Their story, although shocking, is not new.
Fifteen dogs found abandoned on one foot chains. Three were dead and the others were close behind.
Tethered by a trapper’s hut in the Long Lac Greenstone area of Ontario. There was no food. No water. It was February 2017.
The OSPCA agents along with Thunder Bay & District Humane Society and Greenstone Want a Pet Rescue worked to bring the dogs into care.
“When the 12 dogs entered the shelter, they were unable to walk, were barely breathing, and were extremely emaciated. These 12 are emotionally, physically, and mentally bruised.”
These were sled dogs. And if you know me at all or follow my advocacy work, you’ll know my love for sled dogs. I’ve met and photographed hundreds of retired sled dogs since 2012. And although the horrific events in Whistler in 2010 brought to light the plight of dogs used in both the commercial and sport racing industries, the abuse continues and the myths about these dogs prevail. ”They’re working dogs, they’re different”, “They love what they do”. “I love my dogs, I treat them like family” are all statements still claimed by those in the industry. But here’s the problem… sled dogs are actually just dogs. Mixed breeds built for speed and endurance and to make money for the humans who are supposed to take care of them. And like all dogs, they are entitled to a certain level of care. But when the money dries up or is spent elsewhere, the dogs lose. Abandoned, turned loose, sold, given away, or killed. I say this not to be dramatic, but because more often than not, it's the truth.
These twelve dogs, along with another 17 found on the property survived and are now getting a second chance at life, as pets.
Tuesday night I accompanied my fellow Victoria Humane Society volunteers to the Victoria International Airport to welcome and meet the first two of eight of those very special “sleddies” who will be retiring to the west coast. With the remarkable community that has grown because of the sleddies here out west, the staff and volunteers at the Thunder Bay and District Humane Society agreed to entrust us with some of their special crew.
Mary Kate and Ashley were to arrive at 8:59, but their flight from Vancouver was delayed once… then twice. At 9:24 they arrived.
They were the first "baggage" to arrive at the claim area - Ashley in the lead, then Mary Kate.
The kennels were off loaded and moved to the side. Opened carefully so the dogs could be double-leashed for safety. First out was Ashley. She came out willingly and her GPS unit was attached right away. When Mary Kate came out of her crate [leashed and GPS'd], she spied Ashley, tucked in right behind her, and rested her head on Ashley’s back.
The production, along with the neon welcome signs had created a stir, and a crowd had gathered to watch. People were wondering what the fuss was all about - why was everyone hugging, laughing, smiling and wiping away tears? And how cute were these dogs!? When we told them they were sled dogs, people were amazed at their size. “They’re so small”, “They’re sled dogs?”. So after a short educational moment with those who were interested, we finished our q + a, gave huge thanks to the wonderful women who helped make their escort to us possible (thank you Debra and Joanne!) and then it was time for the girls to walk on the west coast. A chance for a potty break first and then off to the van where the girls jumped in without hesitation. Once secured inside, off they went.
Mary Kate and Ashley will be in foster with the Victoria Humane Society and once they are spayed, they will be ready for adoption.
There are so many people who made this possible - I can't name them all and I don't know them all - from the people who first saw them in distress and spoke up for them to those who brought them to safety, to the people who co-ordinated flights and transportation, to those who have cheered them on along the way, to the gem of a woman, Debbie, who will be fostering them. A second chapter is beginning for these girls and if it's turns out like the gaggle of sleddies I know already in retirement, it's going to be pretty fantastic.
Donations to help pay for their spay surgeries, food while in foster and flights for the remaining sleddies coming our way are greatly appreciated and can be done through the VHS website with a click of the big orange button on the homepage HERE!
To follow more of their story and the remaining sleddies coming into care, please visit the Victoria Humane Society facebook page.
If you or someone you know will be travelling from Thunder Bay or Toronto, Ontario, and are interested in being a pet escort to help bring a couple remaining sleddies to Victoria, please contact the Victoria Humane Society. It's super easy and won't cost you a thing!
More links about their rescue:
Thunder Bay Newswatch
Thunder Bay & District Humane Society facebook page
Let the love begin!