Kathleen Davis holds Petey in her lap, a friendly little poodle cross with short cropped black fur.
Until you wave a hand or snap a finger, it’s hard to know Petey is mostly blind and deaf, the result of severe neglect. When Broken Promises animal rescue got a hold of him, his nails were growing into his feet, his teeth were rotten and infected, and one of his eyes had collapsed.
“His hair was so matted we didn’t know which end was his face,” grimaced Pamela Saddler, who with Davis and Cora Timothy, make up a volunteer animal rescue squad. They pride themselves on trying to save the most neglected, most medically complicated animals which land in the pound system.
Animal shelters in B.C. won’t destroy animals to make room, but at times animals with severe and expensive medical problems may be put down.
“We are working to help the ones overlooked in shelters due to their breed or health,” says Saddler, a Langford resident who works for Camosun College. “We pull in the ones where it’s their last shot.”
“We take the dogs and cats that no one else will take, the ones where it takes a huge amount of money to patch up,” Davis notes.
Veteran animal rescuers, Davis and Saddler have decades of experience patching up abused strays and finding them good homes. Saddler started 15 years ago after rescuing a box of kittens abandoned on the side of a highway. She went on to become president of the Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders and launched a website for lost pets.
Davis works for the Capital Regional District pound and started fostering dogs and cats at her Saanich home. “One year I (fostered) 40 or 50 orphaned kittens. Bottle feeding can get tiring.”
The women joined forces, creating the non-profit Broken Promises in December 2010, with the main goal of saving those animal too abused and broken for shelters to mend. Beyond the Capital Region, they receive animals from shelters in Chilliwack and as far as Terrace, thanks to free air transport by Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Finding and vetting foster homes, fundraising money, organizing medical checkups and surgeries, amid the constant influx of animals, can become an all-consuming, full time job.
“I do this every waking moment outside my day job. It’s 20 to 30 emails a day that need responses, scrambling to make vet appointments,” Saddler says. “It’s taking them there, picking them up, doing home visits for adoption and foster homes.
“Not all houses are OK. (Recently) I did five house checks for cats. It’s a lot of running around. It has to be a right fit for everybody, not only the animal, but the family too.”
To date, the group has rescued and rehabilitated 35 dogs and 25 cats, with the majority adopted out, but any overflow falls to the women. Saddler cares for a small herd of cats at her house, and she feeds feral cat colonies living in forests around Langford. Davis usually has a few extra dogs at her home keeping company with three she owns.
As a society, they’ve spent $35,000 on veterinary and medical bills over their first year of operations – typically neglected dogs and cats come in with infected teeth and claws, skin infections, diseases and sometimes broken limbs.
“We help who we can at the time, but we can’t take everybody,” Davis says. “We’re fortunate we’ve never said no yet.”
Saving animals is such an integral part of their lives, Davis and Saddler find it hard to pinpoint why they go through the effort, especially when they’re forced to spend more money than fundraising brings in.
“I found one cat in a ditch, deaf and blind,” Saddler says. “She lasted two months and died loved, instead of in a ditch. That is why we do it.”
And not all saved animals live long lives, but they live better lives. Davis doesn’t expect Petey the poodle to survive long after the trauma it went through, but will have a comfortable life from now on.
“This dog doesn’t have a huge life expectancy,” Davis says. “All this dog wants is to be held and snuggled.”
“I just love animals. I think I was supposed to do this,” Saddler says. “To see what a good life they can have is rewarding.”