In Our Annual Pet Issue, We Celebrate Portland’s Occasionally Insane Love for Its Fuzzy, Feathery, Sometimes Scaly Companions

Maybe it’s because pet ownership is part of our foundational history, but folks in this part of the country have always displayed a particularly strong devotion to their nonhuman children.

(Christine Dong)

Oregon's very first good boy was a mountain of black fluff named Seaman.

Bought in Pittsburgh for a mere $20, the swashbuckling Newfoundland joined his owner, Meriwether Lewis, and the rest of the Corps of Discovery on their westward expedition in 1804, fending off bears, beavers and the appetites of his fellow travelers to become the only animal in the party to survive all the way to the Pacific Northwest. (Don't ask what happened to the rest.) When Seaman was stolen on the return voyage, Lewis threatened to go all John Wick on his captors and shoot the lot of them if he wasn't returned.

Two centuries later, Oregonians remain equally passionate about their pets—even if most of us would only kill for them metaphorically.

Maybe it's because pet ownership is part of our foundational history—or maybe it's just that we all need something to cuddle during the endless gray months—but folks in this part of the country have always displayed a particularly strong devotion to their nonhuman companions.

In Portland, especially, the dedication borders on, well, crazy: This is a place where entrepreneurs make sleeping bags for dogs and bow ties for cats, where people groom chinchillas for beauty pageants and where, if you invite the people of this city to show you pictures of their precious fur babies, you better be prepared for a deluge.

Hey, we're not here to judge. In our annual Pet Issue, we celebrate the city's outsized, occasionally insane love for its fuzzy, feathery, sometimes scaly surrogate children.

We spent a day with a professional dog-walker to find out what it takes to live the dream of getting paid to hang out with puppies all day. We visited Portland's fanciest pet hotels in search of their most luxe features, and rounded up some of the area's most innovative pet-focused startups.

And because not everyone in Portland wants a cat or dog—or even a goat or chicken—we put together a primer on some alternative pet options, including scorpions, skunks and even flying squirrels.

We also profiled seven "pageant parents" from across the state, who breed everything from chickens to alpacas for competition, and took one of our own kittens in front of cat show judge to see if he's got what it takes to be a star.

And then, we went and held a little competition of our own.

Hundreds of Portlanders submitted photos to our second annual Pet Pageant, and thousands of readers voted for their favorite. In the end, only one could be crowned this year's Ultimate Supreme Pet.

(Christine Dong)

That's Sabah, the 4-year-old tortoiseshell tabby you see on the cover.

Originally from St. Louis, Sabah is smart and social and, according to owner Sammy Taylor, has "Champagne taste, opting for fresh-caught salmon and Willamette Valley pinot over the dried stuff and a bowl of tap water." She can also jump on command, and obviously rocks an awesome flower crown.

They might not be the same species, but we like to think Seaman would approve.

—Matthew Singer, Arts & Culture Editor

Pet Issue 2019 | Oregon's Pageant-Animal Parents | Can I Make My Cats Famous? | What Alt-Pet Is Right For You? | Five Awesome Portland Pet Companies | Portland's Bougie Pet Hotels | How To Live As a Professional Dog Walker | Pet Pageant Winners

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