Volunteer Maggie Calloway with the affectionate cows who live at the SAINTS shelter in Mission.

Volunteer Maggie Calloway with the affectionate cows who live at the SAINTS shelter in Mission.

An oasis for elderly animals

SAINTS is the only animal shelter in Canada focused on caring for senior and disabled animals.

A white flash comes bounding up, the ragged moose plush toy in its mouth thrust forward inviting a tug-of-war with the exuberance typical of a hyperactive puppy.

Mystic looks like any other two-year-old Samoyed-mix. She’s playful, affectionate, and frisky. She’s also palliative.

Like most of the animals at Senior Animals In Need Today Society (SAINTS), Mystic’s days are short-numbered. Her previous owners gave her up when they learned she has a fatal genetic condition.

“If you can’t handle it, own up to it and get your animal someplace safe,” says Maggie Calloway, a SAINTS volunteer.

The little farm houses over 100 animals just north of municipal hall off Stave Lake Road and is a facility for elderly and disabled animals. Unwanted and unloved anymore, these dogs, cats, rabbits, cows, pigs, and other creatures find a new lease on life at SAINTS, with a roof over their heads, regular veterinary care, and all the animal companionship they could ever want.

The animals’ ailments range from genetic conditions to sickness, disease, disabilities, blindness, or just old age. Yet they live and play like any other animal, and it’s clear they long for human contact.

SAINTS was started by Carol Hine in December 2004, who shares a small house, barn, and three outbuildings with dozens of animals. There is a field for the horses, cows, and donkey, and there’s even a pond with plenty of mud for the pigs.

Calloway says the purpose of the shelter is to create as natural an environment as possible for the animals to enjoy.

Many of the farm animals come from animal cruelty cases or situations where they’d simply be euthanized.

One very friendly pig who comes over for a sniff was rescued after falling into the Pitt River and nearly drowned, says Calloway. Hence the name, Brad Pitt.

Although SAINTS seems to have plenty of room, the shelter is operating at capacity.

SAINTS annual costs run about $200,000, which includes veterinarian checkups, food, maintenance, security cameras, and equipment. Although there are three paid employees to do chores and care for the animals, they rely mainly on a huge contingent of loyal volunteers.

Soon they will need to upgrade the perimeter fencing at a cost of $16,000 to keep animals from getting out or predators from getting in (although SAINTS has one llama, which is a fierce defender of the property).

Calloway started an initiative last fall called 1,000 Saints, a program which aims to get 1,000 people willing to donate $25 a month. She said the goal is to get stable funding so their work can continue. And while the organization has survived for seven years, it hasn’t been easy.

“We actually lurk from crisis to crisis,” she said, adding the generosity of donors keeps them afloat.

To learn more about SAINTS and visit the animals, there will be an open house June 23-24 at the farm, located 33860 Dlugosh Ave. For more information e-mail carol@saintsrescue.ca or call 604-826-8319.

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