Being shameless dog lovers, we can all relate to this following scene:
You sit in rush hour traffic for an hour after a long day of work. You pull up your street or pull into your alley. You park your car in front of your house, or in your driveway or garage. Getting into the house, you know to bow your knees a bit and put your things down because not a second later, a flurry of furry happy comes barreling toward you. All of the cares of the day wash away in slobbery kisses and butt scratches. Your nice straight slacks or sharp black skirt now doing double duty as a miracle brush, picking up all the flying dog hair.
We love that. We would give anything to keep moments like that forever. For a lot of us, those slobbery moments of love and abandon are items on a list of things that, let’s face it, many of us take for granted.
For around 5 to 10% of homeless people in many cities, however, that kind of love an adoration is practically a lifeline. 5 to 10% – and sometimes as many as 24% – of homeless people, according to the nonprofit Pets of the Homeless, are proud pet parents.
When you’re homeless, you’re meandering from one place to another, picking up what piece work you can, taking generous handouts, and curling up in alleys, parks, and riverbanks. So, for those homeless who have adopted fur kids, having that companion to depend on actually becomes a reason to keep going.
For homeless pet parents, having someone to depend on you is a huge boost to your resolve.
I personally remember commuting to and from Crescent Heights High School and meeting many homeless people in the Downtown Core who had dogs in their care. I didn’t see so many cats, but I figured there must be homeless cat people, too. I was always struck by the balance and even temperament of these dogs. You could tell that there was a strong bond here, regardless of the circumstances.
Why not show them some support for being such good pet parents?
Vets To Go – Giving Back
When Vets To Go invited us to cover their free veterinary outreach they were offering for homeless pet parents on a sunny Tuesday morning at The Mustard Seed in Calgary, I could barely contain my excitement. What an opportunity to help spread the awareness of these touching and inspiring stories!
If you’ve never had the chance to take in an event at The Mustard Seed, understand that these folks are a very close knit, protective family. This is what I found out when I arrived at the Mustard Seed’s loading area on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. I quickly introduced myself to the pink shirts of the Vets To Go team and set to work taking in all the information – and pictures – that I could. It wasn’t long before I was stopped by The Mustard Seed’s communications advisor, and former CTV reporter/producer, Ms. Karen Owen.
“Hi! And who are you with?” she asked.
After stammering a bit (okay, I do my best work behind a keyboard!), I identified myself as a representative of this lil ol’ blog called Dogs YYC. Ms. Owen then introduced herself and said, simply and gently, “We are very protective of our people.”
From that point, Dogs YYC got a first hand look at how dedicated homeless people really are to their pets. And how dedicated Calgary is to its homeless. In all, 13 dogs and 6 cats were treated by Dr. Wendy McClelland and her team of professionals (you can count 3 more veterinarians in their number) who were all volunteering their time that day. The loading area was set up with tables all over for animal intake. A table in the center of the garage was home to boxes of products like Revolution, Advantix, Profender, and Clavaseptin and a cooler was stocked with vaccinations for kennel cough, rabies, parvo/distemper/adnovirus, etc. All of these supplies afforded by a generous grant from the aforementioned nonprofit, Pets of the Homeless.
Next to the door was a towering assortment of treats, food, toys, clothes, and even a few carriers. All generously donated by concerned Calgarians, not the least of which is Sleep Rover, a very well reputed doggy daycare, spa, and kennel. These puppies and kitties were getting set up very well!
Also in attendance was the “creative ninja”, founder of great ideas, Aubri Poon. Aubri is a local Photographer who had volunteered her time to take pictures of the animals who came in with their parents. She had even brought in a fantastic printer with which she could provide prints of these touching photos.
Together Through Thick and Thin
If anyone is harbouring any issues about homeless people that have pets, your worries would probably melt away very quickly at an event such as this. I mean, I knew that homeless people cared about their pets (Why else would you have a pet?) but I should say shame on me for not considering how well versed these folks were in the health of their pets.
I met Bob who came in with Misty, a small Bichon shih tzu cross who, at 16 years old, was very active and very attuned to the goings on around her. “She’s lost 7lbs since last Christmas,” Bob told me. “I think she’s diabetic. Her eyes were clouded over – cataracts – but now they’re a lot better.” Bob’s last bichon cross lived to be 23 years old.
I met Bailey and Shadow – a father and son team – who came in with their family. Bailey was 21 years young and had a surprising store of energy. Bailey and Shadow took awhile with their checkups as their family – a couple and a friend of theirs – reported the dogs’ health history and took in all the advice.
There was even a striking wolf hybrid (with one white eye and one brown eye – so cool), named Wild1, who came in. He looked as though he had a heavy brushing before coming in for his check up. His mom said he was originally from Cuba. He even has his own Facebook page.
While all pets received the same amount of high level care and attention, there seemed to be a crowd favourite who came in around an hour after the event started. An 8 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Lab cross by the name of Honey and her dad, Brad (sporting a magnificent Viking beard). Honey actually modeled as the poster child for the whole event riding around in Brad’s shopping cart with all his worldly possessions.
“There isn’t much else that I feel attached to,” said Brad of Honey in an interview he did with Global News. Brad, originally from Winnipeg, recalled finding anywhere he could to sleep, all the while having Honey by his side. He has recently found himself in affordable housing and is even looking into becoming an Off Leash Ambassador with the City of Calgary Community Standards. When Honey’s checkup was done, she helped her dad pack a bag or two of goodies – squirreling away no less than one toy for herself.
A Love that Knows No Bounds
What I noticed while covering the event was how clean, healthy, and well-mannered all these dogs seemed to be. The only exception I saw was one little Schnauzer named Viking wanted to show some love to Shadow. For sure, the good doctors on staff that day would determine the health of all these animals but just by the fact that these dogs were brought in to be looked over by certified veterinarians, get vaccinated, and even get their nails clipped shows the depth of consideration these pet parents have. Many pets were licensed and a few were even spayed and neutered.
Many of the dogs we met were getting on in age which says, if nothing else, that these folks are diligent providers to their fur kids in every way possible for the duration of their pets’ lives. Which spans decades in some cases!
There is something truly awe-inspiring about these relationships when you break it down. For one, as I have said a few times, the care is so clearly there. Do some of these dogs and cats sleep outside? Sure. What do their relatives in the wild do? No, these animals get the necessities. When you strip away the finery – especially the expensive beds, carriers, and designer toys that industry has blessed us with – you see something magnificent in the way we people and their animals prop each other up. These dogs and cats get fed, loved, and even entertained and in return they provide their hoomans with something far stronger. Connection. Companionship. The kind of attachment that many other people – even those who might appear to have everything – may long for very deeply.
Thank You for Making Us a Part of It
It may have been a few small hours on a random Tuesday, but the impact was huge. We would like to thank Jessica from Vets To Go for inviting Dogs YYC to cover this momentous event.
Doctors Wendy McClelland, Kristi Jacobson, Tegan Olesen, Destinee Dummer, and the rest of the Vets To Go team, you have given back to your community in a huge way. Thank you for helping make Calgary even more special.
To all those at The Mustard Seed, you do wonderful things for disadvantaged Calgarians and I don’t think you are recognized enough for it.
Thank you, Ms. Karen Owen for being a staunch but kind protector for the people who can’t always speak for themselves.
Thank you, Ms. Aubri Poon for volunteering your time to take fantastic photographs of these fur kids for their moms and dads to cherish. Raw photos are better than no photos, right? 😉
GOOD JOB CALGARY!
This was all possible because of your heart and your commitment to help each other out.
We look forward to covering another event like this. If your company is going the extra mile, just contact us to let us know when and where and we will try to make it. We love nothing more than to show the world how connected and committed we are to each other… and our puppies!
Enjoy some more pictures of all the work done by the great doctors and staff at Vets To Go through their free veterinary outreach at the Mustard Seed Calgary.