She was a young dog, pregnant, and in labour for the first time. In fact, she’d been in labour for two days when her ‘family’ dropped her off at the Barrie Branch of the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) on Patterson Rd. Two days in labour for her first litter. Animal lovers at the Barrie shelter quickly called in a veterinarian who surgically removed two stillborn puppies and five wriggling, whimpering live puppies. The stillborn pups were blocking exit for the live babies, spelling certain death for mom and babes, had the vet not been called.

A happy story, the salvation of mommy dog and her five babies.

A happy story, but with a twist.

The $800 veterinarian’s bill is now the responsibility of an organization which receives no government funding, but is fuelled by an active board of directors with a myriad of fundraising projects to keep the only shelter in the Barrie region up and running.

And all of this... mommy pup, abandoned puppies, could have been prevented had the owners spayed their pet.

While the Barrie Shelter receives almost 90 animals a month (twice as many cats as dogs), manager Laurie Nichol estimates that 1000 animals will be adopted out from the Patterson Rd. facility in the next 12 months. Shelter staff tries to convince each adopting family to neuter their animal, offering reduced fees to do so. Still, many animals arrive from families who haven’t taken responsibility for their pets. Many are simply abandoned and dropped off by neighbours or passers by. The stories are as sad and varied as the numbers.

But that’s not really what this column is about, though it’s certainly a grim reality for the people working the shelter. Indeed, it’s what motivated Marion Fell half a century ago to mobilize this community into opening an animal shelter in the first place.

And because the shelter is funded through the activities of its volunteer board of directors and the $85,000 it bills the City of Barrie for animal patrol work, the creativity of its supporters knows no bounds. As well, the Barrie shelter supports much of Simcoe County, Essa Township, Innisfil, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood.

Just look at the fundraisers they’ve planned for the month of December!

Besides Bingo proceeds, December will feature Christmas Shopping Booth at the Georgian Mall. November 29, 30 and December 1,2 volunteers will be staffing the OSPCA booth selling stocking gifts for cats and frisbee packages for dogs. With a sales price of $10 each, these gifts make excellent presents for your pet (and your neighbouring pets!) and they’re all wrapped up and ready to go!

The Barrie Branch of the OSPCA will also be selling Christmas trees from the Patterson Rd. shelter. At $25 apiece, trees are available from December 2 onwards. Or, you can buy a gift certificate or make an in memoriam donation and receive an attractive card for giving.

And pictures! Photographer Tammy Horvath will be taking photos of your pet with Santa. Bring your pets to the shelter on the afternoon of December 15 or at PetsMart on December 21, and 22 fr4om 11 am to 5 pm. For $10 each, you’ll get a framed photo.

And next Saturday, November 30, the Barrie Colts team up with the Barrie SPCA when the 7:30 game time starts at one of three pickup trucks parked at the arena doors to accept donations of cash, or pet food and supplies for the Barrie shelter.

There are lots of activities, all geared to contribute to the half-million dollar budget which keeps the shelter operating 24/7 throughout the next year. Like children, animals are defenseless. Givers of unconditional love and joy, they deserve humane conditions and treatment. The volunteers who’ve put these projects together deserve a round of applause for their commitment. And it doesn’t happen without the support of businesses like Pet Valu (both locations), Proforma/Ad Save and Michaels Craft Store. B101 has donated space for wrapping. Georgian Pontiac donated the trucks for the Colts game, Kwik Kopy printed the gift cards, Staples donated the card stock. Georgian College graphics students designed the Christmas Gift booth poster. So much enthusiasm!

To check out other shelter activities, log onto the website at www.ospca.org. You’ll also see the pictures of the mommy dog and her five puppies, waiting for adoption.

I’m just making out my pet list now. Let’s see, a stocking for Emma, a stocking for Max. A frisbee basket for Princess, for Farley, and for Stetson. Boy, our neighbourhood is going to be one cheerful place!

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