Sharron Purdy’s retirement has gone to the dogs!

I first met Sharron Purdy when we were involved in helping people start their own businesses. She was doing small business startup training in Orillia and I was doing the same thing in Barrie. It made sense to share ‘best practices’ and so we started meeting regularly.

Aside from Sharron’s enthusiasm for the energy of entrepreneurs, she is also somewhat wack-o about dogs, her two airedales, to be exact. Sharron talks about them with the same excitement as she does about her two grown daughters. And her husband.

Which is a good thing because the whole family is involved in Sharron’s new life now that she’s retired to a cottage area near Bracebridge.

And why am I writing about someone you don’t know who lives in Bracebridge?

Because this is a happy story about a handful of people who’ve found a way to save the lives of hundreds of innocent puppies… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In retirement, Sharron took her enthusiastic nature to volunteer for the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Bracebridge. She ended up fostering a dog at her home because the Bracebridge shelter was full. She was so impressed with this dog: calm, obedient, smart, confident, easy going, and yet it came from a battered environment in Moosonee, Ontario. Sharron discovered that this was one of several dogs shipped south by a young woman who’s anchoring the science department at the high school in Moosonee. Originally from Gravenhurst, Heidi Pratt has teamed up with another dog lover, Denice Bustraen to save the lives of dogs who are running wild in this northern community.

In order to understand what’s happening to animals in Moose Factory and Moosonee, it’s important to understand that until recently, dogs were the chief form of transportation, by sled, for people in both these communities. And just as you wouldn’t move your car into your house, you don’t bring your dogs in either. These animals go un-neutered, with no veterinarian care and their many offpsring are unwanted, value-less nuisances in these communities.

Denice Bustraen, a native of Moosonee, left to work for awhile, and upon her return was dismayed over the number of dogs running wild and uncared for. Tiny puppies were frozen in snowbanks, or pulled behind bikes until they die as entertainment for bored kids. Denice started an organization called Moosonee PUPS (Preventing Unwanted Puppies) and began to fundraise, bringing a veterinarian from North Bay three times a year. During those visits, dogs are neutered or spayed, receive rabies shots, and wellness services. Three visits a year eat up most of the $20,000 Denice raises. Population control was the first priority Denice brought to Moosonee and she was joined by an eager Heidi Pratt whose big interest is finding homes for these highly intelligent dogs with their unusual personalities. Heidi added a rescue and foster program to Moosonee PUPS and with a series of cooperative efforts has had pilots fly pups to Timmins where a truck driver takes them to Powassan and then they come in crates by train to North Bay or they get picked up in Powassan and moved to Bracebridge and Gravenhurst where they await loving new homes.

And that’s what Sharron is doing. She’s the Powassan-to-Bracebridge arm of the voyage, fostering these dogs in her own home, showing them off, advertising them through Pet Valu in Bracebridge and through the privately run shelter in Huntsville or through Mountain Spirit Kennels in Bracebridge, also serving as a drop off point. Mountain Spirit breeds Great Pyrenees but enthusiastically cares for and sends out Moosonee PUPS to willing owners.

Sharron is taking polaroid pictures of the puppies, putting them up wherever dog lovers might be, and sending dogs out as potential owners show up.

Heidi Pratt has managed to find homes for over 200 dogs in the past 18 months, often bringing as many as 15 dogs down to the Bracebridge shelter. She often finds homes along the way.

This connect-the-dot… or dog, story sent Sharron up to Moosonee in May to see for herself the community and its over-run, veterinarian-less, population.

She’s hooked. “These dogs are highly intelligent. They’re so relaxed. Heidi’s theory is the dogs are so relaxed because their lives have so so bad until they’re picked up that by the time they get to love in a home they’re willing to just relax and play into it. They’re smart, so smart.”

Sharron is now a Moosonee PUPS enthusiast, directing dog lovers to the website which tells it all… When people ‘adopt’ a dog, Sharron asks for a donation to Moosonee Pups so this volunteer work can continue. If a Moosonee Pup interests you, you can reach Sharron in Bracebridge art 705 764-1478. Of course, the organization is looking for other ‘Sharrons’ in other communities, willing to continue to connect-the-dot(g)s to new owners.

See why I was intrigued?… people loving animals, and a pup at a time, making a difference.

Thanks, Denice. Thanks, Heidi. Thanks, Sharron.