Melissa David knows the importance of having a pet for an individual’s mental health.
David, who founded Parachutes for Pets, a Calgary charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, to low-income Calgarians, was in her early 20s when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
She was single and said her only companion was her dog Charlie, who not only kept up her spirits but forced her to get out of the house.
“I wasn’t doing that for me. I was doing that because Charlie would need to go out and have a walk. I was benefiting but he was the one that was getting me out the door,” David said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“He saved me and so I think these pets are getting people through the worst times right now.”
The charity, which initially began with hampers to dozens of those in need back in 2019, has seen demand explode in recent years. It has provided over 16,000 pet food hampers, nearly 1,600 pet packs for the homeless and 625 for victims of domestic abuse since Jan. 1, 2021.
David, who is now 39, has secured a 12,000-square-foot warehouse, located on Calgary’s light rail transit line, that she is turning into a pet advocacy centre. She picked up the keys this week after the “stars aligned” and the landlord was looking for a non-profit to take over the space.
It will offer a larger pet food bank, a warming and cooling centre for the pets of the homeless, a thrift store to buy pet supplies, an in-house veterinary tech and a free monthly vet clinic.
David, who quit her job as an RCMP analyst in December, has invested her life savings into the project, which should open its doors in September.
“As you know, there is a huge crisis in animal rescue right now with high numbers of surrenders, abandonment, etc. This is our best answer to tackle the problem as a whole,” David said.
“I have invested my life savings in this. But I have to try.”
David actually modelled her new endeavour after the Luna Advocacy Centre, formerly named after retired NHL player Sheldon Kennedy. The Luna centre provides health, children’s services, law enforcement and justice assistance to abused children.
“I had a lot of knowledge about it from the law enforcement side. You never heard a negative thing. It was such a positive addition to children going through abuse and whatnot,” she said.
David said her charity doesn’t receive any government funding and relies on donations. She said she never thought this would happen.
“Absolutely this is a passion for me,” David said.
“I dreamt about it but it’s pretty rare to see dreams come true.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2023.