New mobile vet hospital unveiled

If you’ve seen this van on outer East Portland streets lately, read this – and learn the remarkable story about an animal health outreach program …

Look for PONGO ONE to be rolling out and into the community, helping disadvantaged pets be healthier.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In November of  2009, Larry Chusid founded an organization called “The Pongo Fund”, in honor of a dog of his that had passed away – 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 not as fortunate as I,” Chusid told East Portland News.

In the organization’s Southeast Portland warehouse, lined with pet food and animal supplies, Chusid proudly revealed a new service – provided through a new vehicle, named ‘PONGO ONE’. It’s a 23-foot long state-of-the-art mobile veterinary hospital.

The Pongo Fund founder Larry Chusid proudly shows off the new mobile veterinary clinic, PONGO ONE.

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 East Portland News. “To them, these animals are ‘family’, and 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.

Inside PONGO ONE are two veterinary patient care areas.

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 means little without caring veterinarians inside,” Chusid pointed out, introducing us to two primary pet physicians who are participating.

Here, stocking PONGO ONE, is veterinarian Robin Bertke, DMV.

“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.”

Veterinarian Dr. Melissa Stephenson, DVM checks out some of the on-board laboratory equipment before PONGO ONE hits the road.

The Pongo Fund is a volunteer-driven 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity, making any contributions received tax-deductible. Find out more at their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2018 David F. Ashton  ~ East Portland News

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