Walking for canine rescue groups at Woofstock

The opposite of love’s indifference

– from the song Stubborn Love by The Lumineers

My fellow dog rescuers and I are less than a week away from participating in the largest outdoor dog festival in North America. This year marks a decade since our umbrella group, K9 Rescue Me, launched its annual walkathon at WOOFSTOCK!

On June 8 and 9, close to 25 member rescue groups are reunited to raise money and awareness for the dogs that depend on them. This year the combined goal is to raise $150,000. We’re counting on support from the crowds that descend upon the St. Lawrence Market community throughout this bark-worthy weekend.

Watching the big event unfold each year from my booth in the Rescue Me Village always reminds me of something my mom would say whenever I whined about wanting what somebody else had. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” she’d say. That usually meant I wasn’t going to get whatever it was I wanted no matter how much I whined.

An estimated 300,000 dog lovers are expected to visit WOOFSTOCK to shop ‘til they drop. As I look around at my fellow rescuers full of passion for their cause, that old saying rings loud and clear. We want our rescue waifs to have all the fabulous things WOOFSTOCK has to offer. We want them to one day have someone so crazy about them that they’d brave the crowds just to buy the latest craze in dog toys. We want them to hop the proverbial fence and take a nose dive into that sweet green grass.

The grass was covered in snow when Izzy the dachshund burrowed her way into Canadian Dachshund Rescue Ontario (CDRO) back in December. She was a Kijiji castaway, sold and re-sold on the local classifieds site. The last buyer kept her four days before discarding her at the Kingston Humane Society. Short-term owner claimed she was four years old, but she looked much older. Being constantly tossed like a salad has a way of aging you. Izzy was suffering from a skin condition and needed dental care. She wasn’t adoptable but thanks to CDRO, she wasn’t a lost cause either. The well-established rescue group took her in, arranged for dental surgery and introduced a nutritional diet that had her fur growing back like grass after a good rain! Fur or no fur, she likes to snuggle up in one of her snazzy sweaters on cool days. Izzy and her sweater collection are now ready for a loving and lasting home!

A German Shepherd called Momma was a roadside castaway. She and her mate, a Great Dane mix, were found abandoned on a country road. As you may have guessed by the name, Momma was about to be a momma. If not for the local pound, she would have had her pups on the side of the road. But a shelter is no place to start a family either. Sadly, only two of the nine puppies lived. But Momma and the surviving pair are on the road to recovery now thanks to Animal Alliance of Canada – Project Jessie. Transferred to this highly regarded organization, Momma can now wean her pups in the protective comfort of a foster home. All three should be ready for adoption by the end of June. Papa already scored his forever home with the person who originally found them.

And then there’s the goofball. Surprisingly enough, I’m not referring to one of my rescued beagles. Apparently, setters have much in common with beagles. Both breeds are easily distracted by the call of the wild or the rumble of the tummy.

Gordon, the goofball, is a six-year-old English setter. He was found chasing butterflies, real or imaginary, in a field in Windsor. It took a week for Animal Services to catch him. When they did, they were saddened to discover this free spirit was battling heartworm. If not for Setter Sanctuary, a small yet dedicated rescue group, he wouldn’t be here today. Despite the costly and lengthy treatment, they couldn’t deny Mr. Freckle-face. It’s not easy following doctor’s orders when it means keeping a livewire like Gordon sitting still but his foster parents are resourceful. Foster mom engages him in daily sofa snuggles while foster dad has him hooked on the sports channel.

There are other stories, like Violet’s, that are a little harder to share. Violet is a puppy mill victim, a living example of the painful truth behind so many of the puppies sold in pet stores and classified ads. For seven years, she produced puppies for profit in the confines of a small cage. When she became deathly ill, her suffering was ignored by her captors but not by the good folks of Loyal Rescue Inc.

Freed from a lifeless life in the nick of time, Violet spent 10 days clinging to life in a veterinary hospital before she was well enough to make the trip from Ohio to Ontario and into the waiting arms of a loving foster family. Due to a severe skin infection, she’d lost most of her fur. But there’s a silver lining here. Violet is now a diva-in-training with an outfit for every occasion. She won’t be ready for adoption for a while. There are health issues to overcome first. But one day, this fashion flower will be in full bloom.

Last but not at all least, we have Magnum’s story. His tale serves to remind us that NOW is always the time to listen to our hearts. At seven years old, Magnum was yet another dog tossed like a salad from one home to another. When he finally took his time-out at Boxer Rescue Ontario, this boxer knew his fight for happiness was over and he could finally drop the gloves. Well, aside from the work glove he joyfully adopted in his foster home – he’s not letting go of that one. It was love at first bite. Soon after his arrival, Mag was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But nothing has changed for his rescuers. Why would it? It was love at first sight.

In the above picture, Magnum is lying flat-bellied on the grass with that well-loved work glove between his paws. Here lies the difference between dogs like Magnum and my kid self. Magnum has no interest in what the grass has to offer on the other side of the fence, because at the very moment someone stopped long enough to look into his heart and see his worth in a world that never seemed to care until then … at that moment, there could be no greener grass than the grass beneath his paws.

The K9 Rescue Me Walkathon kicks off at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 9 in the Rescue Me Village at WOOFSTOCK. To learn more about the walk and the amazing dog rescue groups that need your support all year long, visit K9 Rescue Me. *Please note the Rescue Me Village has been relocated to St. James Park this year. Word has it, the grass is greener in this park!

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