IFAW Canada: High-Flying Adventures for Rescued Dogs
The following report is coming from Jan Hannah, Project Manager of International Fund for Animal Welfare's "Northern Dogs" initiative, which centers its work on the dogs living in remote impoverished communities of northern Canada.
It happened as it usually does with a phone call or an email. But this time the request was slightly different. Rather than someone from a community serviced by IFAW’s Northern Dogs Project asking for help, the request was from an external source looking to move dogs from a community in northern Ontario. A teacher working in the northern community had contacted the Ontario SPCA in Newmarket to ask for help with a family of dogs that the teachers had been feeding. While the OSPCA was committed to receiving the dogs at this end, they needed help moving the dogs from the north to the south. To do this, they enlisted the help of a dog transport service to sort out the logistics and IFAW for input on removing dogs from a First Nations community.
Moving dogs often begins with someone feeding them in the community and ends with finding them a home… which is often far away. But, in between are a whole host of issues and logistics that need to be taken care of to safely and respectfully remove an animal. Think about it…. at the community end, the dogs are at home and at ease in their environment, whether they are adequately taken care of or not. Most have never been inside a house or a car, and certainly not on an airplane. This doesn’t mean they can’t acclimatize quickly to a different way of life, it just means that it needs to be part of the decision-making process. And again, just because a dog is roaming doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t have an owner -- it’s imperative to have the owner’s permission before thinking about re-homing anyone. This goes for moving a dog from Thailand or Ecuador or China…. or northern Ontario.
The first dog the teachers wanted to help was three-year-old Rosie, the matriarch of this particular dog family. Rosie lived outside the teachers’ houses with her two-year-old pup Teddy, her one-year-old pup Waffles, her 14-week-old pups Bobbi and Little Girl, and Waffles’ four newborn pups – two males and two females who would be almost seven weeks old at the time of transport. The teachers fed the family daily and had begun to let Rosie into their home during the day. Shy Teddy, the male of the group, would often stand behind the other dogs and watch as they entered the house. His adventurous younger ‘sister’ Waffles didn’t share his concern and was outwardly friendly to people and other dogs. Amazingly, Waffles even let Rosie watch over her newborn puppies, and allowed all the other dogs in the doghouse (that the teachers had built for them) at night.
Getting dogs from the north to the south requires work at both ends. In the north, the teacher had moved the pups inside and Waffles was learning to go inside to feed them. She was also getting the older ones used to crates for their travel.
Down south, the core group of dog transport, OSPCA, IFAW and the foster family, were working on logistics. Dog transport was working daily on finding dog-friendly flights, figuring out how many dogs could fly per ticket, finding people to add a dog on their plane ticket, organizing the donation and shipment of crates to the community (crates are not available in the communities), finding foster homes for pups flown out early, locating drivers, looking into dog-friendly hotels, and on and on. Lots and lots of emails, phone calls and people doing their thing on the ground are necessary for the smooth and safe transfer of the animals. It’s amazing who comes out of the woodwork to make a dog move successful!
And successful it was. Waffles and her four pups, as well as Bobbi and Little Girl arrived safely at the OSPCA in Newmarket. Waffles and her pups flew the whole way whereas Bobbi and Little Girl, flew, stayed in foster, and then traveled by car for 16 hours. For the next few weeks, each will be treated by the OSPCA for whatever parasites they have brought with them, and then vaccinated and spayed/neutered before finding their committed forever homes. The next transport, which includes Rosie and Teddy, will occur mid-April and logistics are ongoing. It has been a gratifying partnership, and one that highlights the commitment of a whole range of people (strangers!) who came together to be part of the next step in the lives of Rosie’s family. If you are interested in being part of a story like this, find your local dog transport group, animal rescue, or humane society and start to volunteer. The dogs will thank you!