When Josh and Wendy Smith use the phrase, “Everyone needs a forever home,” it’s not something they say lightly.
The founders of Odd Man Inn in rural Washougal have opened their land — and home — to a variety of abused, neglected or abandoned animals.
On any given day, one can see dogs, chickens, geese, swans, hens, llamas, hogs and pigs wandering free-range at Odd Man Inn. The species intermingle with each other and have even formed social groups.
Visitors to the property often are greeted by Meatloaf, a mixed-breed 110-pound dog who acts as chief of security. Despite a commanding bark and the ability to keep even cougars at bay, Meatloaf is a gentle giant with people invited into the Washougal-area animal sanctuary. During a recent visit by a Post-Record reporter, Meatloaf acted as a sort of tour guide, sitting close by during the interview.
Gomez, a curious Chinese swan, has a tendency to get right up in your face, but he doesn’t charge or bite. He just wants visitors to scratch his neck and admire him.
Compared to Meatloaf and Gomez, the resident goats, chickens and llamas are more relaxed with human visitors, glancing up from time to time, but usually just sitting back and observing.
Several breeds of pigs wander about the Odd Man Inn land. Most of the pigs have a joyful, friendly demeanor, particularly Grace and Oliver. When visitors enter the pigs’ housing area, the 800-pound Oliver and 200-pound Grace come trotting up to greet them. For large animals, they are surprisingly agile, nuzzling up close and wanting belly rubs.
“I’m flooded with awe every day that our animals show genuine emotions such as happiness, excitement, joy, frustration, contentment, sadness, grief and affection,” Wendy says. “This is not a characteristic seen solely in typical companion animals like dogs and cats.”
The Smiths started Odd Man Inn in 2014, after adopting a dog, Roswell, who was scheduled to be euthanized. After expensive doggy psychologists and professional behavior training failed to curb Roswell’s aggressive behaviors, the couple made the move from Portland to Washougal to save him.
“When we realized the gravity of the situation, we decided to sell our home and buy property for Roswell where he could live in his own safe space,” Wendy explains. “We never saw this decision as a risk. We saw it simply as what Roswell needed. We plunged headlong without any regrets. We take immense pride in knowing we found a creative solution for him to live a safe and happy life with a forever family. He lives free-range with all our animal residents and thrives in this environment.”
Adds Josh: “When we have visitors come, we keep Roswell inside our home to make sure they feel safe, but we don’t like to keep him indoors long. We literally bought these four acres for him, and started Odd Man Inn because of it.”
Josh and Wendy, both longtime vegans and animal lovers, met at a Halloween party in 2010 and hit it off immediately. They have no children of their own, so the residents at Odd Man Inn are their extended family.
“We treat every animal resident here as a member of our family, and so I love them all like my children,” Wendy says. “I cry when they are hurt. I laugh when they are silly. I worry when they are ill. I feel love when they come to me for a scratch and a snuggle. It is incredibly rewarding for your life’s work to revolve around compassion and kindness and helping those who are less fortunate just because they were born in different bodies.”
For example, Grace the Hereford pig was adopted after Josh spied a Craigslist ad that included the description, “Just had piglets by c-section. Now has an abscess. Too expensive to fix. Good enough for dog food.” He vividly recalls rescuing her from a filthy farm where her owners kept slapping her and calling her stupid.
“Grace was castaway as waste,” Josh says. “Now, she is emotional, athletic, gentle, has a name and is allowed the joy of being herself.”
Neither Josh nor Wendy has any background in animal care or housing, so they learn on the fly. Josh is good with his hands and creates shelters by using recycled materials.
“I try to avoid buying new whenever possible,” he says. “I like to stretch our donor dollars as far as they can go and practice sustainability.”
Odd Man Inn includes several areas of reclaimed materials and makes good use of small spaces. There is a small clinic in one area that serves as the medical treatment zone. A pole barn has been used as an emergency triage area and for temporary goat housing, and will now be a maternity ward for one of the recently fostered, pregnant pigs.
“We build animal houses and shelters around the property out of reclaimed materials, which we design and maintain ourselves,” states the Odd Man Inn website. “We recycle every scrap we can, and we feed our animals with mostly culled fruits and veggies from our local produce stores, (which) we work closely with to keep waste out of the landfills.”
Wendy, 40, has been a “people nurse,” as she describes it, for the past 20 years. She commutes four days a week to Kaiser Sunnyside in Clackamas from Washougal. However, she’s been an animal rights activist for as long as she can remember.
As a child, she used to rotate the stuffed animals on her bed to make sure the dirty ones with one eye and missing fluff got a turn to be in the front.
“My first pet was a turtle who I used to kiss every night, but my mom made me get rid of him when he bit my lip,” she recalls. “At 40, I still kiss all of our animals.”
The couple is learning everything they can about animals and housing from some “serious research,” as Wendy describes it.
“We read and we seek the counsel of others who are more experienced,” she explains. “We have visited a number of different farms and sanctuaries to learn how to house animals. I have done ride-along shifts on my ‘off’ days with our large animal vet, Dr. Scot Lubbers at Amazia in Brush Prairie.”
They also use every visit to the veterinarian as a hands-on tutorial on animal care.
“There’s a lot to know, and we are never too proud to seek the counsel of those more experienced,” Wendy says. “We certainly don’t know it all. The struggle comes occasionally in finding information under the topic of animals as ‘companions,’ which is how we see all our animal residents. We usually have to glean what we can from books and sources that raise animals for slaughter, then turn that into something that fits into our model of care for animals who are going to live their full lifespans.”
One of the primary missions of Odd Man Inn is to change the belief that animals are food. Wendy and Josh do that by showing how all animals have personalities and the ability to be a family.
The couple makes space in their home as well. Currently, they have six potbellied pigs who sleep on blankets in the living room and bedroom. Their newest pig, Alice, has chosen to make her bed in the pantry. They also house a chicken, four dogs and another pig, who sleeps on an old sofa at the foot of the bed.
All of the animals receive vaccines, de-worming, spays and neuters and teeth cleaning.
“We want all of our animal residents to be adopted by forever families, but it’s challenging to find homes that will treat them with the same level of responsibility and respect,” Wendy says.
Something that Josh and Wendy describe as an “epidemic,” is that of pig breeders underfeeding the animals and then selling them as “apartment pigs.” Eventually, the pigs become too big and also bored, ripping off cabinet doors and digging up carpet as well as acting aggressively toward anyone who tries to enter the apartment.
“Pigs are very smart and need challenges,” Josh says. “They can’t be cooped up in apartments. It’s become an epidemic.”
Wendy adds that “bartering and selling lives of any kind is inexcusable.”
“Please stop believing in the mini-pig craze,” she says. “It is hurting animals who are smart and sensitive and amazing members of a family. If you have room in your life for a critter who has fur or feathers or hair of any kind, I guarantee there are adult versions of that animal who have been cast aside and are in need of a family.”
The couple’s ultimate dream for Odd Man Inn is to have campgrounds on a larger property and volunteer vacations to help fund its work, along with more adult animals being adopted out to forever homes.
“We are a staff of just two — who take zero income from what we do here,” Wendy said. “We would like to continue to grow our base of donors and supporters so that Odd Man Inn can expand to a larger piece of property, where we can help more animals.”
She notes that she and Josh are extremely careful with resources and their impact on the planet. Every discussion involves consideration of donor dollars, grazing land, stall space, water, waste, recycling, effort and time.
“We need the support of like-minded individuals who believe in our mission and will dare to get involved in what we do,” Wendy says.
Having recurring donors and sponsors puts Odd Man Inn in a position to say “yes” when animal control calls for help with abandoned and abused barnyard animals, as well as continue community service and educational programs with children.
“It allows us to be able to fill a need in our communities that is often overlooked or underfunded,” Wendy says.
For more information about donating or volunteering with Odd Man Inn, visit www.oddmaninn.org.