Some describe their life journey as taking taking different forks along the road, others speak of being on a treadmill that keeps getting faster while going nowhere. I see my life journey as being in the shape of a circle. I envisioned my future as early as grade three when I discovered the books of Doctor Doolittle and how he could talk to the animals. I became obsessed with animals and knew that one day I would be helping them out. However, after graduating from high school, I was desperate to move out from home and needed a steady income so I began my career in the concrete jungle and I lost touch with nature and the animal world.
In 2003, we added Montana (yellow lab) to our family. He helped me reconnect with the animal world and awakened my early passion for animals. In 2005, we decided to add another 4-legged member to our family and I started searching online for a dog to adopt. I stumbled across the story of Royal. Royal was a golden retriever and part of the Bishop family of Toronto. One day he went missing and was picked up by the local animal control.
The Bishop family searched in vain for Royal, but it was too late when they finally traced him down to the University of Guelph where he had been sold for research for $6.00 and then deemed too old to experiment on and was killed. I was shocked out of my cozy view of pet ownership and the horrific state of animal welfare in Canada.
I quit my job and pursued a Bachelor of Science Humane Leadership Degree at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in partnership with Humane Society of the United States. I started my studies in September, 2005 while most of my classmates were in the middle of rescuing animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
One of my classes was First Strike: Interpersonal Violence and Animal Cruelty. My professor was Randall Lockwood who is a leading expert in forensic sciences and animal cruelty. This was the first time I had heard about the interconnection between violence and animal cruelty. I discovered five programs running around the world that looked at preventing animal cruelty and animal abandonment. I dreamed of starting these five programs in Surrey and shared my ideas with my friends at the dog park.
In 2008, I incorporated Society of Semiahmoo Animal League. Begged family and friends to sign on as board members and got to work. SALI received Canadian Charitable status in 2009 and started our Guardian Program to help the pets of women and children fleeing violence. This quickly grew and evolved to help three different at-risk populations in Surrey, White Rock & Langley.
In 2011, two women offered their working equine facility as a place for us to run our farm program and we brought two groups of children to the farm that year. Thus SALIʼs Farm was created and has grown and evolved. As of December 1, 2014, we have moved to our next temporary home; a beautiful 4 acres in South Surrey. Tree-lined driveway, cute classic barn, cozy farm house, 2 fenced pastures, 1 acre of forest, 400 year old tree and lots of potential. At this new location, we will be able to build a paddock paradise for our horses, rescue more animals and help more at-risk children. We will be able to have a SALI office and storage space for our Guardian Program. We are one step closer to our permanent home and our vision.
From the beginning I strived to create a solid foundation first and foremost, to be a model of kindness to people (not just animals), to learn and maintain the highest standard of animal care, to learn from others, and to collaborate with social agencies and animal welfare groups.
I have come full circle and what a journey itʼs been. Weʼve had many people stick with us from the beginning, and many people have joined us along the way. Some have left for different reasons. There are so many community members that will always be a part of our story, past and present, old and young, two-legged and four-legged. Look what you have helped create and I wonder what the future has in store for us?
December 1, 2014