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"Giving a Rat's Ass" : One Portlander Strives to Vindicate Our Most - Misunderstood Rodents.

Animals  (tags: rats, rodent, respect )

- 4072 days ago -
Rats get zero respect. If they're not stuck in research labs having gecko tails grown on their heads or trying out a new mascara line, they're out in the wild scraping together meager meals in sewers and bad restaurants.


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Trish V (23)
Tuesday April 29, 2008, 11:46 pm
In Memorium - Roger Troen

January 17, 1931 - April 23, 2008

I am sad to share the news that the animal rights community has lost a pillar and pioneer. Roger Troen, a long-time animal activist in the Portland area, died last Wednesday of a heart ailment.

Roger left behind some beloved companions, described at the bottom of this message, who now need new loving homes. Please pass this message on to anyone who might help with that effort.

There is a memorial service this Wednesday, April 30th at 10:00 a.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church, 2400 NE Broadway (at Weidler St.) in Portland, where Roger was a longtime member.

Roger was always gently (and at times, not so gently) nudging his pastor and church community towards recognizing the suffering of all animals. He even staged a demonstration of sorts during a service, turning his back to the pastor with a duct taped mouth when his repeated requests to simply light a candle during the ceremony for the animals went unfulfilled. He often confided in me his plan to have a dozen friends all attend the same service with him in a show of support for the animals. (Regretfully, I can't attend this memorial for a conflict I have on the coast; a meeting about sea lions. His partner, Steve, assured me that having me speak up for the sea lions is what Roger would have wanted.)

Among the animals he championed was the oft-maligned rat, and it wasn't just their reputation that he was known for saving. At one point in his life Roger was caring for 87 rats all at once, all rescued from Multnomah County Animal Control! He even had a cartoon of himself titled Roger Raton and once published in Willamette Week a piece entitled, "Giving a rat's ass," after WW had published an account of someone who didn't. A lesson from Roger; there is no such thing as a generic rat. Each is unique.

Roger worked tirelessly to try to reform the county's animal control and routinely transported cats and other animals to the safety of foster homes. Unapologetically outspoken for animals, Roger had a unique and appropriately urgent approach when it came to doing outreach. His dedication and empathy for the monkeys at the Oregon Primate Center make it apropos that he died during World Week for Animals in Labs.

Roger was a prolific writer, and between his local typewritten newsletter, and documents he saved over the years, he likely has the most complete chronicle of Portland's animal rights history, and all without the use of a computer!

Possibly Roger's best-known escapade for the animals was his participation in a daring and successful animal liberation from the University of Oregon years back, which was later described in Ingrid Newkirk's book "Free the Animals." His adventure brought him the unwanted attention of the legal system when a veterinarian, who was treating a rabbit he had rescued, noticed the lab tattoo in the bunny's ear.

As one friend recalls:

"Roger once rescued and paid for surgery for a kitten abandoned by her guardian. The guardian didn't want to pay the cost of surgery to remove a penny the kitten had swallowed, so she was scheduled to be killed. Roger adopted the kitten, paid about $1,000 for the surgery, then in amusement promptly named the kitten Penny. He valued money only in its ability to save lives..."

"Above all Roger was completely unaffected, optimistic in the face of defeat, and absolutely candid and unapologetic about any supposed transgression from your point of view. I got really irritated with him one day. We were trying to get the required number of signatures for a shelter reform initiative on a deadline. He got distracted by something else; I am sure something far more interesting. He was wholly unapologetic and at the same time never lost his equanimity or good cheer...just got called away by another muse that day."

"There is no way really to replace him. When I lost faith he brought it back. I don't know who will do that now. Always a missionary with a vision, he believed in eternal life and that our lives in the present were just one page along an eternal path. Perhaps that is partly where his optimism came from, that no one act or loss was the end."

"He had earned the highest of accolades: he was a person of integrity."

Another friend writes:

"I can still clearly picture Roger at local demonstrations, neatly dressed as always in a sports coat, trying to call passers-by with every fiber of his body and soul to change their ways. He never gave an inch, never compromised his ideals, and never gave up fighting for the animals.

Roger was real fire-brand out on the streets, but a warm and sentimental guy when surrounded by his loved ones at home. They broke the mold when they made this guy -- and I will certainly miss his passion for the cause and the sense of mission he brought to the Portland activist scene."

The animal family left behind

Roger left behind a beloved family of companion animals, and unfortunately his partner, Steve, is not able to stay in their home, and therefore must find new, loving homes for most of the animals.

Tanner, Roger's 8 year old chow/collie dog. Roger liberated Tanner from a dismal existence on a chain. In a true showing of Roger's character, he refused to give up on this dog, even when he bit the hand that fed him. Of all the members of Roger's family in need of a home, Tanner is the most special case and will need a very special guardian to take over his care. Someone who can be a firm but benevolent alpha presence, and keep Tanner safe from his fear of strangers that has historically gotten him into trouble.

In addition to Tanner, these are the animals in need of homes that Steve referenced:

Hildegard, an 8 to 9 year old female small short-haired cream-colored shepherd mix who slept with Roger on his bed.

4 cats -- I know one is a tortoise short-hair cat, and another a black and white tuxedo. Hildegard and the two cats slept on the bed together.

2 rats -- one buff and one hooded.

If you would like to consider fostering, adopting, or just want to see pictures and learn more about Roger's family members, please contact me at or (503) 249-9996

Roger will live on in our memories, especially as we continue working for the animals' cause.

Matt Rossell
In Defense of Animals
Northwest Outreach Coordinator
(503) 249-9996
5428 NE 30th St.
Portland, OR 97211

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