Year of the Northern Dog

Externship Project

The first time I laid eyes on my dog, his name was Petey. He was a stocky husky-something, with a dusty red coat and a reserved attitude. I was a member of a team from Cat Lake Friends of Animush, and we were in Northern Ontario delivering a spay/neuter and vaccination clinic for the local dog and cat population.  He was a dog who needed a new home, and my family was ready for a dog. I’ll confess to having reservations when he arrived home with us – he came with little history, had never lived in a house, and seemed sensitive to loud noises and sudden movements. However, our new friend quickly adjusted to the house and proved himself a personable, goofy, and loving companion. Shortly after his arrival, he earned a new name: Timber.

Timber’s story illustrates a happy ending for a dog in remote Northern Ontario. There are many other happy Northern dogs, whose owners do their best to provide for them amidst difficult conditions. However, in many cases the lack of available veterinary care, inflated prices of food (dog and human), and struggle to provide for the human family make care of dogs an impossibility in Northern communities. Dog overpopulation is rampant in some areas, which leads to territorial fights and packing – both of which are dangerous for dogs and humans. Dogs often hunt for food, which increases their parasite burden.  When humans and animals compete for resources, no one wins.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA) has designated 2018 as the Year of the Northern Dog to highlight some of the struggles of life up North and encourage participation in activities aimed at providing care to these dogs. It takes a team to improve the health and welfare of Northern dogs.  Community volunteers, band council members, veterinarians, technicians, and even airlines – all have an important role to play in the process of gathering supplies, transporting equipment (not to mention the people and dogs!), and hosting an efficient, well attended clinic. To learn more about Northern dogs and how to join the movement, please visit