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An Inner Southeast animal charity comes up with a new and meaningful way to help them

DAVID F. ASHTON - The Pongo Fund founder Larry Chusid proudly shows off the organizations new mobile veterinary clinic, PONGO ONE. In November of 2009, Larry Chusid founded an organization called "The Pongo Fund", in honor of a dog of his that had passed away – its purpose to provide a living legacy for his late companion, through a program that helps keep pets safe, healthy, well-fed, and out of shelters.

"The Pongo Fund, 'Oregon's pet food bank', came about because I found no organization dedicated to helping people care for their animals – people who were not as fortunate as I," Chusid remarked to THE BEE.

The organization's warehouse is situated at 3632 S.E. 20th Avenue, one block due east of Bullseye Glass Company, in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Inside, as we visited with him amidst shelves lined with pet food and animal supplies, Chusid proudly revealed a new service – one provided through a new vehicle, named 'PONGO ONE'. It's a 23-foot long state-of-the-art mobile veterinary hospital.

PONGO ONE now provides a wide range of care including exams, lab work, x-rays, vaccinations, medications, dentals, spay and neuter, life-saving surgeries, and other services, all at no cost to qualified pet owners in need. That would include the homeless, seniors, veterans, victims of domestic violence, and residents in low income housing, Chusid said. "We serve many people who have lost [financial] stability.

"In this day and age, many people cannot afford to provide for the care of their animals' needs," he told THE BEE. "To them, these animals are 'family', and they need food and medical care, as do their humans; when somebody is financially struggling and cannot care for their pet, we will help provide that care."

Already, The Pongo Fund has a network of veterinary clinics throughout the community ready to help out. "But now, we will make vet care more available; we will be able to care for the animals in the community who might not otherwise receive care," Chusid explained.

PONGO ONE travels to low income apartment buildings, working in conjunction with Home Forward, Northwest Housing Alternatives, and Cascadia Mental health – and is also visiting homeless camps such as Dignity Village, as well as unsanctioned homeless camps.

"It's not about getting signed up for our service; we're on the road, reaching out to people and their pets," smiled Chusid.

"However, the truck itself means little without caring veterinarians inside," Chusid pointed out – introducing us to two primary pet physicians who are participating.

"I've been working with The Pongo Fund for about two years now; it's given me an opportunity to give back to our community, and, at the same time, to realize how lucky and fortunate we are," said Dr. Robin Bertke, DVM.

And, as she was stocking the truck, Dr. Melissa Stephenson, DVM, joined in: "Working in the community, working with the people, helping their pets, and focusing on the human-animal bond – this is everything I hoped for in becoming a veterinarian."

The Pongo Fund is a volunteer-driven 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity, making any contributions received tax-deductible. Learn more online: www.thepongofund.org

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