By LeRae Haynes –
Finding the best home for every animal is the goal of the Williams Lake SPCA.
Not all adoptable animals find local homes, but thanks to a BCSPCA program called Drive for Lives, thousands of homeless animals are transferred every year to other shelters where they can find their forever homes.
According to Williams Lake shelter manager Liz Dighton, that program has been a big benefit for the local branch.
“Last year 597 animals from Williams Lake were sent to the coast for adoption,” she explained. “Generally they’re adopted in less than a week: that’s one of the reasons we do so many transfers. We know the animals will be adopted quickly, making room for new ones that need us.”
It works both ways. “We sometimes bring in animals from northern shelters in places like Fort St. John or Dawson Creek if we have a lot of empty spaces,” she said. “Sometimes they get sent, along with animals from here, to the coast; it all depends on what happens here the following week.
“I try to have space available so when strays come in here we have room for them; we have to make sure we’re here to help the local community that supports us.”
She said that when animals are shipped to the coast from Williams Lake, the local shelter staff checks on them. “We all have our favourites,” she said. “We’re confident that our favourites go to good homes—our training is all matching pets and people for the best benefit.”
Quick animal adoptions on the coast are partly due to the sheer population; there are far fewer unwanted litters of puppies and kittens down there, said Dighton.
She explained there are three ways animals come in to the shelter: animals brought in as strays, owner surrenders, and animals from cruelty investigation cases.
Strays are often brought in by caring members of the public, including community nurses and RCMP members from outlying areas. “They are wonderful: they see a dog in need and they step in to help,” she said.“There’s quite a network of people who all care enough about the animals to bring them to us no matter how far.
“Someone driving to Bella Coola found some puppies on the side of the road at Halfway Ranch, picked them up, brought them to us, then turned around and continued on their way. People go over and above—that’s the cool thing.”
There are people who drive up from the coast to adopt a pet in Williams Lake.
“They’ll fall in love with a puppy on the website,” she said. “Some of them have been searching for months and months—maybe a year.
“They’ll drive up the night before and come to the shelter to spend a couple of hours to make sure it’s the right decision.
“We get updates—sometimes on the year anniversary saying how much they love the animal and how they fit perfectly into their new family,” she said.
One of her favourite success stories is one that hits close to home. “We had a small mixed breed come in – Shih Tzu, Cairn terrier, and something else – a shaggy older dog. No one claimed him. He had a growth the size of a Mandarin orange on his jowl. Once Buddy was the SPCA’s dog we had the growth removed, and while waiting for surgery I took care of him in my own home: I love the small ‘foo foo’ dogs,” she laughed.
Buddy loved Dighton’s year-old granddaughter Keanna, following her around, rolling on his back for belly rubs, and never leaving her side.
“He came to work with me, and one day a gruff old cowboy came in for a dog,” Dighton continued. “He pointed at Buddy and said he’d be OK to adopt.
“I was unsure about his suitability to adopt, but as we sat outside and talked, tears started running down his face as he told me his story. He said that his wife had just passed away after a lengthy illness and he couldn’t go home—the house was too quiet and there were too many memories,” she said.
“I was a softie and let him take Buddy home before the operation to see if they were compatible, and after the successful surgery, he adopted Buddy.
He came back many times to visit over the summer with Buddy,” she said. “This is what they both needed: they love each other.”
She said the whole goal is to make sure it’s the best home for the animal. “We ask a lot of questions and that’s why,” she added. “It’s all about the animal and making sure it’s the best possible home.”
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.