Litters 'n Critters to the rescue
Adoring fans turned up by the dozens Saturday at Halifax Stanfield International Airport to greet a plane load of passengers from Labrador.
Cheers erupted as the FedEx airplane landed at about noon and the first small fuzzy passengers disembarked.
“I’m so excited and relieved," said Shelley Cunningham of Halifax-based Litters ’n Critters Animal Rescue as she stood on the tarmac, holding a sandycoloured puppy that let out tiny howls.
“Relief is probably the biggest (thing I feel) right now because these puppies are safe on the ground and going into their foster homes."
Fifty-three dogs, most of them puppies rescued by the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA, were flown by Federal Express Canada from Goose Bay. They are being cared for by Litters ’n Critters, which arranges foster care and adoption for rescued animals.
FedEx volunteered to fly the dogs after one of employees learned about their plight on Twitter.
“I put an SOS out on Facebook a couple of weeks ago because I knew there was a large amount of dogs up there (in Goose Bay.) One of our followers put it on Twitter," said Cunningham.
Litters ’n Critters has been working with the Happy-Valley Goose Bay SPCA for four years fostering and finding permanent homes for rescued dogs. The SPCA there is small and there is not a big enough population in the area to find foster care for all the rescued strays, said Bonnie Learning, a board member Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA.
“We needed to get (the puppies) moved," Learning said Saturday from Goose Bay after helping to load all the puppies on the plane.
“We do what we can. (The shelter) is very, very small and cramped. We have six kennels for dogs and one tiny cat room," said Learning.
The dogs, a mix of various breeds such as husky, poodle and Lab that Cunningham has dubbed “Labramushkadoodles" usually travel to Halifax in the cargo hold of an airplane that is not climate-controlled.
“There’s only two times a year we can get the puppies down.
There is eight weeks in the spring and eight weeks in the fall. It has to be a certain temperature. If it is too hot, then the puppies could get heat stroke in the cargo hold, and if it is too cold they can get frostbite," said Cunningham This year, the spring flight didn’t happen because of freezing temperatures followed by a heat wave in Goose Bay. Then a forest fire near Goose Bay interfered with plans.
On Saturday, the dogs travelled in kennels in the main body of the FedEx cargo aircraft which is climate- controlled.
Other than a bit of yipping and yapping , the puppies were wellbehaved, said Les Marozsan, a senior field administrator with FedEx, who volunteered to look after the pups on board.
“They were awesome. As soon as we got to altitude, they fell asleep. I think they are better than normal passengers," he said.
About 30 Nova Scotia foster families, who will temporarily care for the pups, volunteers, as well as FedEx employees, all turned up at the airport for the big arrival.
April MacDonald and her two daughters were among those waiting. They already have two dogs at home but were eager to foster a puppy.
“Fostering is great," said Mac-Donald of Lake Echo.
“We are very excited. This is our second time we’ve fostered.
Back in February, we did five puppies from the SPCA in Dartmouth after their mom was killed by a car."
The dogs will stay with their foster families for at least a week before they are adopted out.
Litters ’n Critters has found “forever homes" for many of the dogs, Cunningham said.
Learning said the group has saved many dogs from Labrador.
“If we weren’t involved with Litters ’n Critters for the past four years, there would be that many more animals that would have to be euthanized. They literally saved the lives of at least a 1,000-plus animals, easily," she said.