HOW WE BEGAN

My husband Paul and I had not planned to go into rescue work. We actually knew nothing about it at all. We had made many plans for our retirement but none of them included living with an abundance of dogs.

I had been volunteering at the Muskoka branch of the OSPCA when I fostered a dog named Toby. Paul and I were both impressed by his warm, calm and loving temperament. Toby was so willing and eager to belong and more than ready to be devoted to us. We wanted to adopt Toby ourselves and add him to our pack of two Airedales but he had already been spoken for. He had to be returned to the shelter after just three days.

I asked the shelter manager where Toby had come from since he was such a different kind of dog than we usually saw. I was told that some girl, named Heidi, brought dogs down from Moosonee and that Toby had been part of the last batch.

I immediately arranged to go up and meet her - simply out of curiosity. Paul and I drove six hours to Cochrane, stayed overnight and boarded the Polar Bear Express train the next morning for the five-hour trip to Moosonee. At first I thought I might write an article about our trip for some magazine and why anyone believed that I don't know as I wasn't a writer and certainly wasn't affiliated with any magazine or paper. I knew in my heart that I wanted to take as many puppies as possible home with me but didn't dare admit it out loud. I didn't just presume that Heidi would allow me to so easily. It seemed like such an exalted position and privilege to me.

We spent three days in Moosonee and visited Moose Factory, which is just across the river. We got to know the other young teachers who helped Heidi with the dogs and we witnessed dismal situations first hand. The rescued dogs stayed in Heidi's house under her care until she could take them down to Muskoka where her parents lived. She had been placing the pups wherever she could find safety for them - often in homes but sometimes in shelters when she had to. I was surprised to learn that most shelters didn't want to take the pups and that Heidi often had to pay to leave them there or have them spayed/neutered first.

It was agreed that sending the dogs to me and having me place them would be more effective and I was thrilled to become part of the rescue network.

At the end of our visit we brought out two pups and we have been rescuing ever since. I must admit that we thought rescuing puppies mostly meant playing with them until we could find them wonderful homes. We hadn't counted on Parvo Virus, parasites, Kennel Cough, Distemper and more. Nor had we considered severe injuries due to cruelty, neglect and abuse. We learned quickly because we had to and we now know how to nurse orphan puppies through their first few weeks of life and how to prevent cross contamination between litters. We have heard brutally sad stories that we never could have imagined but the dogs have taught us to forgive.