Gabriele Barrie’s red van is becoming a welcomed sight in a remote First Nations community nestled in Kananaskis west of Longview.
On March 21, the founder of Pound Rescue transported three cats and three dogs back to their owners at four Eden Valley homes.
The animals had been spayed and neutered at Highview Animal Clinic in High River for a discounted price of $300 each, paid by the rescue organization. It’s all part of an effort to reduce the growing number of pets in the community.
“I think it’s getting better because people phone us now when a dog is sick or they want their dogs to be fixed,” Barrie said. “We go around asking people if they want their animals fixed. We talk to them. This is the most important thing.”
Pound Rescue, a no-kill charity devoted to getting lost and abandoned pets reunited with their owners or into new homes, has been providing this free service in Eden Valley for four years.
Barrie and her volunteers try to go monthly.
“What we do in Eden Valley is we try to get people to get female dogs and cats fixed,” she said. “We bring them food and medication for worms and distemper if needed. It is extremely hard for our volunteers and me to walk away when there is a hungry dog that is not fixed.”
Among the dogs Pound Rescue returned to Eden Valley last week were a male shepherd cross and lab cross after the owner expressed concerns the dogs would fight and run off.
“Normally we only fix the females,” said Barrie. “ With a limited budget we can’t fix all the males. We do it if there is a request. When we get more money, we can do more.”
Highview Animal Clinic also spayed a pit bull cross puppy named Diamond.
Owner Darrell Dixon told volunteers he was concerned Diamond had an injured leg. Upon examination, it was discovered one of Diamond’s legs was broken and she had a torn ligament in her knee, Barrie said. The wound will have to heal on its own as an operation would cost Pound Rescue about $3,000 and Diamond would need to stay idle for four weeks.
When Diamond arrived home, tail wagging as she greeted her family, Dixon said he was glad for the help Pound Rescue offered.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever had an animal spayed. There should be more of that done.”
Dixon said he is aware of the dangers pets face in Eden Valley. Two of his dogs were killed by gunshots.
“People take it into their own hands,” he said.
Barrie said she’s not sure how many dogs and cats are in Eden Valley, but she’s doing her best to reduce the growing population and educate residents.
“Talking to people is the most important thing for change,” she said.
Because many cats and dogs in Eden Valley roam free, Barrie and her volunteers inform residents about the importance of getting them in when it’s cold out to avoid frostbite and leaving water out for them.
They also try to quash the misconception that pets roaming free in rural areas don’t require the same care as those in urban centres.
“They are not foxes or coyotes,” she said. “We have to look after them.”
Barrie said some believe cats will survive by hunting mice and don’t require feeding, however, a weak and hungry cat does not have adequate energy to hunt. She added rural pets live short lives, often suffering from disease and injuries.
“The chances of survival the first six months are so slim,” she said. “They starve to death, freeze to death, get hit by cars, get diseases because they’re not vaccinated.”
Spaying reduces those that will likely die a horrible death, Barrie said.
“What we do is prevent misery while we try to change the way they look after these animals.”