THE BLOG

Giving Thanks for the Lives of Our Animal and Human Friends

10/14/2013 02:07 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Three weeks ago, a small miracle took place in Hay River, Northwest Territories: Loki, a semi-feral northern Canadian dog was brought into safety just short of the September 30 deadline to get him "off the streets" (i.e., shoot him). As we celebrate this particular Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful to all who went to such lengths to save his precious life.

In 2010 a local puppy mill was raided and 23 dogs were seized by the town. Only one survived: Loki -- because he bolted and ran during transfer. The other 22, to our knowledge, no longer exist.

After bolting to safety, Loki roamed the Town's streets for three years. One might ask what's safe about living outdoors in the Northwest Territories without the benefit of parents teaching you to fend for yourself, nor extended family to protect you. On his own, Loki's instincts kicked in. Thankfully, also, a very caring local woman had eyes out for him: Bonnie Dawson.

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Bonnie is an advocate whose compassion and pro-action towards animals in need knows no bounds. Bonnie kept watch over Loki, going out every day to scout for, and feed him. Month over month, she would ensure that Loki was alive, and that he was anchored to her in any way possible. Like all rescuers in situations with animals in peril, at any given point over that long-suffering time, Bonnie experienced heartache and joy, despair and hope, fear and comfort, desperation and resolve.

As the seasons rolled on, local and regional authorities had been warning Bonnie that Loki could not be left to stray indefinitely. Two efforts to "dart" Loki by a wildlife officer proved unsuccessful.

Bonnie continued to fight for the welfare of northern dogs and had even worked to amend the Dog Act in the Territories. Undeterred, she reached out for help from rescue networks. As her blogs extended into the southern Canadian and international communities, some 9,000+ advocates signed on to follow the story: "Friends of Loki - Sole Survivor."

The situation came to a head this summer when town officials decided they'd had enough. People were expressing a pervasive fear about this "lone-wolf" roaming the streets, who might aggress. Who knows why. He had never shown any aggression whatsoever. In fact, Loki had pretty well made friends with every off-tether dog in the entire community, often showing up with one of his "collared" pals for supper. Being fed regularly, he was not likely to kill for food. Realistically, unless Loki was aggressed upon and had to defend himself, chances are he wouldn't. But there's no changing old ways and dated perceptions. And not being supporters of spay/neuter programs, indeed, not even a local vet in situ, roaming dogs sadly plague our northern towns. The usual solution is to shoot them in the street. A very painful death.

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The town of Hay River was inundated with pleas to spare this innocent dog. Hundreds of emails brought greater attention and resources, including funds for a fenced-in pen. The last week of September found a renowned U.S. specialist dog trapper, Eldad Hagar, journeying to NWT to help Bonnie secure Loki. We all breathlessly awaited news on the rescue effort -- and Loki's reaction to it. It took an approximate 12 hours to capture him. Eldad slept face to face with Loki the first night, in a local garage.

Weeks later, Loki's shock is subsiding. He is adapting to his altered freedom, and is being socialized to other dogs. He is experiencing love and caring touch, learning to walk on leash, and to trust humans. Loki Dawson is now the proud owner of a Hay River Dog Tag, soon to be inoculated, neutered and habituated to the house. Bonnie is also in shock, adjusting to her new responsibilities, learning to handle a semi-feral dog.

Yesterday, Bonnie published photos of Loki in his enclosure with his new housemate Hemi. His ears are still held slightly back, signaling wariness, but the smile on his face is genuine. He is safe. Bonnie is relieved and hopeful. Rescuers worldwide are rejoicing in his rescue and his adaptation to same.

The town, we hope, has learned a little something about compassion. Having legal and political interests to juggle, town officials were indeed between a rock and a hard place. We remain grateful to them for extending Loki's deadline to September 30 -- which allowed Bonnie to marshal the exact human and materiel resources she needed to secure Loki properly.

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Loki, the gentle giant, now serves as a model for thousands of hapless northern dogs. On this Thanksgiving, 2013, I am humbled by the gratitude I feel for each and every advocate who went to the wall to save his life, most notably Bonnie Dawson and Eldad Hagar of Hope For Paws U.S., but also the thousands of supporters who advocated for a safe and successful transition to a normal dog's life.

Well done, Loki. Well done, Bonnie. Each of you bravely held up your end of the rescue. With a giant sigh of relief, I celebrate this Thanksgiving in your honour.