By Marthe Love
How does one begin to thank two heroes who, by their generosity of spirit and tireless efforts, have forever enriched the lives of many strangers? Publicly acknowledging their important, selfless work is a start.
It began three years ago in December, 2010, when I wandered into my local SPCA to deliver some much-needed supplies. We had sadly lost our wonderful Black Labrador, Jake, several months before and we were all missing him greatly, including our other dog, Stella. When Jake passed, Stella would lie in his bed, face the wall and stay there – disinterested in her regular routine of play and walks. By the time December rolled around, I knew we would need to get her a mate in the coming months. After dropping off the supplies, I mentioned I would start checking their site after the holidays to look for a suitable puppy for Stella. The woman immediately told me about an amazing litter of nine puppies that had just that morning been posted on their site for adoption...and four were already gone! Would I like to have a peek at the remaining pups...? At that precise moment, the Mom – a beautiful mix of Collie and Border Collie breeds was brought to the front for her daily walk. She looked and acted like the epitome of sweetness and calm – everything I would look for in a puppy. Of course, I would take a “look” at the puppies. Suffice to say, it was confirmed that my Christmas present from my family that year would be a playmate for Stella and on December 4, we welcomed a new puppy into her forever home.
Charlotte was gorgeous, gentle, calm and very affectionate. Stella was polite when we arrived with a “visitor”. They played and hung out together. Then Stella (who was nine at this point) sat in front of me and gave me that “when is she leaving?” look. When it was apparent this young thing wasn’t leaving, she seemed a bit unimpressed but after a couple days, she resigned herself to the fact that this was her new roommate, they resumed their play and quickly became best of buds.
My sons pointed out, and rightly so, that although gentle Charlotte was a loving soul, she was also a wonderful tomboy and we changed her name to Charli.
The local shelter had given me a few details of our new puppy’s past – such as their approximate birthday and that they had come from northern Manitoba. But when Charli was about 12 weeks old, a woman approached me at our local dog beach. And, after watching the two dogs frolicking in the surf, she asked me Charli’s age and where she was from.
After a bit of conversation, the woman introduced herself as Kathryn Poole and explained that it had been her husband, Larry, and she who had rescued the Mom and her litter in Manitoba and brought them to our local SPCA. She proceeded to tell me this remarkable story of their rescue, at which point, I got choked up and I believe I gave her a hug. We had been sitting on a log at the beach and Charli came up to Kathryn, gave her a good sniff and then practically got in her lap in an attempt to give her a puppy hug. It was a fantastic coincidence that we met!
Since that day, Kathryn and I have become friends. My only regret is that I have not yet had the pleasure and honour of meeting her husband, Larry. Perhaps he’s been avoiding the occasion because his wife has warned him of my enthusiasm and the inevitability of a heartfelt hug! More likely, he has been working another long six-month stretch, but I am hoping that when he returns I will have the opportunity to thank him in person.
In the meantime, I organized a Reunion Party to celebrate their 3rd birthday on September 29. With the help of my local SPCA and one of the other owners, I was able to make contact with almost all of the pup parents. September 29 was unfortunately a blustery, rainy day of almost epic proportions. But that didn’t stop the owners of eight out of nine puppies from showing up with dogs in tow. I had arrived early with balloons, pup party bags along with my homemade meatballs as an enticement for the all-important group shot. Most of the owners had never met and most of the dogs had not seen each other since they were littermates. In an amazing case of serendipity, one of the owners who I had met in the past just happened to be walking by when she saw me and my balloons. She hadn’t seen my email but had decided to go to that particular place for a walk that day! I had also invited Kathryn as an honoured guest as none of the other owners had met her or heard the full rescue story and she had only seen Charli since the puppies had been adopted. It was great fun to meet everyone and see so many of the dogs. I am planning to organize a spring reunion with hopefully all nine of the dogs and their Mom, Luna.
The real story I wanted to tell you was that of Charli’s wonderful rescue from a tentative beginning to the best life a dog could have.
Bush Pilot, Larry Poole who flies all over northwestern Canada, has been rescuing puppies and dogs in need since 2001. He works with local natives to get dogs and litters off the reserves and brings them to shelters – and in some cases, Larry and Kathryn foster and/or adopt the dogs into their home.
On this occasion, he went to the Wasagamack First Nations Reserve, 300 miles south of Churchill, Manitoba. There he visited a female dog named Lady Di, who had produced a new litter about three weeks before. Unfortunately, she had developed a case of mastitis so bad one of her nipples was ripped open and she was very sick. Although, she was still trying to breastfeed her litter, she was having great difficulty doing so. Larry visited her, bringing her food to try and keep her strong, but she was not doing well. He was given permission to take the litter but it took several days, some negotiation and $200 on his part to get the owner to agree to let him take Lady Di with her pups.
Larry took the Mom with her litter in a box on his Beaver bush plane to Winnipeg. It was there that his wife, Kathryn, met him to assist with the care of this family in need. They took them to the Brandon SPCA, where their veterinarian immediately put Lady Di on puppy-safe antibiotics. He told them that if she had gone much longer in this state, she could have died and possibly her puppies along with her.
As soon as the Mom was a bit stronger, Larry and Kathryn made the three day drive from Winnipeg to Vancouver, supplementing the Mom’s bit of feeding with regular intervals of formula out of baby bottles.
Upon their return home, they took the family to the West Vancouver SPCA. Larry and Kathryn visited them every day. Lady Di healed up very quickly after the vet’s care and they took her for daily walks.
On December 4 and 5th, 2010 all of the puppies were adopted out of the shelter. Two weeks later, Lady Di (renamed Luna) was adopted by a wonderful family who drove all the way from their home in Sechelt, BC to pick her up.
Larry and Kathryn are dedicated and proactive dog rescue supporters who are involved with helping several organizations and, who deserve much recognition for their diligent efforts and success stories.
They are also huge proponents of the 3 Month Birth Control Pill for female dogs. They both believe this pill is the best chance there currently is of cutting down on the overpopulation of dogs on native reserves. If people like Larry are willing to bring the pill onto the reserves and administer them to the female dogs, then the locals are more willing to support the program. It may not stop the pregnancies entirely, but it can reduce them significantly to a point that is more manageable. The problem with spaying the females is the cost and complexity of the program. It requires vets and their staff to volunteer their services and it is not easy to make arrangements to set up near or on the reserves to perform the surgeries. The other problem is when the medical personnel leave the community; the dogs may not get the proper after-care to ensure their health and sometimes survival. The Birth Control Pill, however, would virtually eliminate all of these difficulties.
In sitting down with Kathryn recently to confirm details of the rescue story, I was struck, not just by their selfless efforts to save and improve the lives of dogs, but also by the fact that it takes a network of individuals in order to succeed. And that anyone, with any means can help.
I am often told by friends and associates that they would love to do more, if only they had more time and/or money. From talking with Kathryn and from my own experience, it is possible to make a significant difference with little or no money and without large time commitments.
I am a supporter of my local SPCA shelter and although my funds are limited, I make a pre-arranged, modest monthly donation to the BCSPCA. Last year, I also discovered a wonderful program through SPCA International called Operation Baghdad Pups. Although I don’t make a monthly donation to them, I subscribe to their regular emails. When certain stories tug at my heartstrings and my purse-strings cooperate, I make a donation to help re-unite a soldier with an amazing animal – that in most cases has made a remarkable difference in a soldier’s or units’ peace of mind and in many cases has been responsible for assisting in their safety and survival. When a soldier returns home from duty they are unable to bring these animals with them. But with the funds that are raised, SPCA International is then able to go into these war-torn areas to get the animals to safety while making all of the necessary arrangements for quarantine, health checks and international travel. It takes significant funds and an army of their own to ensure a happy reunion. The success stories are heartwarming and amazing!
Every year at Christmas, my kids know to expect an extra donation made in their names as part of their stocking stuffers. As well at Christmastime, I always go to our local SPCA shelter to ask what supplies they are short of and then deliver a box of those items (plus a special supply of bickies and treats).
When my kids were young and having a birthday party, they often asked for donations for the SPCA instead of gifts from friends. I found it inspiring that although I suggested it the first time, they were happy to do it for many years (until they were too old for parties). I’ve also had several garage sales where part-proceeds go to the SPCA. And, I regularly support their fundraising programs such as bringing my dogs to their dog washes and baking cupcakes for National Cupcake Day. In the past, I have participated in the Paws for the Cause dog walk by creating my fundraising page online and walking on the day with my dogs.
I also subscribe online to the animalrescuesite.com, which sends me daily notices so I can easily link to their site. There it takes me all of about five seconds to click the box to give food to shelter animals – for free! I do this every day.
I believe that every little bit can make a big difference. But aside from my own small efforts, I have always felt I wanted to do more to support the cause of animal advocacy. I know full well that I am someone who is easily traumatized by the horrible details of some stories and as a result, I would not be good on the front lines of animal rescue from abusive situations. In speaking with Kathryn, however, I am reminded there are many programs and organizations already in place where more help is always needed. If you have a bit of time, it takes little or no money to offer your services to support one of the many groups. You can take a look at your own interests and experience and offer services suited to you, such as dog walking, baking, office help, telephone and online support, driving, buying or picking up and delivering supplies, photographing animals to be listed online for adoption, fostering and of course, adopting animals into your home.
It does take a network of people and organizations such as the SPCA and SPCA International to save animals and in doing so enhance our lives as lucky owners. But in fact, it can take only one person’s (or in this case, one couple’s) caring and willingness to make a huge difference in the lives of ten dogs, including our sweet Charli, and to enrich our lives by saving hers.
So, thank you Kathryn and Larry for all you do.