From walking dogs and horses, to unloading 175 bales of hay, delivering supplies, and mucking stalls, a foursome of Langley animal lovers feel like they managed to “contribute just a little bit” to the wildfire relief efforts in the B.C. Interior – and specifically to the well-being of hundreds of displaced animals in Kamloops.
“It was a good trip and an incredible experience,” said Jayne Nelson, executive director of the Langley Animal Protection Society.
She took some holiday time, and joined up with LAPS animal control officer Tina Jensen Fogt, Tina’s dad Jorgen, and LAPS vice-chair Kristine Carrick to spend two days helping evacuated pets and livestock from throughout the fire ravaged Interior.
First order of business on Friday morning was delivering “a small mountain” of donations they’d collected in Langley during the days prior to their departure.
The local donations ranged from food and toiletries for people to cat and dog food, as well as livestock supplies.
“We are very grateful to the many people from our community who gave so generously,” Nelson said.
The supplies for horses and livestock were delivered to the KXA fairgrounds, followed by the delivery of donations for humans to a former bank building that was converted into a temporary food and clothing food bank serving about a thousand people a day.
The rest of the time, over the course of the next day and a half, Nelson said they did a wide variety of jobs that involved helping animals out directly and indirectly at a number of different venues.
At the fairgrounds they were mucking stalls, they helped relocate the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team to a new public facility, and then the last few hours of their visit were spent at the Four Paws makeshift dog and cat shelter set up in tents next to the public evacuation centre.
“I’m sorry we didn’t spent more time there,” Nelson said, anxious to return, if only to spend more time with Four Paws.
“It was very labour intensive experience,” she added. “I didn’t feel bad about missing the gym. We hand bombed literally thousands of pounds of food and hay during our visit.”
Gobsmacked by kindness
While elated to see some of the evacuees and pets able to return homes – even during their brief visit, Nelson said the most emotional overwhelming aspect to the trip – at least for her – was the witnessing the support and generosity shown to the evacuees.
“What was so amazing to me was the number of incredibly kind and dedicated people who were giving so generously of their time and other resources,” she elaborated.
“Some working incredibly long hours over many days to ensure people or animals were being cared for. We met many people who were in Kamloops just for a few days to lend a hand, as well as many people from Kamloops who had been helping since the beginning. It was wonderful to see so many people working together, with positive, can do, attitudes in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances.”
As tired as they were by the end of day two, Nelson said it was hard to leave late Saturday night, because there “is clearly so much that needs to be done.”
If it wasn’t for work, she said half joking, Nelson said she wanted to stay.
“It was hard to come back… when you see that there’s a need, you just want to stay and help.”
Collecting more donations
Consequently, Nelson and Jensen Fogt have already committed to returning again soon, to volunteer more with Four Paws and any of the other animal relief efforts still in need.
And, ahead of their next trip, they will once again be collecting donations – this time specifically food for the evacuated animals.
“We plan to do a food drive for Four Paws,” Nelson said, inviting people to drop off donations to the LAPS’ Patti Dale Animal Shelter, 26220 56th Ave.
“They just go through an insane amount of food,” she elaborated, recounting that Four Paws was going through about 500 bags of food a day – between the animals at the evacuation centre, those in foster care, those in temporary shelters with their humans, and those evacuees who were returning home.
“We just want to do something more to help,” she said.
In particular, she’s hoping to get donations of cat and puppy food, which seemed to be in short supply.
Provided there’s still a need for help, they’re anticipating returning in about two weeks.
What if a disaster hits closer to home?
Meanwhile this was a immensely moving undertaking for Nelson, but she said it was also a learning experience.
“We really saw first hand that disaster preparedness is so important and something that LAPS should be looking into moving forward,” she explained.
“We definitely want to be a part of any conversations around any large-scale disaster preparedness for animals,” she said, anxious to get a plan in place locally or to help augment any plans already in place.