Forty-seven homeless dogs on the Goose Bay tarmac waiting for a plane; then the same 47 on another tarmac in Halifax — all to have homes within weeks. I’d like to have seen it, but that was last July and I was somewhere else doing other things.
I’m a dog person. I can’t help it. Dogs are my favourite people.
They are always ready when you need them even if you don’t know they’re there.
They ask nothing in return except a kind word, a gentle touch and a little bit of food — if you have any to spare.
If I’d been more involved last summer I could have helped the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA get the 47 southbound hounds onto their donated flight to new homes in Nova Scotia. Luckily, since Federal Express promised it could divert another empty cargo plane every year, I’ll have more chances to make myself useful.
In the meantime, there’s another way I might help. What I can do is repeat an appeal on behalf of the SPCA, which is trying to raise enough funds to be able to pour the foundations of a new animal shelter as soon as the ground thaws.
There’s no question the current 12-year-old shelter is inadequate to meet the constantly heavy demands on its services. Those 47 dogs were not all able to stay within the 980-square-foot building. As usual, the many not fostered out had to share the small space with a handful of cats and the SPCA’s office desk. There is an exterior fenced-in area, but not many dogs can be left outdoors when temperatures plunge far below zero.
The number of animals needing transport last summer was in no way unusually high. Forty-seven is about average. Once the shelter was emptied of them it filled up again in less than a week — as expected. Labrador has a disturbing capacity to produce stray dogs.
At times their numbers grow so great they roam in packs on the outskirts of communities.
Despite sparse resources and meagre facilities, the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA has been successful at rescuing and sheltering needful animals since the year 2000. It’s never been easy.
Even if all of the rescued animals were healthy, their numbers alone could overwhelm the SPCA’s efforts. But tragically many of the dogs and cats are ill, or have been severely and cruelly wounded through mischance or mistreatment — such as one young female who’d been rescued while pregnant. She was near to starving to death and was trying to heal from both a lost foot and a ragged stab wound.
The SPCA’s current plans will result in a shelter that’s more than two-and-a-half times the size of the old one.
It will house eight kennels (each large enough for a pair of grown dogs, or a single mother with a litter), a cat room, a maternity room, a sickbay and a separate fully functioning office space — no more kittens traipsing across keyboards!
The SPCA and its supporters have been raising money for a year and a half. Their goal has been to collect $200,000, canvassing businesses and individuals for direct donations and for merchandise and services that can be auctioned online on Facebook. The SPCA has so far collected around $60,000 — a fair amount, but still well short of the mark.
Recently, a St. John’s real estate company changed the promising start into something that could be up and running by summer. Exit Realty on the Rock has promised to help raise half of the funds needed for construction, but to earn them the SPCA needs to finish raising its half over the winter and be ready to build by spring. The pledge requires that the new shelter be open by June.
The deal doesn’t give the SPCA much time, but it gives it everything else it needs — if you don’t count land. The SPCA still needs to figure out where the shelter will go: in Goose Bay’s northside industrial park, or maybe down beside Mud Lake Road. Besides that, what hundreds of Labrador dogs need most right now are people willing to support the fundraising efforts of Exit Realty on the Rock and the SPCA in Labrador.
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.