The Akin Heart
Akin Blitz and his dog, Annie, dispense a special brand of medicine
Published in 2008 Oregon Super Lawyers magazine
on November 7, 2008
Updated on June 11, 2009
One admiring colleague of C. Akin Blitz compares his lawyering style to a bulldog. It’s a fitting analogy for a man who spends much of his time with a member of the Oregon Animal Hall of Fame.
Blitz and his dog Annie, a bearded collie, have worked together for eight years as an animal-therapy team, visiting chronically ill children at Providence Child Center and patients of all ages at Oregon Health & Science University. Annie is also a deputy sheriff of Washington County, with her own vest and badge. As a “working dog,” she has claimed a spot in courthouses across the state.
Blitz, 59, who represents employers in labor relations, employment and risk management at Bullard Smith Jernstedt Wilson in Portland, also led the creation of a volunteer unit of six crisis-response canine teams at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Their role is to comfort people caught up in traumatic events.
Whatever the assignment, Annie is up to the task. “It’s all the same to her,” says Blitz. “She’s going to people who are upset, providing support and interaction.”
Blitz himself—a Rotarian and an Eagle Scout—has spent much of his life helping those in need.
“I value service and giving back,” he says. “I was raised to value, be kind to and benefit from my relationships with animals. Mom was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of veterinarians. She loved animals more than people, and modeled relating to them with care, rapport and compassion.”
Blitz’s father was an Army officer from Portland, stationed in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Born in Honolulu, Blitz lived there through fifth grade, when his family moved to the San Francisco Bay area. His grandfather founded what became Blitz Weinhard Brewing Co. in Portland.
Blitz has had a long association with law enforcement. He helped officers train police dogs while attending high school, then joined the Marines, receiving basic officer training while at Willamette University. He worked nights as a dispatcher for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, then served as a sheriff’s deputy and as a police officer for the city of Silverton while in college and law school.
After landing his law degree at Lewis & Clark Law School, Blitz served at Headquarters Marine Corps and the Navy Office of the Judge Advocate General in Washington, D.C., earning a master of laws degree at Georgetown University. After finishing active duty, he entered the Reserves as a commanding officer at the Eugene Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center. He also worked as an associate at the Eugene firm Cass Scott Woods & Smith.
Hillsboro Police Chief Lila Ashenbrenner says Blitz—who is legal counsel to both the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association—makes himself readily available to her and police supervisors.
“The guy works nonstop,” she says. She recalls several instances in which police have contacted Blitz in the middle of the night with legal questions. “He’s not a stereotypical attorney, in a lot of respects. He goes everywhere with his dog. Animal people tend to be compassionate, and he is.”
Blitz says having a canine companion gives him a professional advantage. Years ago, he brought his previous bearded collie along to an arbitration hearing. The union lawyer objected to a question, raising his voice. Blazer, curled up nearby, took notice.
“He sat up and looked the lawyer in the eye and began to growl,” says Blitz. The other attorney “stopped and looked at the dog, and said, ‘That dog is growling at me.'” Blitz countered, “He doesn’t like the argument.” When the arbitration decision came out in favor of the city—Blitz’s client—”the union blamed the dog.”
Now that Annie is getting along in years, Blitz has cut back on her workload, though she still accompanies him nearly everywhere in town.
“Clients insist that she come,” says Blitz. “When I’m in the office, she is.”
Annie, who is about 16, didn’t always have the life of a celebrity. Her breeder took her back from an abusive first owner, says Blitz. Annie’s illustrious career has been recognized by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, which inducted her into its Oregon Animal Hall of Fame.
Blitz’s human companions include his wife of 34 years, Karen, and their three sons, all of whom are Eagle Scouts and skied with their dad as they grew up. Blitz and his wife have taken up cycling and enjoy weekend rides. He rode in this year’s Cycle Oregon.
“He’s a type-A personality, a go-getter,” says Heather Toland with DoveLewis Animal Emergency Hospital in Portland, who certified the pair as an animal-therapy team. “He’s been a good advocate for the field of animal-assisted therapy.”
Blitz’s clients are also on the receiving end of his advocacy.
“Akin is a client’s lawyer, as opposed to a lawyer’s lawyer,” observes Garry R. Bullard, longtime partner at the firm who is now semi-retired. “He’s interested in solving clients’ problems and keeping them out of trouble, rather than making a test case out of it” and grandstanding. “He’s outgoing, gregarious, a bulldog kind of guy.”