EDMONTON JOURNAL -- There was no telling how long the dog had been bobbing in the ocean in the waters off Cancun by the time he was rescued.
By then, he had so much salt water in his ears and in his stomach — to say nothing of his other injuries and medical issues — no one imagined he would even survive.
Survive he did, though, and eventually made his way to Edmonton — and straight into Jannet Talbott’s heart.
Talbott first saw the dog she named “Wilson” — after the basketball cum companion who shared a deserted island with Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway — on the website of a local animal rescue organization known as WHARF, or Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation.
If the photograph of the pooch stole Talbott’s heart, the accompanying story practically broke it in two.
Talbott called me after I asked readers last week for stories from people who have adopted pets from Mexico, where homeless dogs roam the street by the hundreds and have to fend for themselves.
When fishermen in the port towns come in with their catch, the dogs sneak onto the boats to scavenge for fish guts and whatever else they can find.
Sometimes they’re still hiding on the boats when the fishermen put out to sea again, and, when they’re discovered, are simply tossed over the side.
And so it was with Wilson, who is thought to have been paddling around in the water for days by the time he was spotted and pulled onto the boat that rescued him.
He was taken ashore in Cozumel and handed over to a local animal shelter where, exhausted by his ordeal, he slept for nearly a full week.
Barely 10 pounds, he was thought by the vet to be a cross between, of all things, a Pomeranian and a golden retriever. The vet also guessed him to be about eight years old, unheard of for most street dogs, whose life expectancy is somewhere between two to four years.
Wilson had never been vetted before so his nails had grown under his feet and his dew claws into his hind legs. He had a serious infection in his eye that necessitated its removal and was also grappling with a host of maladies that required medication.
He was, in short, a perfect candidate for WHARF.
“We take the really bad cases, the ones that are really special needs,” says Ashley Lee, who runs the non-profit organization with her sister, Tessa.
They also own a gourmet pet bakery in Edmonton called Food Dish Wishes, where they sell a wide variety of homemade pastries and ice creams using all natural ingredients.
In addition to helping cats and dogs close to home, WHARF started reaching out a couple of years ago to help abused and abandoned animals farther afield.
The sisters joined forces with a group called Cats and Dogs International, or CANDI, which transfers homeless cats and dogs from Playa del Carmen and Cancun in an effort to help them find their forever homes here in Canada.
“We have a really good adoption rate,” says Ashley.
She says the mixed-breed dogs that come from Mexico, in addition to being meek, are incredibly affectionate, and so appreciative of getting a second chance at life.
Talbott knows that first-hand. She adopted Wilson in June, and he has since become her shadow.
She says he fits perfectly into her family, which also includes two cats, a horse and a big golden retriever named Riley.
Riley has his name on an all-natural supplement powder Talbott developed in 2006 in collaboration with friend and master herbalist Rainer Geertz. Intended to contribute to the overall health of cats and dogs and boost their immune system, Riley’s Legacy Inc. exceeded all their expectations.
Three years ago she entered into a licensing agreement with Pet-tek who markets the product and sells it in specialty pet food stores across Canada.
Last month, Wilson underwent surgery to remove some abscessed teeth — the nerve was exposed on one of them — and had his ears flushed out.
“Now we’re starting with a clean slate,” says Talbott. “For the first time, likely in his life, he is pain free. I’m already seeing a difference, even though he still has stitches in his mouth.
“My heart gets bigger every day because of him. I have so much respect for his courage, and his will to live. I made him a promise: You will have the life every day that every animal deserves; you will receive love on a daily basis.”
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