Unsung Hero: Crystal Goodrich of South Portland, doggedly determined to make a difference

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Dogs have played a big role in Crystal Goodrich’s life ever since she moved to Maine from New Hampshire 15 years ago.

“We always had lots of pets in my family,” she said. “Stray dogs, guinea pigs, cats, gerbils and mice. … I don’t have kids so I’ve connected with lots of people while walking my dog, Scooby. If you want to get to know people, walk with a dog or walk with someone else who has a dog.”

Goodrich’s favorite dog-walking spot is Willard Beach, although she sometimes goes to Hinckley Park or Bug Light Park.

Goodrich, though, is much more than an avid dog person. She’s a tireless activist for all the causes she holds close to her heart.

Let’s start with her efforts on behalf of dogs and their owners.

“I became friends with people in the South Portland Dog Owners Group around a challenge to dog owners being allowed to walk their dogs off leash on Willard Beach at all during the summer months,” Goodrich said. “In 2008, I worked with a group of dedicated dog owners to prevent this loss by defeating an ordinance to ban and restrict dog owners from walking their dogs in public places by a 60-40 percent vote in our favor.”

The Dog Owners group now plans to raise funds to donate a Kevlar vest for one of the South Portland Police Dogs.

Goodrich and other South Portland dog owners were also consulted by Scarborough dog owners in their successful drive to overturn what they felt were overly restrictive dog-walking regulations in Scarborough.

Finally, on the dog front, Goodrich volunteers for Lucky Pup Rescue, often serving as a foster parent for dogs awaiting adoption.

Goodrich’s passion for preserving the natural beauty of the environment led her to join the South Portland Land Trust. As a member she spends many hours assisting with the trust’s annual plant sale.

“It’s an awesome event,” she said. “We dig up plants, pot them and sell them. It’s lots of fun and a great cause. Plus I’ve learned a lot about gardening.”

The Community Garden Collective taps Goodrich’s gardening expertise.

“Two years ago I joined the board, and we built a 38-bed garden for South Portland residents,” she said. “Three of the beds are designated for Harvest for Hunger, a statewide program run by the Cooperative Extension. In the last two years we have grown over 1,800 pounds of fresh food, which we’ve donated to the South Portland Food Cupboard.”

Most recently, Goodrich joined Protect South Portland, the citizens group dedicated to passing an ordinance in South Portland to prevent “tar sands” oil from being piped into the city.

Goodrich credits her parents for instilling a volunteer work ethic. “They were always getting involved in different things,” she said.

Despite her many volunteer activities, Goodrich holds down a demanding full-time job as an occupational therapist at Wentworth Intermediate School in Scarborough.

She loves the middle school age group, but noted that, “Dogs don’t argue with you like kids do.”

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Crystal Goodrich in South Portland with her dog, Scooby, right, and Scout, a foster pet is she is caring for through Lucky Pup Rescue.