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Northern Adventure

All the gang, including Aarne, Lori’s husband who was always there to pick up the slack and so much more. A die hard Leaf fan to boot. 

Lori our quarterback who had it all figured out at Terry Fox Memorial outside of Thunder Bay.

At Lori’s house, organizing and trying to remember everything we will need.

Ready for intake.

It all started with meeting Nikki Burns, past President of Northern Spay & Neuter Program, at the OSPCA’s Educational Conference in Niagara Falls a couple of years ago. They were kicking off their program “Year of the Northern Dog”, which addresses the over population of dogs in Northern Ontario. She proceeded to try an educate a city slicker like myself, to the plight of not only the dogs, but the people that live in a First Nation Community and their struggles with this issue. Of course I could not relate to any of this. So her, and close friend Judy Decicco (a long serving OSPCA Board member) and Lori Clace (President of Northern Spay and Neuter Program) convinced me the only way I was going to change my attitude and expand my horizons from my narrow way of thinking about this on-going problem, is to experience for myself a mobile spay and neuter clinic in a First Nation Community. OK, I told them and with much planning off to Lake Helen First Nation’s Reserve I went. Thank goodness they all lived in Thunder Bay and could hand hold me through the process. I loved telling my friends that this was what I would like to do with my spare time. No sandy beaches for me. No going to some far off country to experience their culture. Nope, I am just fine with mine, and if I was going to spend money and go away, this is what I wanted to do. I was going to prove I could walk the walk and be a part of trying to make the world a bit easier for both people and their pets. As the time came nearer, I kept saying to myself, what have I gotten myself into.


I had no idea what to expect. I met everyone at our leader’s house, which was Lori. There were the veterinarians, the animal care techs, and the grunts like me. Everyone was a busy beaver getting supplies all ready. I felt like a fish out of water. Then we went to a huge storage unit, to pile in more supplies in a trailer. It was there that I realized that the hierarchy that I expected did not exist. I thought there would be more of a “pecking order” of who did what. At this stage it was just muscle work and you couldn’t tell who were vets, techs, or people like me. Another myth shattered.


We then drove to Nipigon, and checked into an apropos named hotel called The Beaver. We set up all the supplies in a community hall. I still did not know where I would fit in. But my Dad always told me it’s an art to looking busy doing nothing. So I did my best. I was told I would assist in check in. This process was ground zero in getting the animals through with all the correct paperwork and to keep track of them. Each animal was to get a kit that was numbered. In this kit, was a minimal 6 different info sheets that had to be filled out individually. Then an I.D. chip to be inserted, with its separate paperwork. A vaccination tag, an I.D. collar that you had better put its I.D number on when putting it on the dog/cat and a clip with that number to put on its cage. Then you had to weigh it (and take a picture), and put that info down also. After putting it in a kennel, you had better remember to put this info on the “board” which holds all the vital stats of each pet. One slip up of forgetting one thing and the whole system is thrown off. Such pressure!


I really tried not to look like a rookie, but my fear of doing something wrong was a dead giveaway of my angst. The check-ins came in waves. So when I had a breather, I’d learn to work the autoclave, or how to set up the vaccines, plus learn what to look for as the patients came out of their anesthesia. My favorite thing to do however was groom them when they were still under. It’s sort of cheating, but it does make life easier. Cleaning ears, cutting nails, and my speciality removing all the matted hair. I find the poor little lapdogs have it the hardest. It’s a challenge for any owners to keep longhaired Shitzu type dogs from matting up, let alone people that don’t have the correct equipment to do it, or access to a professional groomer. So I really got satisfaction in clipping around their face and clipping away all the matted hair around their feet.


The days were very long, but seemed to go by fast. Our faithful leader Lori thought of everything. Since there was no restaurant or delivery, (remember folks we were at Lake Helen Reserve), she had to bring food. It was so nice to see that she knew that the vegetarians would outnumber the “flesh eaters”. Yippee, I didn’t have to eat by default. Two types of Shepard’s pie, lasagna, sandwiches, she had it all figured out. The sign of a great leader and the patience of Job. (I never knew who Job was, but my mother used that expression a lot referring to me and my Dad, I know it has to do with the Bible).

Once all the dogs and cats got picked up, then the real worked started in packing up. We started about 8 am, finished loading the trailer about 10pm. We were famished. So thank goodness we found a truck stop that closed at 11 pm and ordered the last supper. I felt so sorry for the waitress. Needless to say we tipped her big.


It was a real bonding experience with these ladies. We were all in it together. We had the same goals and no matter who you were, you got the job done. However, to see those vets work under conditions that were unique to them and rise to the occasion was a marvel to see. It reminded me of the TV show M.A.S. H. (mobile army surgical hospital).


On the way home we stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial. I didn’t know this was the place where he was forced to stop his famous journey. It is places such as this, that I am glad I spend my money in Canada to vacation or to utilize my spare time. Canada has so much to offer in its beauty, culture, and our old time traditions. That is why I am so happy that I chose to step out of my secure box that I have created for myself. It was a learning experience and a test to myself to expand my horizons. So I will continue to expand them, meaning they tell me my next trip we are going into a more remote fly in reserve. Somehow all I think of is “what will I wear?”

Cleaning up and heading out. I don’t know which one takes longer.  Setting up for business or the tear down.

So much paperwork.  I am really trying hard to get it all correct.

So many questions to ask.  Like who owns the dog.  Do you put under the person that owns it, or the person that brings it in.  All these types of situations you have to know.  Poor Lori, she must have gotten sick of her name from all the questions I asked.

These are the kits.  I must say, when I wanted to relax my brain, I made up the kits.  That was my rest.

The Bible for reference.  Forget to put the client on this, and it’s forgotten.  Yikes.

Does it get any more efficient than this?  This pose just struck me funny.

When I really wanted to relax, I loved watching the operations. It was fascinating.

The vets were never nervous, or so it seemed, with me watching them do their thing.

This is what I enjoyed doing the most.  Grooming them when they were still under anesthetic. In my eyes, it’s sort of cheating.

Lori, cracking the whip.  I can’t remember laughing so much with one person.  So glad we sat at the same table during the OSPCA function in Niagara Falls in 2017 to bond.

This is the owner of the dog, who assisted me when “Sweet”, was coming out of anesthetic.

I was even more of a hit, when she found out my Dad was Don Cherry.

Me doing my thing, with Lori’s assistance. She is the Jack of all Trades.  She just fills in when needed, plus runs the show.

Lori, wondering if I really know what I am doing.  Yes, Lori, I am a groomer by trade.

Monitoring the dogs when they are coming out of their deep sleep.  Some come out smoothly, some not so much. 

Don’t the dogs look comfy?  Me? Not so much.