Just a big, happy lap dog

This is a tale of an emperor without an empire, an alpine rescuer without an alp. But does Cesar, this young St. Bernard mix who prefers his name misspelled, look concerned? No way! He’s got grasshoppers to rule over (when they’re not teaching him the rules of safe hopping) and beds much less difficult to climb than your average Swiss Alp.

Cesar owes the return of his endearing optimism to an equally endearing back-up team, otherwise known as TEAM Dog Rescue! And we all owe this article to Stevie Wonder for introducing us to each other!

Our tale began in August when I received an urgent request to save a stray beagle with poor eyesight that was about to lose his life at a rural pound in Quebec. Timing was bad. I was leaving for vacation and our foster homes were full. “We’ll take him!” I proclaimed without hesitation, dubbing him Stevie Wonder in the same breath.

Were it not for the assistance of this brand new all-breed rescue group, my impulsive decision to save little Stevie might have been rather…impulsive.

Larysa Struk, one of TEAM’s dynamic trio, came to our rescue! Her newly formed group was developing a working relationship with Quebec’s Bell’ Anima Rescue to save animals at high risk of euthanasia in the province’s overcrowded shelters. She offered to arrange an overnight spot for Stevie with one of Bell’ Anima’s foster families, and a transport to Toronto the next day.

Stevie never ended up needing that lift to Toronto. His overnight lodging in Quebec turned permanent! Yet another family fallen prey to the irresistible charms of the beagle!

It was now time for me to focus on the charms of this impressive new group on the animal rescue scene.

TEAM stands for Together Every Animal Matters. The group is based in the Durham Region and Toronto, but the animals are from anywhere. In fact, TEAM got its start by teaming up with like-minded rescuers clear across the world to help with the homeless dog crisis in Taiwan.

Just as every animal matters, so does every TEAM member. Susan Thompson, Irene Pollock and Larysa Struk comprise the founding members, all with extensive background experience, but over 20 other volunteers are equally valued. Each person contributes something special to the cause, whether it’s a skill or trade or simply a cozy bed for the next rescue animal to curl up on. Mind you, there’s nothing simple about offering a bed to a saintly yet goofy 99.6 lb St. Bernard that clearly prefers your bed to the microscopic doggy version on the floor. In that case, you practically have to be a saint yourself. But Cesar is worth being banished to the edge of your mattress just so he can stretch out and dream about grasshoppers.

Stevie Wonder may not have needed a lift to Toronto in August but four other pound dogs of various shapes and sizes did, and so began TEAM’s rescue efforts on behalf of discarded pets in Quebec.

Those lifts home to TEAM fondly became known as ‘journeys of love’. The second journey of love included our featured Pet of the Month. Cesar hailed from the same shelter as Stevie and he was at even greater risk. There was no hope reuniting him with a frantic owner. Together with two cats, Cesar had been deliberately left behind in an apartment. True to his saintly breed, he was found curled around his cat buddies reassuring them all would be well in the end.

He was right! Cesar made his journey of love to the waiting arms of TEAM at the tail-end of summer and he hasn’t looked back! After all, this journey of love is just beginning! The proof is in the cute Cesar-isms his TEAM moms were only too happy to share for my article, starting with his first walk when he met his first grasshopper. Cesar loves everybody and cannot help expressing it. Unfortunately, discovering his curious new friend came with at least 100 other bouncing buddies may have led to the grasshopper’s downfall. Let’s just say, Cesar was pouncing for joy.

And then there was Cesar’s first encounter with stairs. Our big boy loves food as much as he loves all creatures, great and small, so foster mom coaxed him along with treats. He got halfway up but then froze into a pupsicle. Luckily, his passion for food prevailed! He thawed out and made it to the top for his well-earned victory treat before bed! It’s not surprising Cesar insisted on practising his stair-climbing for several hours the next day.

When it comes to lap-climbing, however, he’s a natural! All big dogs take careful note: Cesar advises if you’re gradual enough about it, your foster mom won’t suspect a thing. Start with one adorably oversized paw on her knee, ease entire leg onto her lap ever so slowly, repeat with opposite paw and leg, followed by adorably oversized head and, before she knows it (or so you think), you’re all in!

Cesar may not need to protect empires or brave the Swiss Alps on harrowing rescue missions, but he will always be a rescuer at heart. It’s been proven a couple times already, when he’s heard his foster mom cry over something. He knew exactly what to do and without hesitation. Take it from his dream TEAM, when you receive a rescue kiss from a St. Bernard, it’s impossible to stay sad.

Cesar is a one-year-old St. Bernard mix lovingly pouncing on beds, laps and grasshoppers at TEAM Dog Rescue, facebook.com/ T.E.A.M.DogRescue, petfinder.com/shelters/ON430, 647-345-4795. TEAM is expanding its rescue efforts to include cats. A mother and her kittens, survivors of a house fire, will join the next journey of love. Foster homes and adopters are needed more than ever! Meet the TEAM on Family Day in February, when they’ll be hosting a special event at the Fox Theatre.

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