Emily, the Bernese Mountain dog seized with 65 other dogs from a puppy mill in Langley, is now spending her days as a therapy dog.
Emily earned this year’s BC SPCA Animal Hero Award at the society’s annual awards ceremony, held in Richmond on May 5.
When local lawyer Chris Ness adopted Emily she was extremely nervous and scared at first, as well as emaciated and anaemic.
Emily was rescued during one of the largest puppy mill seizures in Canadian history in Langley last February.
When she arrived at the SPCA Vancouver shelter, Emily was skittish and traumatized. But a local lawyer, Chris Ness, knew with one look at at the dog that the pair were meant to be together.
Now the gentle dog is helping others in her community as a therapy dog with St. John Ambulance. Ness says she has come a long way from the anxious animal he met while volunteering as a dog walker for the Vancouver BC SPCA Branch.
“I hum now. I literally hum with happiness as I take Emily on walks, usually ‘My Girl.’
“Emily is like sunshine on a rainy day. I have not hummed since I was a small child,” Ness said.
After finding pet-friendly housing, and with the support of his sister and her family, Ness decided to adopt Emily. He said she didn’t know how to play when he first took her home.
“The first day she didn’t eat or drink anything… she learned I liked it when she sat down, so she would sit down every 10 seconds even while outside on walks,” Ness says.
Gradually, Emily stopped flinching at sudden movement and learned to run and play.
“Setting the stage for Emily to succeed and then seeing her overcome her obstacles has been incredibly rewarding – seeing her experience pure joy as she runs around the park or beach is the greatest reward,” Ness said.
Noticing Emily enjoyed meeting strangers, Ness realized her gentle, friendly approach and excellent behaviour made her a strong therapy dog candidate, and enrolled in the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program, where Emily excelled. She is now a regular visitor to seniors living in care facilities.
“She creates lots of smiles and brightens many peoples’ days – as is her way,” Ness said.
“Once Emily has enough experience and passes the next level of evaluation, we hope to visit the kids at BC Children’s Hospital and cancer treatment facilities.”
Ness said he’s looking forward to her therapy dog journey and can’t imagine his life without her.
“I fell head over heels in love with Emily. The day I found out the adoption was approved was the happiest day of my adult life,” he says. “She has come so far and we’re all so proud of her.”