Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Wharf- Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation

WHARF is an animal rescue dear to my heart and that of my family. It is run by two wonderful sisters with whom we've become friends over the years. We have adopted five animals from them. Our sweet Kisses had some huge medical obstacles thrown in his way after his adoption, a very, very rare condition that required surgery (twice, as a veterinarian I will not name botched the first surgery; a second fixed the botch and correctly performed the necessary procedure) and not long after his recovery, he fell ill with a common feline virus that, very sadly, in his case, once again rare, proved to be fatal.
But this is not about sad. Kisses lives in our memories and his ashes along with Forrest's (our cat who lived to almost 16, but died on Christmas Eve last year) will be put in the soil beneath a new tree in our yard in the spring, becoming part of the cycle of life.

We have four living (and entirely healthy!) wonder pets adopted from WHARF:


Salty is our 4 year old feline furball. He was born to a mother who had been found in a hoarding house. She and her sister were healthy enough to survive; she birthed Salty and his siblings after being rescued. He was an older kitten when we adopted him but retained the spunk of a young kitten. To this day, he is full of goofy kitten vigour. He runs top speed at a wooden beam in our kitchen, leaps, rebounds off it performing a remarkable mid-air backflip, and then saunters away as if he has done nothing special, just happens to be strolling past.


Ruby joined us on a trial basis a year and a half ago. Tessa, one of WHARF's founders, exclaimed, "She is the perfect dog for your family! I was thinking of you when she arrived!" when I called to inquire about the dog who sounded good on the website.
Ruby has been found wandering in rural Alberta; a family took her in and hung Lost Dog posters in their community. After a month, they realized no one was looking for her and contacted WHARF. On arrival she was skinny, the veterinarian who examined her said she had birthed one or two litters, had no microchip, no identifying tattoo, lacked evidence of vaccination in her blood, but was a purebred English Labrador. Ruby was presumed to be a rejected dog from a puppy mill.
We weren't sure how Salty and Forrest (then still alive) would respond to her, nor were we sure how our children would, especially our youngest. Salty and our youngest child, each in his independent style, demonstrated no interest whatsoever in Ruby. The other children and Forrest thought Ruby was the greatest thing ever.
It didn't take the trial period to know she was the dog for our family. The older children adored her and didn't balk at poo pick-up or daily walks. Ruby learned basic commands quickly (sit, stay) and how to walk on a leash. She deferred to the cats and the children, allowing all of them to make first moves, even when, head averted in submission, her tail was wagging too fast to see more than a black blur. Very quickly, Ruby and Forrest became friends.
Ruby had demonstrated in her first few days that she wanted a kennel to sleep in. In her last few months of life, Forrest joined Ruby in the kennel nightly. They developed a routine in which Forrest entered the kennel and lay down right at the front, leaving Ruby to delicately step over her and take up the rear of the kennel. On nights when Ruby arrived at the kennel before Forrest did, she waited for Forrest's arrival. We urged her to go in so she didn't have to climb over Forrest (her grace in stepping over the cat was quite an effort on her part, given her size and Forrest's immovability once settled) but Ruby awaited her friend to grant her first entry every night. Inside, they curled up together, Ruby grooming Forrest and Forrest purring. It was a beautiful relationship. Ruby's grief when Forrest died may have been close in size to my own; she searched the house for weeks, clearly trying to locate her best friend.
Salty and our youngest child eventually accepted Ruby too, on their terms, of course. Ruby recognizes and accepts those terms.

A few months after Forrest died, I was ready for a new feline friend. Salty is a source of great entertainment and is a wonderful cat, but he is not a lap cat, not a cuddler, as my Forrest had been all her life. We decided a kitten would be a good idea; trainable, more likely to be accepted by Salty (ha!!!,) and hopefully interested in the cuddles I missed so intensely from my Forrest.

Thing One and Thing Two:
Thing One
Thing Two
Brotherly Love

I took one of our children with me to meet a kitten, a kitten I thought from the description would be the one for us. Unfortunately, that day the kitten I'd intended to meet and her siblings were getting vaccinated at the veterinarian clinic. These two kittens were at WHARF (actually, WHARF is a foster-based rescue society; some of the animals spend time at Food Dish Wishes, a gourmet pet food bakery and pet needs shop operated by the sisters) though. They were awfully cute. I hadn't told our child that we were visiting with an eye to adopt; we often visit just to visit. She asked to hold one of them. When she did, the other kitten cried. She put him back and they immediately curled up together, purring and grooming each other. Our daughter then picked up the other kitten to snuggle. The one left behind cried, as his brother had previously. They both cuddled with my daughter and with me; they licked our noses. I texted photos to my stepson and my partner asking, "what about TWO?" It seemed unimaginable to separate these strongly attached brothers. Each was exactly what we wanted: young, cuddly, and already litter trained (win!)
My story is getting long and the above photos show that adopting both was what happened in the end. They remain, several months later, strongly attached. They still groom each other multiple times a day, sleep curled and twisted up in each other as if one, and cry if separated (Thing One has a habit of getting himself trapped behind closed doors.)

That's our story of WHARF adoptions. WHARF fosters and adopts out so many more animals than live in our home. They participate in a program that flies dogs from shelters in Mexico to Canada where the dogs' chances of adoption are higher. They foster animals who might not be accepted elsewhere: animals with injuries that need expensive veterinary care (they get that care for the animals,) older animals, animals who have behavourial issues that need addressing... it goes on. They are upfront about each animal's history and love them all as if they were their own (both sisters foster many of the animals.)

Please join me in donating to WHARF to support the amazing work they do. I know they are always seeking foster homes as well as adoptive homes, so if fostering is something you've considered, there is need!