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The Saints come marching in
“She was emaciated and dirty. She had glaucoma in one eye. She was crippled. Her back end sagged. And her rib cage was kicked in: likely someone had been booting her,” says Carol Hine, describing the first time she set eyes on an aging Rottweiler cross named Rosebud.
“If you touched her along her side, she would fall to the ground screaming. She broke our hearts. We decided to rescue her; otherwise she would be put down.”
Hine is a serious, no-nonsense woman. But she is also someone with enormous compassion. A nurse by day, she runs Senior Animals in Need Today Society (SAINTS) in her off-hours, on her own property. Located on three acres in a rural area of Mission, SAINTS is the home of last resort to dozens of aging and ailing former pets and farm animals.
“The seniors and the special needs animals, they don’t have any place to go. They require a lot of care, a lot of knowledge and a lot of expertise.”
Most of the animals that come to SAINTS are at the end of their lives. Many have cancer or other serious diseases that require special medications and care. Their previous owners were either unable or unwilling to provide the medical attention needed. But under Hine, something magical frequently happens. “Our animals live much longer than anyone expects them to. Animals that we get in that we think are going to be dead in two weeks, sometimes 18 months later are still with us because we can control their symptoms.
“Most of us, when we get sick and we’re told we have a terminal disease, our lives end at that moment. We all of a sudden become sick,” says Hine. “Whereas animals don’t do that. Give them the medications they need to feel good and they’ll just keep doing whatever they’re doing. They will eat their cookies, play, boss each other around, boss me around.”
This intensive care and attention doesn’t come cheap. The bill for SAINTS can run as high as $14,000 a month. And although she receives no government support, Hine manages to find the money through private donations and through support from Vancouver Foundation donors interested in animal welfare.
Hines says she recognizes that some people might object to investing in animals at a time when there are so many people living in poverty. But, she points out, only a small fraction of charitable giving goes to animal welfare issues. “I respect that some may not want to give to animals. But if they really object to supporting animals, then they should at least support and promote policies that help reduce the unwanted animal population. They should be advocating for affordable spaying or neutering.”
And Rosebud? Hine had Rosebud’s diseased eye removed and, over time, the sweet-natured dog gained weight and learned to trust again. Initially shy of anyone touching her, within a week or so, Rosebud would “slide across the floor in her crippled, crab-walk way” to get attention from anyone willing to give it. “She just wanted to sit there for hours with her head in your hands,” says Hine.
“Rosebud had probably about six months with us,” she adds with a change of tone in her voice. “But the interesting thing about Rose is that even though she had this horrible life, where no day was ever easy, all she cared about at the end of her life was that so many people loved her and held her and cared for her.”