Kennel doors are expected to swing open today on a half-million-dollar facility in South Langley that some didn't believe could happen.
After years of dreaming, months of construction, and weeks of free labour from friends and family, a nine-acre farm bumped up against the U.S. border has finally be transformed into a multi-purpose animal daycare/boarding and sports facility called A Dog's Life K9 Centre.
And it's all being brought together by a woman whose determination and will allowed her to triumph over a childhood brain injury.
Despite the skepticism of nay-sayers and headaches and vertigo that have plagued Kira M'Lot since age eight, the 24-year-old Langley trainer has found what she calls her true calling in life - working with animals.
And finally armed with the settlement money from a fall that changed the course of her life 16 years ago, she's now pursuing her dream.
M'Lot was at a wedding in New Westminster at the age of eight when the accident occurred. She was helping send another kid out onto a custom zipline when she was pulled off the stand herself. She fell 14 feet to the ground below.
She suffered a grand mal seizure and following surgery spent the next year on heavy medications suffering double vision and multiple related health issues.
Nightmares, headaches, and vertigo continue to this day.
Doctors even attribute her diminished comprehension abilities to the fall, which quashed any scholastic hopes and even her original career aspirations as a kinesiologist.
Always active in sports - such as skating and kayaking - the Mountain Secondary graduate realized soon after completing Grade 12 that her future must involve more of a hands-on job.
Animals - which had through high school been her stress release - suddenly opened up a potential career option.
Through much of her senior years in high school, she would visit the Langley Animal Protection Society shelter on weekends to walk or run dogs.
It was during one such walk that she suddenly connected with a behaviourly challenged German shepherd named Duska. That connection not only changed things for Duska, but for M'Lot.
"It was one of those day_ seeing that change in the dog."
Soon after, she started working at a kennel in Surrey and even worked for a short time at LAPS before taking a dog training apprenticeship program.
During that six-month course, which is when she bought her golden retriever Tayah - her faithful companion and mascot of her new shelter - she launched what would be her new-found career.
After working a year for a Burnaby dog daycare, she leased a space in Abbotsford and opened her own business that now employs four part-time people.
This spring, after three years of leasing, she began hunting for permanent digs.
And just a week before the scheduled opening of her new centre, M'Lot showed off the facilities offering a tour inside and out, of the 7,200-square-foot building.
The centre comes complete with radiant heated floors and 20 temperature sensitive dog kennels for boarding and daycare, a huge cat room with eight cat condos, grooming facilities, isolation rooms for sick animals, a retail centre, training rooms, outdoor runs, and a large sport field ideal for dog sports such as agility, obedience, tunneling, and herding.
"I want it to be clean, dry, warm, and I want it to feel like a home. I don't want dogs to be put in a dark smelly hole," she said.
The entire property is set up for dogs, M'Lot added, noting she took over a farm that had previously been used for training German shepherds. While she fosters dogs, the centre will not be used for adoption or breeding.
Almost giddy with excitement about the impending opening, she said through all of the ups and downs that have plagued her recovery, she has continued to work hard for what she believes in and finds it almost surreal to see it coming to fruition.
"My whole goal in my life is working with dogs to create a better relationship between people and their family pets," she said, walking through the Zero Avenue complex.
"I feel great for what I've accomplished_ and I love what I'm doing now_ The moral of my life is that no matter what life serves up, if you believe it, you can achieve it. Just look at me."
@ Copyright 2013