. Each “build” costs about $600. The project has about 1,700 donors of money and new or gently used fence materials, such as welded wire fencing, pressure-treated 4-by-4 posts, 6-foot chain-link gates, and 60-pound bags of concrete. Donors can e-mail

Volunteers go beyond building fences and dog houses. Annual visits to the dogs allow them to see that the dogs are still unchained, the fences are still intact, the doghouses have beds, and dogs have enough water and seem healthy. As co-founder and co-chair Kelly Peterson said, “This is our commitment. Our promise is that we don’t build a fence and then walk away after the fence is built.” Volunteers also deliver bags of flea medications, treats, and bedding as well as help connect the dog’s person with veterinary care, spay/neuter surgeries, and dog food if needed.

People can request a fence by filling out an application on the website for Fences for Fido or call 503-621-9225. Anonymous referrals for dogs that seem to need help are also accepted.

Joining 13 other states and the District of Columbia, Oregon now has an anti-tethering law that limits tethers of unreasonable length that might cause the animal to become entangled or a collar that pinches or chokes the animal when pulled. Animals cannot be tethered more than ten hours in a 24-hour period. Yet that’s still a long time for an animal chained outside with no company.

Chopper recently died of cancer after several years of happiness, but his legacy lives on. Since that first unchaining, over 650 dogs have had their lives changed through fences and dog houses.


While I read about the problems of the world and write my blog, my partner makes plans about how to makes lives better for dogs. To volunteer, she emailed As she said, “What a good feeling to know this group is really making a difference. I am proud to belong!” That’s just one of the reasons that my partner is so special.

If you live in an area with Fences for Fido, you can volunteer to help chained dogs. If you don’t, you can start a chapter.

Sometimes my partner’s and my activism merge. This was the case after we read about the lunch workers in both Utah and New Jersey throwing out food in front of children because their parents had unpaid balances at the cafeteria. Just as bad are the number of children afraid to go through the lunch line at school because they are afraid that this will happen to them.

Kenny Thompson in Houston (TX) had a very simple solution: he paid the delinquent accounts for all the children at an elementary school where he was a tutor. Thompson said, “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.” You can donate school lunches at his foundation, Feed the Future Forward, so that children in all schools can get meals.

My partner and I took a simpler approach. We went to the neighborhood school and zeroed out the unpaid balances there. We agreed with Thompson when he said, “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress … the best money I ever spent.”

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has another solution. After schools in that state threw away hot lunches in front of children whose parents had not paid the school, he is calling for $3.5 million to purchase hot lunches for all children. “We cannot expect our students to succeed on an empty stomach,” Dayton said. Until there is funding in our states, however, individuals are forced to care for vulnerable children who need nutritional meals to participate in their education.



  1. Thank you so much for sharing about Fences for Fido! I’ve been a volunteer with them for about 3 years now, and it’s changed my life! Unchaining these dogs has changed their lives for so much better, and the lives of their families, too! Thank you for spreading the word! We need more folks and donors because many fidos are waiting! 🙂


    Comment by Cyndi Swaney — February 16, 2014 @ 8:36 AM | Reply

  2. Thank you on both counts,


    Comment by Lee Lynch — February 13, 2014 @ 12:40 PM | Reply

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