A Calgary charity group is getting ready for a busy summer helping Canadians going through a tough time.
The Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation provides support for people whose pets have cancer.
Among other things, the organization sends out free care packages to those people, including items like pet blankets, treats and toys.
“We’ll ship them all across Canada,” said Kali’s Wish executive director Kate Smitko.
“We are the only charity that does this in Canada.”
On Monday, one of the group’s volunteers Heather Rutherford — along with her dog Lucas — was visiting the facility where the care packages were put together.
Before she got Lucas, Rutherford had another dog, Tomi.
“He was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Rutherford said. “Three months afterward, he did pass from the disease.”
Rutherford was left with great memories of their time together, volunteering with Tomi.
“He would go around and provide pet therapy at seniors’ care homes and the airport,” she said.
“We would show up and just kind of bring a calm energy into the room and provide some love.”
Rutherford has continued that volunteer work with another pet.
“My cat Taz has kind of taken the torch from Tomi,” Rutherford said. “Taz volunteers at the airport and at care homes.”
Rutherford also volunteers with Kali’s Wish, running an online support group.
“If people have questions or if they just don’t know where to turn or they just need that support… then yeah, we’re certainly there,” she said.
Kali’s Wish is raising money to support its efforts during May, which is Pet Cancer Awareness Month.
Anyone wishing to support the charity can purchase a paper “Star for Kali’s Wish” at participating Pet Planet stores in Western Canada.
“Last year the campaign raised $10,000, so we’re hoping to do the same this year,” Smitko said.
She said 30 per cent of Canadians have adopted a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic and this means there will be more dog and cat owners faced with cancer diagnoses.
Smitko said her group’s services will help those pet owners deal with the disease.
“It’s care for the entire family,” she said.
“How do you tell young kids (about their pet’s cancer)? How do you get through it? When do you know when to say goodbye?”
Saying hello to Lucas has definitely brought benefits for Rutherford.
“I rescued him from Tijuana, Mexico, where he was a stray on the streets,” she said.
Lucas is now on his way to carrying on the family tradition of providing pet therapy.
“Lucas is still a bit too high energy for it yet, so we’re trying to get him (involved in pet therapy visits),” Rutherford said. “So hopefully soon.”
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