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Let the Dog Live

Let the Dog Live

Dogs abandoned in Oregon suffer and die by the thousands.   But in the Salem area, volunteers give many a chance at life.  Hope’s Haven of Polk County and Dr. Arlene Brooks of Turner are two resources that these animals have going for them.

The problem of discarded dogs is significant; for lack of space and resources – and because of the sheer number of abandoned animals – most agencies and pounds cannot afford “no kill” policies.  Dogs who suffer fractures, neurological problems blindness, or who have experienced psychological damage that leaves them trembling, catatonic or aggressive – are considered “unadoptable.”

In the Salem area alone, thousands are euthanized every year.

“When I see these kids come through, with no decent chance in life, all I can do is help them one at a time,” says Dr. Arlene Brooks, 1994 Willamette Vet of the Year.  In the last six year, Brooks has treated 686 abused, gunshot, club battered and starving animals – her “kids” – through Homestead Vet Clinic’s Last Chance Club, her veterinarian home base.  Her donated medical and surgical services for this period are worth more than $300,000, and mean life itself to her patients.

Brooks often works alongside Marsha Chambers, who founded Hope’s Haven in Polk County.  In the past 20 years the Hope’s Haven dog rescue organization has saved the lives of more than 4,000 dogs.

Hope’s Haven receives animals from “kill” shelters in Oregon, Washington and Oregon, as well as from agencies who obtain dogs from “hoarders” (people who collect animals) and “flippers” (people who obtain animals for free and provide minimal, impersonal care before selling them.)

Once a dog has arrived at Hope’s Haven it receives a veterinary examination from either Dr. Brooks or Dr. Camille Connelly of Independence.  After treatment the animal stays with one of Hope’s Haven’s 30-odd volunteers where it is fostered, socialized and given affection until a “forever” home is found.

One recent wintery morning Dr. Connelly examined Whiskey, a frightened little terrier who had just arrived.  The dog nearly clung to volunteer Leanne Houngninou, who assisted.

Houngninou had paid for Whiskey herself just days before from a “flipper” in a nearby town.  She admitted the dog hated to be out of her sight ever since.  Deep feeling between the two was obvious.

Still, Houngninou plans to foster Whiskey – not keep him.  She coordinates volunteer foster homes for Hope’s Haven and is proud of how dogs are allowed to heal in foster situations while “forever homes” are found.  Fosterers can become deeply attached to the animals, as was already the case with her and Whiskey.  But the dogs go to their new families anyway because, as Houngninou explains, the volunteers work for a higher purpose.

“It breaks your heart every time,” she says.  “Every time a foster family or person gives up a dog, they cry.  I will for sure, to give up Whiskey.  The thing that helps is to know the animal goes to a ‘forever home,’ and that we made that possible.”

The Hope’s Haven website shows available animals and encourages both adoptions and fostering for “all the innocent dogs that have had their trust betrayed by unworthy guardians.”

Back in Turner, Dr. Brooks pats Jesse, a black shepherd who lost a leg from a bullet wound and who was her very first Last Chance Club patient.  He’s lived with her ever since.  Brooks’ wall is crowded with snapshots of many of the animals she has helped (some are also on the Last Chance Club website.)  It is typical of these animal advocates that she remembers the name of every animal.

She reflects on her figure, 686.  “I’m shooting for 1,000 before I quit,” she told us.  “Doesn’t it just sound marvelous?  To be able to say, ‘What did I do in my life?  I saved 1,000 dogs.’’’


  1. I read this article through a link on my facebook. The work that Hopes their volunteers and The Dr.’s is invaluable and makes such a difference in the lives of the dogs as well as the people. Thank you for writing and publishing it.

  2. This is such a great article on very important subject! So many people are totally unaware of what these animals are going thru. Hopes Haven is such a blessing to all of us, especially ones who have adopted one of these dogs! The volunteers are incredible people that give so much just to have there hearts broke on a regular basis. This article is wonderful, “Thank You” for taking the time to bring this to hopefully many, many people! They saved my dog, who has in turn saved me!

  3. What an amazing article on some amazing gals rescuing and saving dogs. They deserve such kuddos for the hard work they do to save dogs that no one else wants to help. Keep up the great work ladies.

  4. Great article about all involved. I volunteer for this organization and love it!
    We do great things and are proud of it. Some like the “fame and fortune” but Marsha is always last to “toot’ her own horn. I have seen some dogs that I think there is NO way we can make it better but…..with some medical care provided by our wonderful Foster families, add a little love and you have a dog that can be adopted out and move on to the next….One dog at a time.

  5. I Love Hopes Haven and Dr. Brooks. Marsha (founder of HH) is a gentle and loving spirit and the Doctor her angel.
    I have fostered for them and I am what’s called a foster failure. I could not give up my last foster. I fell in love with my Mr. Huck who was rescued.
    I hope one day when I retire I can spend everyday with them.
    Thank You Marsha and Dr. Brooks!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Dr. Brooks, Dr. Connelly, and Marsha of Hope’s Haven are the personal miracle workers of the animal welfare community in Marion and Polk Counties. Their skill, attention to detail, and above all their value of each life defines their work, making them household names. Both Dr. Brooks and Marsha Chambers are recipients of Willamette Humane Society’s Humaneitarian Award.

  7. Feel free to visit both website and check them out

    I have volunteered for HH for 19 months, fostered numerous, fell in love with 4 whom I kept. All were spayed/neutered and had dentals done by Dr. Brooks. She has such a caring heart, was there when I had to make the hardest decision to let my first foster failure cross the rainbow bridge, she cried crocodile tears with me when we let him go.

    Both Marsha and Dr. Brooks remember each dog and love to hear updates on how they are doing and seeing pictures.

  8. Many thanks for recognizing Marsha (Hopes Haven) and Dr. Brooks. I’ve voluntereed for Hopes Haven for 3 years and have never seen such a committment to helping the many hopeless dogs that have suffered abuse and neglect. Hopes Haven and Dr. Brooks don’t turn down the medically needy dogs that other rescues refuse. I am so honored to volunteer and work with such incredible women.

  9. I have nothing but heartfelt gratitude and praise for Marsha @ Hopes Haven and Dr. Brooks @ Last Chance Club. These women gave me my life back when they found and treated my beloved Basset Hound, Louis.
    Louis and I lived in an apartment in Salem. At that time I wasn’t working & had only phone contact with family & friends. I didn’t realize it but I was ill and had been for quite awhile. I collapsed and stayed on the floor of my apartment for 5 days unable to get up or even get to my phone. My wonderful Louis kept me going by nudging my face until I woke up, over and over again.
    Finally, someone noticed that I wasn’t around and firemen ended up breaking my door down. The last words I said when they took me out on a gurney were, “don’t let my dog out!”.
    He did get out, I know he must have been terrified, he had not been outside on his own, ever! He ended up in a ditch down by the Willamette River, he couldn’t get out. A police officer found him, thank goodness, and took him to Willamette Humane Society. I was in the ICU at Salem Hospital for 2 weeks with profound organ failure. I don’t remember anything until 3 weeks later and, then, it was very foggy. When I finally came around the first thing I ask was where was Louis. No one knew. For the next 2 months, while in medical facilities, I frantically called every Shelter, Humane Society (WHS did not tell me that he had been there), put ads in the paper, called my vet-Louis had an identity chip put in there as a young dog, but they told me they couldn’t help me unless someone called them.
    Anyway, Marcia had found him in the humane society and, because he was well cared for, she knew someone loved him and would be looking for him. So he went to Hopes Haven to be cared for and loved by Marcia & staff and Dr. Arlene Brooks, two angels that saved him and took wonderful care of him until I could reconnect.
    A friend of mine (and advocate) called around for me and when she called the Willamette Humane Society they told her where he was. I called immediately and left a message for Marcia. I remember I was at the hospital receiving my daily dose of IV antibiotics (3-4 hrs every day) when Marcia called me back. It was one of the happiest days of my life! I cried, the nurses (who knew every detail by then) cried, and Marcia said that until what time I was healthy enough to have him with me, she would arrange a foster care home for him. I talked to the wonderful woman who took him in and she sent me pictures of Louis with her and her husband, bless their hearts!! So she & Marcia brought Louis to me, after I had it OK’d at the convalescent center I was in. It was a miracle made possible by Marcia & all the wonderful people involved with Hopes Haven!! Dr. Brooks has saved my boy by doing surgery on him twice, something I could never have afforded without her kindness and skill!! That was in 2010 and I still have my best friend with me and I love him more than ever. Louis was diagnosed last April with a nasty type of cancer, he has two tumors in his left lung and I was told it would spread quickly to his other organs. It’s mid-June now and he is still here. He is much weaker, sleeps a lot, but there seems to be no pain and, with his meds (prednisone & cough tablet), he is eating well and not coughing. I am lost already knowing he will be gone, and I don’t want him to suffer! I will always love him and will see him again when I leave this earth. We will both be in much better shape and able to run and play again.
    Thanks for reading my story of the two most wonderful women I have ever known.

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