Odd Man Inn started with a dog, a black Labrador retriever named Roswell who had a tendency to bite.
Wendy and Josh Smith moved from Portland to 4 acres in the hills northeast of Washougal to give Roswell more space, keep him out of trouble and save him from euthanasia.
The Smiths decided that they had so much room, why not take in another vulnerable animal that needed a home?
They added a pig. One became two, and so on. The Smiths, passionate animal rights advocates, now operate a full-blown nonprofit refuge that specializes in care for farm animals that Humane Society shelters have trouble accommodating.
“We’re trying to work within the system to provide education and shed some light on the plight of farmed animals,” Wendy Smith said. “It’s not just about cute animals or picking up strays off the street. We are trying to participate in the end of animal exploitation.”
She and Josh are both committed vegans, which means they don’t eat animal products — no meat, eggs, dairy nor honey. Their belief that animals should not be treated as commodities motivated them to create the refuge that has overtaken their yard.
“Animals are our gateway back to compassion,” Josh said.
He and Wendy believe the meat and dairy industries are inhumane. They also argue that even if you take the question of morality out of the equation, the cost of meat and dairy production is just too high: It’s a big generator of greenhouse gases contributing to the current climate crisis, and the grain required to grow livestock could feed people.
“We don’t say you’re a good or a bad person,” Josh said. “It’s just, ‘Does it make sense?'”
A day at Odd Man Inn revolves around its domestic and farm animal residents — feeding them, watering them and scooping up their poop.
The census at the refuge varies, but the count as of mid-November was 58 pigeons, 35 pigs, 13 roosters, six rabbits, six cats, four goats, three hens, three ducks, two steers, two llamas, two sheep, two peacocks, two turtles, two dogs, a goose and a turkey.
The pigs in particular are high maintenance. They can be destructive. And they eat a lot. The refuge swings deals with farms to take in 7,000 pounds of produce each month to feed the pigs, and donates any excess. That is in addition to the hay and grain other animals eat.
Caring for so many animals takes money. The refuge’s budget last year, according to tax records, was about $165,000. Expenses included about $13,500 for animal feed and $41,000 for veterinary care.
Donations from individuals, along with occasional corporate grants, cover costs. Wendy keeps supporters informed about goings-on at the refuge with frequent posts on social media.
The Smiths do not make any money from Odd Man Inn. Wendy, 42, commutes to her job as a nurse in Portland three days a week to provide the couple’s living expenses. Josh, 47, works full time — and unpaid — for the refuge.
Odd Man Inn also employs two people. In addition, 30 volunteers each commit to at least two shifts a month to help the refuge run smoothly.
“We’re going on four years, almost five, without a day off,” Josh said.
The refuge often houses animals temporarily during legal proceedings for abuse and neglect cases.
“They have been stellar in handling protective cases — something I pick up on a warrant and it needs to be held in protective custody,” said Tina Schneider, an animal control officer in Cowlitz County. “The things I have sent their way are not easy to deal with.”
The animals are often in bad shape, and some don’t make it. Wendy and Josh make sure the animals get veterinary care. For seriously injured or ill animals, that means hauling them to Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Wendy supplements vet visits with hands-on healing. When a goat named Echo came in hobbling, Wendy spent evenings in front of the fireplace massaging the goat’s legs, which she also splinted. Echo now walks just fine.
Every animal has a name and a story. Hanai was a boy’s 4-H project, but he didn’t want to sell his pig for slaughter. Sid, a Hungarian pig with a woolly coat, was a stray in Kitsap County. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man weighed 269 pounds (skinny for a pig) when he came in from a hoarding case handled by animal control, and now tips the scales at a healthy 550 pounds. The Smiths drove to San Diego to pick up Cherry Bomb, a pig named for the song sung by rock star Joan Jett’s former band The Runaways. (When Odd Man Inn put a picture of the pig up for sale as a fundraiser, Jett bought it, and also donated concert tickets for a raffle.)
Over the years, Odd Man Inn has helped 475 animals, 300 of which have been placed in homes, but some take up permanent residence at the refuge.
Melvin is the most famous of those. The pig lost a leg and both ears to infection after being attacked by a dog. Melvin’s photo helped Odd Man Inn win a contest offered by Tractor Supply, a farm implement company, netting the refuge $7,500. The money is helping to build a pavilion for pigs with special needs.
Melvin and another three-legged pig, Eppah, both sleep in the Smiths’ house, or “the people barn,” as they call it. So do Grandma Lucy, a 17-year-old pig, and Ziggy, who tends to bite when she doesn’t get enough TLC.
“No one is exactly ‘off limits’ in the house,” Wendy said. “We currently have a duck in the bathtub.”
The Smiths’ dream is for Odd Man Inn to find a large parcel, perhaps hundreds of acres, to expand the refuge, and pay for operations by renting out camping spots or tiny homes and offering animal care classes.
That’s the long-term plan anyway. The next evolution for Odd Man Inn will be to take in wild creatures such as raccoons or owls. Wendy is pursuing certification from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as a wildlife rehabilitator, an extensive process that requires working 1,000 hours with someone who’s already certified.
For now, the Smiths are focusing on domestic animals like pigs because it’s so hard for animal control agencies to find places for them. Odd Man Inn fills an important need, said Schneider, the animal control officer.
“I have never worked with a better rescue organization,” Schneider said. “They have the best interests of the animals at heart at all times.”