Lonnie and Annette Lear offer different perspectives about their origins at Clatsop County Animal Shelter.
They agree Annette started volunteering first in the late 1990s, and Lonnie started about a year later.
“Next thing I know, she said, ‘I signed you up to be a volunteer,’ and I started doing it,” Lonnie said.
But Annette adds more to the story.
“He likes to always tell everybody I made him come. He always says, ‘I do whatever I’m told,’” she said. “He tries not to say it’s because he loves the animals, but, you know.”
Regardless of how they started, the couple is still a regular presence at the shelter roughly 20 years later. In April, Clatsop County gave the Lears a volunteer award after being nominated by three people at the shelter.
The couple, both 57 years old, met in Seaside in the early 1980s and married a few years later. Lonnie is the head custodian at Seaside High School and used to work at the Stop and Go Convenience Store. Annette delivers for Mimi’s Flowers, and both have a side gig cleaning vacation rental homes.
“We fit it all in somehow,” Annette said.
In the four to five hours they spend at the shelter each week, the Lears walk and feed dogs, tend to and foster cats, visit homes of people hoping to adopt, take animals to events and mentor other volunteers.
“We’re kind of animal crazy and we decided that instead of bringing every one home, we should volunteer,” Annette said. “I wish we could do more, but doggone it, we gotta work.”
The couple represents just two of the volunteers who have spent years at the shelter, Lonnie said. His favorite annual tradition is the Christmas fundraiser. Part of the fundraiser involves adopted pets taking pictures with Santa Claus.
Recently, Lonnie has been the man in the red-and-white suit. “A lot of the dogs, it seems like they recognize you even five years after they’re adopted,” he said.
When asked why he continues to volunteer there two decades later, Lonnie said, “just a love for the animals.”