Talk to enough people and Jennifer Blankers sounds like one of those Dr. Seuss characters – the ones with a heart two sizes too large.
“If she hears about an animal in need, she has to help,” said Nicole Pilarski. “With all the animals in need of food and rescue because of the fires in Eastern Washington, we knew she was going to do something.”
Pilarski helps manage Lucky Dog Outfitters on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma, a business Blankers has owned for 10 years. It’s rare a week goes by that Blankers isn’t on Facebook trying to help one animal or another.
The devastating fires this summer, however, took things to another level. As fire fighters battled flames across the state, wildlife, livestock and pets needed help few had the time to lend.
“Reading about what’s happened made my stomach hurt,” Blankers said.
On Monday, an SUV packed with pet food, blankets, water bottles, cough drops, horse, rabbit and chicken feed, beef jerky and more was driven from Lucky Dog to Gold Bar.
The next day, it was a horse trailer someone lent the shop. Parked outside, it was filled by customers and those who stopped to see what it was doing on Sixth Avenue.
“That trailer left last night.” Blankers said Tuesday. “We’re filling another one today. We’ll keep going as long as there’s a need and people want to help.”
That could be some time.
Firefighters say blazes across the state might burn for months, placing people, homes, businesses – and animals – at risk.
Blankers’ nature is to pitch in, organize, do something.
This week, before she could even start, she had to do some serious networking.
“I know firefighters don’t want people driving over and dropping off a bag of food, a pile of towels,” Blankers said.
She connected online with KC Letterman, a barrel racer from Gold Bar who is an EMT with Fire District 26.
“I was up until 2 a.m. on Facebook looking for help and met a gal who knew exactly what firefighters and animals over there needed and gave me a list,” Blankers said.
“She was willing to help get it all to the right places and the right people. The last thing you want is to send something that’s going to wind up stored in a warehouse.”
“We texted and set things up, she volunteered to help get whatever we could round up to the people who needed it.
“That first car full of stuff was a relay. It went from Tacoma to Burien, where a college student took it to Gold Bar and KC took it from there.”
Armed with information, brimming with enthusiasm, Blankers loosed herself upon the community.
“All our customers follow us on Facebook,” said Kristi Lynn, who works at Blankers’ shop. “One woman stopped by Costco first and brought in a truck load.
“Other customers buy their usual pet food and then buy something extra at the counter – pet treats or food – and put it in the horse trailer.
“All day, they just keep coming. The thought it, there are so many organizations out there helping people, but not many helping the animals. People want to help.”
In Gold Bar and points east, Letterman is doing special deliveries.
“We started at 4 a.m. and we’re still going at lunch time,” she said.
“We stay in touch with firefighters and different organizations, so we know where things are needed most.
“Jennifer is awesome. She’s done an amazing job of gathering stuff that’s needed.”
At Lucky Dog Outfitters – 3411 Sixth Ave. Suite B – the horse trailer is there all day. Blankers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A lot can happen with just a few folks, and it’s great that there are so many little pockets of angels in our community,” she said. “I love what that does for our community, what we can do for others.
“KC just told me the firefighters would love home-baked goods, so now I’m looking for those, too.”
Bring items for firefighters or animals to the horse trailer parked in front of Lucky Dog Outfitters, 3411 Sixth Ave. Suite B, in Tacoma.
For more information, call 253-761-4486
Here are items requested by firefighters and animal groups/owners in Eastern Washington:
Jerky or beef sticks
Saline eye wash
Emergen-C or vitamins to prevent sickness
Handkerchiefs or bandanas
Water or sports drinks
Gum or hard candy (for pockets)
Hygiene needs (toothpaste, deodorant, body wash)
Feminine hygiene products
Cots or air mattresses
Bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets)
Diapers (all sizes, including adult)
Pet food (wet and dry)
Senior horse feed
Basic first aid for animals