Jefferson Award Winner Founded Project Open PawBy Allen Martin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) To homeless San Franciscan Cindy Keener and her dogs Duchess and Coco, Paul Crowell is a modern day Saint Francis. For the last year, Crowell has been providing food and other pet supplies to Keener, who’s been living in her car near the Bayview.

“They love him. They love him,” said Keener of her dogs’ relationship with Crowell. “He’s really a blessing. Because a lot of people can’t afford a lot of dog food.”

But it’s not just Keener and her pets Crowell helps. There’s not a homeless dog in San Francisco he won’t feed. Every weekend for the last five years, he’s been dodging cars, traversing homeless encampments, and making friends with owners who are living without permanent homes. Along the way Crowell, a self-described ‘dog freak’ says he’s fed about 200 dogs.

“I just saw that they were needy,” said Crowell. “There is something really sweet about a scruffy little street urchin mutt.”

Back in his one room apartment in the Mission, Crowell stores more than a ton of dog food. He gives out 200 pounds weekly. As a former dog kennel worker, Crowell says he got the idea when he saw how much food was being thrown out at the dog boarding facility where he worked.

“A lot of dogs won’t eat when they are boarded because they are nervous,” explained Crowell. “So I just started collecting that and bagging it up and bringing it out after work to the camps.”

When his employer no longer allowed him to take home extra food for free, Crowell took out his phone and snapped pictures of every dog he was feeding, posting the photos on-line. His non-profit Project Open Paw was born. A GoFundMe account and Amazon wish list keep Project Open Paw going. Donations enable Crowell to help homeless pets with vet care needs: like Jewels, a tiny brown chihuahua who is recovering from intestinal surgery at Crowell’s apartment.

“Her intestines were actually sticking out to about here,” Crowell said of Jewels’ abdominal area. “So I went and grabbed her from her mom, and got that taken care of as quickly as possible.”

Crowell makes all his deliveries on foot but he has big dreams of opening a permanent facility for homeless dogs and their owners. And he would like to expand Project Open Paw to other Bay Area cities. But for now, Cindy Keener says she is grateful he’s here.

“He’s good people too,” said Keener. “He understands. He don’t judge people and I like that.”

So for helping homeless dogs, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Paul Crowell.

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