Rescued dog wins award as therapy animal

Seized as part of the “Langley 66,” Emily now comforts others.

A dog seized as part of the “Langley 66” from a suspected puppy mill has now graduated from fearful and flinching to being the BC SPCA’s Animal Hero of the Year.

Emily, a Bernese mountain dog, was taken into SPCA custody from a Glen Valley property on Feb. 4, 2016. Most of the animals were malnourished, with matted fur. Many suffered from health problems and untreated injuries, and others were frightened of everyone.

Lawyer Chris Ness met Emily when he was volunteering as a dog walker for the SPCA’s Vancouver branch.

He decided to adopt the dog, who had come to the shelter emaciated and anaemic, as well as nervous and flinching at everything.

“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.”

Ness had to find pet-friendly housing to take in Emily, and had support from his sister and her family to give the dog the care she needed.

“The first day she didn’t eat or drink anything,” Ness said. “She learned I liked it when she sat down, so she would sit down every 10 seconds even while outside on walks.”

She flinched at sudden movements, and didn’t even know how to play. Over the course of more than a year, Emily has now learned to run and play simply for the joy of it.

Ness noticed that Emily enjoyed meeting strangers, and decided her gentle, friendly personality and excellent behaviour made her a good therapy dog candidate. She was enrolled in a St. John’s Ambulance program and is now a regular visitor to seniors living in care facilities.

“She creates a lot 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.”

Emily and Chris were honoured at the May 5 BC SPCA Awards, held in Richmond.