Animal lovers, philanthropists, beer drinkers and hell raisers (of the nicest kind, of course), this one’s for you. I come to this story with a history that is both sad, but ultimately uplifting. I came to it first as a journalist and now as a friend, a fan, an admirer.

Back in the day when I first started my gig at The Oregonian, one of my stories was about a veterinarian in Tillamook who served also as the animal shelter and in that capacity had euthanized, by her own count, 1,300 animals. She was leaving town, tired of hearing her clinic described as the slaughterhouse. Tillamook didn’t have an animal shelter then and fundraising efforts to build one weren’t going well. It didn’t look good for the animals

Today, it’s a brighter world, indeed. Not only does the county have a shelter, but there are three additional rescue groups, as well.

And they are doing amazing work. But it costs money and not everyone can afford the necessary veterinarian care.

That’s where the Nehalem Bay Winery comes in. On Aug. 4, they’re hosting the 2nd annual Day of the Dog, a fundraiser for Dr. Matt Didlake’s Nehalem Animal Healing, described by winery g.m. Melissa Stetzel as “a most amazing veterinarian.”

“There are four different animal rescue groups in our county that he does tons and tons of work for. He gives them special treatment and always takes into consideration that people might not have enough to pay, so he always helps in emergencies. So we decided we have this venue, we love him, we love dogs, let’s do an event to bring in money so he doesn’t have to take so much out of his pocket for these things he does.”

That the winery is giving up a day in peak season for a fundraiser when they could be making gobs on a wedding or other private event, does not surprise me. Philanthropy, after all, is how I met winery owner Ray Shackelford in the first place. That story came after someone tipped me off to his Anyway Foundation, which raises money for a Cambodia orphanage and the two schools it helped build, and all kinds of other good stuff.

The Day of the Dog event not only raises money for a super cause, it recognizes the wonderful bunch of people in Tillamook County and the good work they do.

“What has happened in the last 10 or so years, these organizations have sprung up to help,” says Melissa. “Being that we are out in this rural area, it’s quite common that animals get dumped. You hear about it all the time. There are litters of kittens, dogs, puppies. We’ve had several here at the winery that we’ve kept here and rehomed. Up the river, it’s quite common that dogs get dumped there. We found a dog that was chained to a tree with a bag of dog food. The biggest rescue organization is the TIllamook Animal Shelter; there’s United Paws and two newer ones, Animal Haven by the Sea in the Manzanita area. He’ll do emergency rescues and take them to Dr. Matt and finds homes for them. He’s a one-man show. There’s a gal in Rockaway, Tillamook County Animal Aid. She just posted something about a dog that was tied up in a stolen boat with a head injury. She is nursing him back to health with the help of Dr. Matt. These organizations are really making a huge difference. They bring all these sick, hurt animals to Dr. Matt. He does his magic, uses his supplies and medications and keeps a running tab and hopes someday they will be able to pay him back. But it seems these tabs are bigger than what some of these organizations can handle. They are going to benefit from this fundraiser.”

So, on that first Saturday in August, starting at 2 p.m., Dr. Matt and his Day of the Dog Band will take the stage to play some music. There will be a silent auction, a raffle of a very cool mosaic from repurposed glass ($20 for one ticket; $100 for six; if you can’t join the fun in person, you can get yours over the phone), good eats from the grill, and wine and beer. And fun. Always fun.

“Dancing, encouraged,” says Melissa. “Bringing your dog and family and friends is encouraged. Having tons of fun is required.”

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