If you have ever been found by an animal that also found it’s way into your family, the heart behind HAVA will be a familiar thing. HAVA President Dee Robert’s purpose in life found her, just like the many animals she fosters and adopts. With a life dedicated to rescuing, feeding, and helping to provide medical treatment for animals in the Twin Harbors, there is no doubt about the meaning of her work.
History of HAVA
In 2011, when Dee’s father, a big animal lover, passed away, her mother wanted to leave a legacy for him. Her donation of $50,000 helped HAVA buy the building they had been renting. HAVA’s first shelter – Harry’s HAVA House – is named after her dad. Her mom died 18 months later, before the shelter was completed. Prior to that, they operated out of a storage unit. Animals were fostered and adoption events happened in various places. Thanks to this generosity and the foresight of Dee’s mother, animals in the Twin Harbors have a special set of people looking out for them. Dee is pretty certain this was her mom’s way of keeping her busy, and out of trouble, once she was gone.
Originally started in 1989, Shirley Brown had a personal mission to save the cats being dumped at the jetty in Westport. This population is still there, and is known as the Jetty Cats. Brown fed the original Jetty Cats and took care of their medical expenses, basically out of her own pocket. Dee’s involvement with HAVA began as Shirley began to age. Her work included sitting on the board and involvement in events. Dee served as Treasurer, and eventually, President.
Along with a tremendous amount of responsibility, duties, and expenses, Dee always finds herself knee-deep in cats. She knows she has 13 cats at home right now, thanks to a cat sitter who bothered with a headcount while Dee was out of town one day. If it weren’t for her, Dee said she would have no clue how many cats claimed her home as their own.
Of course, being a huge source of philanthropy for the Twin Harbor animals, HAVA also actively looks for and creates funding to remain an active part of the community.
Atticus is a very special cat. His story is just one example of the incredible work HAVA does for animals in the Twin Harbors. Surrendered due to genetic birth defect and owners unable to care for him, volunteer and board member Donna Westrick took him in. Atticus had no use of his back legs and couldn’t use a litter box. He was finally accepted by Best Friends Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. After clearing a six-week waiting list, Dee, her husband, and two other volunteers packed their bags, and flew Atticus to Utah at their own expense. They volunteered three days at the sanctuary, which ended up being a life changing experience.
HAVA also found great niche as a partner with PetSense in Aberdeen. PetSense allows on-site adoptions, with no charge to HAVA. The company has always been supportive of HAVA, making sure they never want for food, and provide discounts for the group. According to Dee, “They have their back. Everyone in the community has been very supportive, and knows their struggle.”
HAVA’s work is heartwarming. Their steady work with trap, neuter, and release programs helps to control feral animal populations. They work with babies to help socialize them, and identify the domesticated animals people drop in order to foster and re-home them.
One volunteer, Bryan Hatfield, feeds the jetty cats everyday in Westport. People sadly drop their cats at the jetty thinking they will go from domesticated to being able to survive on their own. Dee thinks they simply don’t understand these animals won’t survive without help. Luckily, “Bryan is amazing. He does great work, and keeps them informed. Whenever he finds a friendly one, they get them fixed, and they end up getting adopted.”
HAVA is located at 431 2nd Street in Raymond. They are open Wednesdays from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m., and the first and third Saturday each month from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. They are also open by appointment. Anyone needing assistance or wanting to help can call the HAVA line at 360-942-4716. They serve Pacific County, Westport, Grayland, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Ocean Shores. Dee says a lot of support pours in from those areas. “People are very generous.”
She left me with a story of a homeless man who approached them in tears. He had just moved from Arizona with 13 cats. Where he was had no shelter, and would have euthanized the animals, so he brought them with him. Dee made two phone calls, and the Seattle Humane Society took all the cats. The man, in a rental car, made it to Seattle. Dee said this happened over six months ago, but she just received a call last week. He wanted to thank her for her help. She said, “That’s why I do it. He was so appreciative. He found a place to live, kept a couple cats, and kept in touch with the humane society. They let him know how the cats were doing and when they got adopted. Why do you do it? I guess that’s why.”
Keep up to date on the happenings at HAVA by following the organization online or via Facebook. You can also check in on future events and fundraising opportunities. To see a list of pets available for adoption via HAVA, click here.