Dogs are often the brightest part of our lives, and to have them brighten other peoples’ lives as well is a true gift. This is the story of Bodj, a beautiful German Shepherd, whose light shines brightly even though she’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
For 12 years, Bodj shared her love, loyalty, and zest for living with her family. She was a social butterfly, delighting in being with other dogs and in meeting new people. When Bodj’s dad Sir Paul was diagnosed with ALS, she went above and beyond to comfort him.
When Bodj passed away, the family was devastated. She left huge paw prints on the family’s hearts. They looked for a meaningful way to honour Bodj, her caring spirit, and intelligence, yet be of practical use. Through the SPCA, they created the Bodj von Grunfeld® scholarship in her memory to help those pursuing higher education in the field of animal care. Each year, a deserving student will be awarded $500 toward their animal welfare education. 2022 was the second year that the scholarship was awarded. After receiving many outstanding applications, Natalie Comeau was selected. Natalie is pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree at the Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI.
Natalie told me that she has always loved and felt a strong connection with animals. Through her volunteer work with the SPCA, that bond deepened. She shared “I started volunteering weekly as a cat care attendant, which involved a bit of cleaning and a lot of cuddling sweet cats and kittens. It was the best part of my week! Eventually, I started fostering cats for the SPCA. It was so rewarding to see them become comfortable with people and to watch their personalities bloom. Through the SPCA’s Palliative Care Program, I found Missy – the sweetest cat in the world, who enjoyed a number of happy years with my family. I knew in my heart that a career that involved helping animals would make me happy and fulfilled.”
You may recall seeing the picture of Natalie with her one-year-old cute-as-a-button dog Eve. “Eve opened my eyes to what people refer to as their ‘soul dog’ – a soulmate in dog form,” said Natalie. “I can’t imagine my life without her; she brightens my days and keeps me motivated to work hard. I’m sure that Bodj’s family would agree that the light dogs bring to our lives never fades.”
In the second year of the DVM program, Natalie’s studies are going well. She related “The experience I’ve had working in veterinary clinics is so rewarding. I love making connections with pet owners and getting to know their pets. It’s a special close connection that I think is often hard to find in other careers. I also feel proud and inspired when I get to help with the care of sick animals, especially when I can see how much they improve after treatment.”
When asked how the Bodj von Grunfeld® scholarship has impacted her life and education, here’s what Natalie had to say. “This scholarship has helped me to focus on succeeding in my studies and to worry less about mitigating student debt through part-time jobs. This year has had a very challenging curriculum, and I’m so glad that I get to put my best foot forward and learn as much as I can to help animals in the future. It has also allowed me to focus on some of my other areas of interest, like being the President of my school’s Shelter Medicine Club, an opportunity which has allowed me to partner with the Humane Society here in PEI.”
Natalie expressed how grateful she is to Bodj’s family. “I would like to thank them for their generosity in helping students who share their passion for animals and for seeking to help shelter animals who are often overlooked or forgotten. The bond they shared with Bodj is so special and inspiring; I think it is one that every dog parent aspires to have.”
Inspired by Bodj’s scholarship, Natalie intends to ‘pay it forward’ in the future, giving back to other veterinary students, especially those that are active in supporting their local humane societies. She explained, “I think that it is such an important and sometimes underserved part of veterinary medicine and animal welfare, and there is the potential to make a huge impact by encouraging people to become involved in helping shelter animals.”
Natalie encourages others to pursue a career in animal welfare, particularly in these times when we are facing a shortage of veterinarians across the country. “In my experience, it is a very fulfilling career path that will challenge you to learn and better yourself constantly,” she stated. “Something I love about veterinary medicine is that the career options are endless*, so you will always be able to find something you are passionate about and have the option to change career paths if you want to learn something new. Applying for and receiving this scholarship has been a great experience and I encourage anyone to apply!”
On March 1st, 2023 the Bodj von Grunfeld® scholarship window was opened for the third year. The deadline for applying is June 30, 2023. To find out more about the scholarship or to apply for this amazing opportunity, click here.
If your pet brightened your life and you would like to explore the establishment of a scholarship in their memory, please reach out to the Nova Scotia SPCA for help.