Hope and Helpers

By Taylor Huestis

The wildfires in Nova Scotia left our communities devastated. Thousands shared the nightmare of fleeing for safety. They expected the worst. Sadly, for many loving families, they were right.

There has been loss, trauma, and heartbreak.

But in difficult times like these, it is important to hold onto hope.

Mr. Rogers once said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

It’s not just a good quote from Mr. Rogers. It’s true. Helpers give hope. And during the wildfires, it was inspiring to see all the helpers offering their support.

Here at the SPCA, it was a full team effort throughout the province. Enforcement officers were on the ground rescuing pets, shelter staff and college students provided comfort and care, and the development and communications team worked with donors and connected with families.

But the community of helpers stretched even further.

There was a real outpour of love. People dropped off much-needed supplies, generously volunteered their time and talents, raised and donated funds, and opened up their hearts and homes.

During the wildfires, the SPCA Paws & Support Program was expanded to help families who lost their homes or were displaced. This free program normally helps pet owners who face hospitalization, homelessness, or need safety. Pets live with trained temporary foster families and are reunited once their owner is in a healthy, safe space.

More than 200 pets were cared for in the SPCA Paws & Support Program. Pets just like Willy.

“We didn’t know where we were going to go at first… Emotions were high,” Willy’s fur-dad, Kevin, recalled. They quickly evacuated and checked into a pet-friendly hotel. With Kevin’s experience being a volunteer firefighter in Hammonds Plains, he knew it would be a while before they could return to their neighbourhood.

Kevin reached out to the SPCA and Willy, his nine-month-old pup, joined the SPCA Paws & Support Program while his two Frenchies stayed with Bide Awhile. “It was more of a bittersweet moment,” Kevin shared. “Having a place they were looked after and the care that they needed was more comforting than anything.”

Paige, Willy’s foster, was honoured to be his temporary home. “My heart was heavy for all the people evacuated from their homes as a result of the NS wildfires,” Paige explained. “I was looking for a meaningful way to help out those who were impacted when I saw that the SPCA was looking for foster homes. I was also displaced from my home last year as a result of a house fire and it felt like the right way to pay it forward.”

After ten days apart, it was hard to hold back tears when they were reunited.

There were similar feelings for the residents and staff at Bay Side Home, a long-term care facility.  While the NSCC Yarmouth campus turned a classroom floor into bedrooms for Shelburne wildfire evacuees, four fluffy residents also needed a place to go.

Megan, Bay Side Home’s Recreation Director, called for help.

In less than thirty minutes, Special Constable Sarah Young from the SPCA Enforcement team showed up, reassuring them that the pets would be well taken care of.

Winnie, Candy Cane, Snowflake, and Roger the rabbit found shelter, safety, and love in the SPCA Paws & Support Program. One week later, when the 62 residents were able to return, so did their beloved cats and bunny.

Their full family was back home.

For the families who were impacted, we hope there will be a restored sense of safety for you. We hope that you feel the love coming from your community. And we hope you know we are always here for you.

With hope and helpers, we will get through this together.


Taylor Huestis

Taylor is the Communications & Development Officer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-parent to two cats named Bonnie and Boy (yep - that is his real name) and one palliative pup named Hazel. Connect with Taylor at thuestis@spcans.ca or 902-222-0378 today.