When there are stars out at night that are distinctly bright, I know one of my dogs is watching over me. Trillium has her own light tree just outside the front door that burns constantly in her memory. A small tree, just off to the side of our road, holds bells and crystals that represent the dogs we have loved and lost. Trumpet, Will and Mabel lend their strength and support always. Still, at this moment in time, none of the tender tributes, memories of other lives saved or warm noses nudging me gently will help right now. The anger, disbelief and horror I feel will not be quelled easily this time. Sixteen hundred dogs have not prepared me for the casual cruelty and complete disregard shown to this young dog I named Birch.  

Birch was flown out of Attawapiskat just hours before he would have been found dead among some rubbish piled behind a garage. All his ten months of life gave him was the misery of a shrunken stomach and shriveled intestine. This pup knew only the suffering of starvation. He was not abandoned, he lived among a family and shared their home. He watched teenagers’ snack often and parents eat well. The family was not impoverished, they could have fed him, they just didn’t care to. Birch is a pretty boy so maybe he was kept simply as a trophy or a pleasing distraction. His protruding spine and exposed ribs did not diminish his appeal as he has a sweet disposition. The infection in both his eyes caused a squint that to most, would make him look needy. Not to the family that lived with him though, they were still able to ignore him. His sinus infection caused an unpleasant nasal drip so that may have given them reason to turn away from him. Birch would have tried to reach for food himself I am sure but when he rises to place his paws on a table or counter he simply slumps to the ground because he has no muscle mass in any part of his body.

The most disgusting neglect did not dishearten this dog though. Suffering and weakness simply dimmed his spirit, it did not burn it out. I feel certain he never considered giving up or running away. He seems satisfied somehow. Not content, but okay with the little he was offered. He must have believed humans are better than they are and assumed they had good reason to treat him the way they did.

It was when the family discovered Birch was riddled with internal parasites that they threw him out the door into the bitter northern cold. He must have thrown up a ball of worms in order for them to have noticed him at all. In time, their fear of catching anything this dog was shedding on their property drove them to don gloves and cram him in a box. I’m sure they rarely touched him in the past but it was certain they never would now. He was taken to our rescue worker up there and after one look at the scrawny, malnourished dog before him a surrender form was presented and signed.

No time was wasted in getting Birch on a flight out and we paid for his fare. Cargo is charged by weight though so he would have cost far less than the mom and pups we flew out recently or the dog with the shattered hip that came out the month before that. Seems there is little mercy for the innocent.

I was foolishly confused when Birch first arrived. Because he did not have the usual worn and torn look of a dog that has been neglected outside for months, I knew he must have lived indoors with people. This is not often the case with northern dogs so I wrongly reasoned that if he had been allowed inside, someone must have cared about him. Even after all we have witnessed over the years, I could not imagine someone willingly watching a dog starve slowly to death if there had been a choice. Nothing had prepared me to imagine that. I had worried about the people, and perhaps children, who had lived with Birch. Were they starving too? Wasted worry as it turned out. Further information caused me to abandon my initial plan to send, what I thought must be much needed food, to a family I had presumed to be in need. I phoned north questioning the situation and learned much more than I wanted to know. I won’t repeat it all, but it is shameful.

So, I am more angry than I can contain. Not because we should be retiring after our years of rescuing and the aging process, or because of ill health. I am not angry because the logistics involved in rescue are exhausting or because the effort of, and worry over raising money is daunting. I am angry because this happened to Birch. I am angry because just months ago, a shy and unassuming girl named Stowe needed pins and a plate inserted to reattach her pelvis after being hit by a vehicle up north. I am angrier still that a slight and darling pup named Fame needed several months of absolute stillness after having her young hip rebuilt. She too was hit by a vehicle but suffered for well over a month before being sent to us. It angers me that Tom almost lost his seven-month-old leg to injury and that darling Danny Boy was unable to win his battle with illness despite the fight he gave.

We want to continue and the desperate need of these dogs tells us that we have to. We want to be younger but the mirror reminds us that we are not. Living free from aches and pain would be lovely, but accepting reality is our challenge instead.

I haven’t written to complain. I have written to demand. There are more of “us” than “them”, whoever “they” are. More good than bad, more who will than won’t. Every person who has ever felt for the suffering of a dog, needs now to contribute. Every one of you who has ever wished you could help if you only knew how, donate. For every time you have looked away from an image that was too painful to witness, look now at Birch. He is not beyond help, if you respond.

We need donations to cover vet bills. Stowe’s was just under $8,000, Fame’s $5,000, Tom’s $2,500 and Danny Boy’s fight against death cost $5,000. Every dog deserves his or her chance and we have been fortunate enough to give them whatever they need. Life shouldn’t come with a price tag and if it does, together we can pay it. These dogs have suffered with dignity. Could we do the same? They don’t quit and nor should we. Please donate through PayPal on our web site, send an e-transfer to or mail a cheque to 1490 Falkenburg Rd. Bracebridge Ont. P1L 1X4. Tax receipts will be given.

We can’t do all we once did to raise the money needed and most likely, you can’t take dogs in the way you would like to. But, by doing what it is we can do, the work will get done.

I have begun the book and the writing of it is a joy. Please become part of the story. Thank you. Sharron             

Sharron Purdy