Extreme cold challenges Dog Rescue

BEDR volunteer Dawn Galan snuggles with eight-week-old Rottweiler mix Jelly at a dog adoption event in January. Jelly and his littermates were born in November, a particularly dangerous time of year for newborn puppies to be outdoors. Photo by Julia Peterson.

By Julia Peterson

It was -50 degrees with wind chill when Jackie King, a constable with the La Loche RCMP, got a call from a concerned citizen about a dog and five puppies left outdoors.

“We were able to remove the mom and four of the puppies – I pulled the mom out, and then I passed the four puppies to my partner,” she said. “The fifth puppy was frozen to the ground by the abdomen because there was no floor to the doghouse, so I took my multitool knife and basically cut the puppy out of the ice.

“And then … I gave Bright Eyes Dog Rescue a call. I’ve worked with them for close to three years now, and they were able to give us a hand getting them placed.”

Bright Eyes Dog Rescue (BEDR) coordinated with its network of over 200 volunteers across the province to transport all six dogs from La Loche to the Weyburn Humane Society, over eight hours away. According to BEDR board chair Candace Williamson, winter can be particularly challenging for the rescue because they receive a higher-than-normal volume of calls for help.

“When the temperature was quite low we were getting multiple requests per day about dogs being out in the cold that needed to be placed,” Williamson said. “As a rescue, we don’t have a physical location – we operate out of foster homes – so we can only take in as many dogs as we can place into a home.

“We oftentimes get more requests than we do have available spots. We’ve also had a lot of litters of puppies being born, and when it’s -40 their likelihood of survival is very, very low. So we try to get pregnant moms in before they have babies.”

Williamson said BEDR has about 40 dogs currently placed in foster homes across southern Saskatchewan, with six more coming Thursday. All these dogs will stay with BEDR volunteers for a minimum of two weeks before they go up for adoption and some may stay longer if they need medical attention or training, or if they are puppies. Since BEDR has only 30 to 40 continuously active foster homes, this brings them close to capacity.

“It’s harder in the winter months, too, because a lot of people are taking hot vacations, so our fosters aren’t always able to help out simply because they’ll be gone for a period of time,” said Williamson.

BEDR volunteer Dawn Galan was one of three volunteers staffing an adoption event in January where potential adopters met eight-week-old puppies Cinnamon, Jelly and Sprinkle. These littermates were placed at BEDR in early winter, just as six dogs BEDR had introduced to the public in November were adopted.

“During the wintertime there’s always a higher demand for places for dogs, and of course a higher need for feeding them and having extra piddle pads and extra blankets and extra beds, and even medication,” Galan said.

In the middle of the January cold snap that saw Regina hit its longest consecutive period of hours with -25 degree wind chill in more than 15 years, BEDR put out an urgent call for help on its Facebook page, asking for donations of supplies and money, volunteers to transport dogs and people willing to open their homes to foster animals.

“We received five new foster applications and 18 volunteer applications and we also received some monetary donations,” Williamson said. “People are really quite receptive.”

As an RCMP constable, King said collaborating with organizations like BEDR is vital for ensuring animal welfare, particularly during the cold months.

“We are placing a large amount of dogs out of the community, given the extreme weather, that are either surrendered, unwanted, or found abandoned and in need of placement,” King said. “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have the relationships that we do with multiple different rescues.”

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