For 16 years, Jillian Donaghey of BARK has been transporting trailers full of homeless dogs from her shelter in Louisiana to Ontario.
It has covered more than 250,000 kilometers in around 60 trips, survived three trailers and an axle fire and has had more flat tires than it can count.
The familiar route north has been a real lifeline for the nearly 5,000 stray or abandoned dogs who stared on dog death row before finding homes — about 2,000 adopted in St. Catharines.
But last week, with 90 large and small dogs packed into a transport trailer, she set her sights north for the last time.
“No matter what we do in the South, there is always more. And I know for the dogs and cats that we’ve rescued and found homes for, I know that’s changed the life of that animal and the lives of the people who adopted them,” she said. said Tuesday at BARK’s adopt-a-thon in Lincoln. County Humane Society.
“But we did our part.”
Her father needs surgery. Her three children aged 5, 10 and 14 are growing up fast. She has a husband and a business selling paper and cleaning products and other household responsibilities. All of this is put on the backburner when she travels and hosts adoption events.
“When we arrive here, we are gone for two to three weeks,” she says. “It’s a long time.”
Hundreds of pet owners in Niagara have adopted Louisiana dogs from BARK – Boudreaux’s Animal Rescue Krewe – since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exacerbated the overpopulation of strays in the state.
Donaghey, who runs the BARK shelter in Alexandria, Louisiana, with his father, learned from a visitor from Cambridge, Ontario that Canadians are still looking to adopt dogs. She made the first trip north in 2006.
Donaghey said attitudes toward the dogs are different in Canada and New York state, where they also hold adoptions, than in the South.
“We were coming here and they were looking at a black lab that’s a dime a dozen down south and they were just talking about how beautiful they were, and the coats were so pretty. And, oh my God, we’d be like, we’ve got 50 more like this, how big is your car? It just blew us away.
The trips were an education in Canadian weather. They quickly learned that pop-up tents don’t work in the winter and that larger wedding tents need to be bolted down in November, after a pole was lifted into the air and pierced the roof of their trailer. After that, trips were scheduled from May to October.
Donaghey said shelter support is also different.
Where there are several employees at the Lincoln County Humane Society and other shelters, BARK has one paid employee who cares for 100 animals and about 15 volunteers. It does not receive funding, large donations or sponsorships.
“We have contributors who send $20 a month and have been actively doing so for five years. We have this kind of support, which is amazing, which has kept us alive, but it’s still financially difficult, emotionally difficult , physically difficult.
Her father, Julian Long, said the trips had saved the lives of many dogs.
“Thank goodness, and I say this sincerely, for Canadians. You love your animals and you all have huge hearts and you open your homes to these guys who need so much help.
He said they had received hundreds of wonderful emails from people who had adopted dogs over the years, but were just exhausted.
“Anyone would be hard pressed to find two like this who are so dedicated,” said Kevin Strooband, executive director of the Humane Society.
“I’ve said it so many times, the work that these two and their colleagues and friends do, I couldn’t do it. I’m just amazed. Three weeks of that. There’s no way.”
Strooband said Niagara doesn’t have the same overcrowding issues as the South due to animal control, Canadian winters and the Humane Society’s low-cost neutering and neutering clinic.
BARK still had dogs available for adoption on Tuesday. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday behind the human society.
Donaghey said she is keeping the BARK shelter open in Alexandria, but her mission will be changed to additional education in classrooms, with an emphasis on neutering and neutering pets of low-income owners and raising awareness in the community to control the dog population. .
“I will try to change it,” she said. “It won’t happen overnight but, I mean, you have to start somewhere.”