Rubbing my weary eyes and cranking the music up once again to combat the rain playing its own tune on the bonnet, I surprised myself with an audible sigh of relief as it wasn’t much further to the magical west coast of Vancouver Island that I loved visiting as a kid. Now, approaching my 30s, Tofino was once again calling me. Los Angeles has been my home for the last two decades, but as I drove the long stretch of the Interstate 5, I can’t help but reflect on what ‘home’ really means.
However, my daydreaming was cut short just a few kilometers outside of Tofino where, fun fact, Canada’s national highway terminates. A sweet orange dog was running along the highway and there wasn’t a human in sight!
Without much time to think, I pulled over to what passes for a shoulder in these parts - a narrow strip of grass that feeds cars to the hungry, deep ditch - and, lured by the rustle of a chocolate bar wrapper (empty! Keep your judgey mcjudgeness to yourself, I know they can't eat chocolate. But I can), I was able to get lil’ dog into the safety of my car. Yesteryear stories of vans cruising around my elementary school driven by candy-dispensing drivers with bad intentions pop to mind. Anyway, we drove a little way, her looking up at me periodically with eyes that told so many stories, before arriving in Tofino.
Once settled into my quonset hut by the beach and after a few selfish Insta-selfies with my new little buddy, I started looking for a local animal shelter to take my furry friend to. That is when I stumbled upon CARE Network. I was already in love with Tofino but knowing that they have a cool animal rescue and shelter made me smitten.
And get this, I texted them and they responded. On a Sunday. Fair, animal emergencies don’t just happen from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. The CARE volunteer and I then chatted on the phone and they explained that the shelter was bustin’ at the seams with feral cats and bitey dogs. But, luckily they could make room at the wayward doggie inn for my hot diggity doggo. Phew!
I was so glad. What would have happened to this scared furball if there hadn't been a room for her and the many dogs and cats like her. My earlier reflections on ‘home’ came back to me again. I realized that ‘home’ is something some animals never have, and with a shelter almost bursting at the seems; where do they go?
I voiced my ponderings to the compassionate CARE girl. She shared how, like a lot of BC animal rescue organizations, the west coast’s animal shelter regularly reaches capacity and then these animal-loving volunteers have to wrestle with the worst of moral dilemmas - do you euthanize one animal to make space or free up resources to save others?
Sounds like the situation animal shelters in LA have been facing for decades. But in Canada? In the land of free healthcare?
Not-so-fun-fact: Canada’s universal healthcare isn’t as universal as one might think. It’s just for humans. I have heard a lot of criticisms about Canada’s young president or whatever he is, but he’s a speciesist too?
The CARE chic also lamented about how the housing crisis in Tofino and the high cost of living make it near-impossible for nonprofits to attract paid staff or to even keep volunteers who they have trained. It sounds like the rising inflation and coming recession are also pushing some people to give up Fido and FruFru. I get it, I have cut back to one golden oat milk latte a week.
I didn’t know that Covid is still having an intense impact on animal rescues and shelters. The situation is pretty dire. Apparently, according to a recent BC survey (pawsforhope.org), 77% of the animal rescues who responded, reported a decrease in adoption applications. At the same time, 69% of the rescues reported an increase in owner surrenders. 50% reported a decrease in available foster homes.
CARE said that they think Covid is a big part of them getting more dogs and cats than ever before, and for the difficulty/near impossible mission of finding new homes for the animals, and for the dogs coming in with more behavioural challenges like extreme anxieties.
Great, now I am feeling anxious about what will become of my found poochie pup. CARE soothed my achy breaky heart when they told me that she would either be reunited with her family, if they can be found, or rehomed after the wannabe fur baby parents were vetted - apparently a thorough process that may rival the FBI’s interrogations at classified black sites.
With puppers’ home situation looking up, I’m going to head to my temporary home on the beach. I think I will jump on carenetwork.ca and donate a few bucks to help other animals find a home.