Hot Off The Collar Blog

Big Paws – Across Canada; a community of hope

Hot Off the Collar | Volume 12

Working in an animal shelter is difficult at the best of times. When I try to explain it to friends they often put a hand up and stop me before I can go too far. They simply can’t hear it; the stories of heartbreak, injuries or illness are too hard for many to acknowledge. For those of us who’ve chosen this field, we don’t have a choice and for the most part, we’re okay with that. We understand that our role is to rescue, nurture, comfort and heal. We also know that without donors, supporters and sponsors none of our work would be possible. That’s why live events are so important to us. They provide opportunities to meet the people that keep us up and running, they create kindred spirit connections and most of all, they give us hope on the darkest days.

Unfortunately, COVID has temporarily halted all our events. In March we lost Unleash the Treats. In April, we lost Bowl for the Animals and in July, we had to put a hold on the upcoming Big Paws; our largest fundraising event. For 22 years, Big Paws was always the beautiful sunset at the end of summer. As the days got shorter and vacations disappeared like a cloud of dust on a country road, Big Paws stood ahead of us on the horizon with the promise of reuniting care-givers with happy dogs. It was our chance to catch-up and renew our spirits.

So as you can imagine, when we sat down to try to come up with alternatives to 
Big Paws the virtual world didn’t offer us much solace. ZOOM is a poor substitute for hanging out at the park with two Newfoundlands, three Bernese Mountain Dogs, six Chihuahuas and a Puggle. We talked about many options; videos of staff walking dogs, physically distanced volunteer dog-walking, even animated dog-walks. We finally settled on asking people to register and walk their dogs for a certain distance. Once the idea of a goal surfaced, we started to throw around numbers like 500 or 1,000 kilometres. 100 people could probably do that pretty easily right? Maybe we should set a higher goal and make it a challenge. It was then that a red and white light bulb began to shine over our collective heads. Let’s make it a virtual walk across Canada. “That’s about 7,000 kilometres,” I said. “Is that too much?”

Well, it might be, but we’ve never done anything the easy way here at the KHS so now is no time to back down from a challenge.

That’s how 
Big Paws – Across Canada came to be and the more we talked about it to our staff, volunteers, board and supporters, the more we knew it was the right idea. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, truly patriotic and along the way, something else happened. The regret and sadness at losing the traditional Big Paws was replaced by excitement and an air of expectation. We all began to imagine ourselves walking alongside hundreds, maybe thousands of others to achieve a common goal of crossing our great country. Suddenly Big Paws – Across Canada was restoring that connection to the community of individuals and organizations that support us in our mandate.

As I write this we’re preparing to take in more than 20 cats from an indescribable hording situation. Next week, we’ll accept a transfer of several dogs that have been saved from a dog meat farm in Korea. These are typical days for our incredible staff. They don’t complain or whine. They don’t say, “No”. They simply accept the responsibility of animal care-givers and do what it takes. Every once in a while, it helps to look up and see something in the distance that’s fun or joyful. 
Big Paws – Across Canada is just that and with your help, by October 15th, we’ll be virtually dipping our collective “Big Paws” in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland.

Here’s to brighter days, long walks and the connection of kindred spirits.

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