Pure joy on display at reunion of 'Langley 66' puppy mill survivors
With their owners in tow, a pack of dogs raced through a Langley property over the weekend in a show of canine comradery.
Seven months ago, the joy radiating from the rescue dogs was almost unimaginable.
The dogs that met to sniff, run, swim and play on Sunday spent most of their lives in a much different environment. They were rescued by the BC SPCA in February, as part of one of the largest puppy mill seizures in provincial history.
On Feb. 4, the SPCA executed a warrant on a rural property of a Langley dog breeder, seizing a total of 32 adult dogs and 34 puppies.
The "neglected and sick" pups were sought-after breeds, including Old English sheepdogs, Bernese mountain dogs, soft-coated Wheaton terriers, standard and miniature poodles and Portuguese water dogs.
They had serious health and psychological problems, including broken limbs missing ears and eyes and abscesses, the SPCA said at the time. Others were emotionally paralyzed, the agency said, because they were kept in a dark barn with little human contact.
Many had been living in stacked, small cages, and were malnourished, with matted fur caked in feces, the agency said. The SPCA has recommended animal cruelty charges against the breeder, but the Crown is still reviewing the file.
The dogs, dubbed the "Langley 66," were taken in by people with big hearts, who cleaned them, fed them, and helped them to learn how to love.
It was hard work, SPCA spokesperson Kim Monteith recalled. Special workshops had to be scheduled to help would-be owners understand the challenges they'd face. They were warned it would be especially tough because most of the dogs were unable to show affection.
"You're trying to help these dogs and they don't want to be touched. They don't want to be near you, they're terrified of you, and it's heartbreaking," Monteith said.
But the dogs were adopted by patient people with big hearts, who worked hard to build trust and train them.
Two of those people were John Christensen and Julie Thorsen, who opened their home and hearts to Odin.
Odin, used as a stud dog to breed multiple litters of purebred pups, was one of the last of the 66 to be adopted, and appeared dead inside when his owners first met him. The BC SPCA described Odin, formerly known as Kanye, as the most traumatized dog of the dozens brought into its care.
He was afraid of the clinking of dishes and his owners getting up too quickly, they said. He also refused to look them in the eye.
But the former stud dog blossomed in his new life.
"As soon as we got him home, it was almost like he was a different dog," Christensen said, adding that Odin became more confident as he spent time with their other rescue dogs.
"He's amazing. We love him," Thorsen said. "He's just the best dog."
And on Sunday, the dog that once looked dead inside had a chance to show that now he's just like any other happy pet.
Christensen and Thorsen met with owners of some of the other dogs, to talk about how much they'd grown in just a few months. Nearby, the dogs chased each other, waded into the water and lounged in the sun.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and files from Darcy Matheson