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Pooch aid: Saving dogs is labour of love

Veterinarian technician Megan Fontaine with Faith, a Labrador retriever whose eye was surgically removed last week. The bill for surgery and other treatment exceeds $1,000.

Veterinarian technician Megan Fontaine with Faith, a Labrador retriever whose eye was surgically removed last week. The bill for surgery and other treatment exceeds $1,000.

MONTREAL - Anne Dubé has a thing for one-eyed dogs.

As fetishes go, it's fairly benign -but very expensive.

Faith is an 18-month-old Labrador retriever whose right eye was surgically removed last week at the Pierrefonds Animal Hospital. The bill for that surgery, plus stitching up the dog's damaged ear and spaying her, has topped $1,000 and the meter is still running on post-op meds.

The dog is from Waskaganish, a James Bay community where an animal-loving good Samaritan teaches French in an elementary school. Since December, France Cadieux has sent 32 dogs, which would otherwise be euthanized, to Rosie Animal Adoption in Montreal.

"She pays out of her own pocket," said Dubé, who picks up the dogs at the airport and attends to their veterinary needs. Much of it is routine stuff, but there have been four cases of parvovirus, treatment of which is a four-digit veterinarian's bill.

"Most come in very healthy and they're very nice dogs," she added. "They have to be vaccinated and neutered, but Faith is the first one with serious health problems."

Dubé emailed pictures of Faith, posing with Pierrefonds Animal Hospital technician Megan Fontaine after the dog's surgery. She didn't send any "before" photos because Dubé deemed them too graphic.

"Her eyeball was hanging out," Dubé said, "and her ear looked like it had been cut with scissors. She was in so much pain, but when she came out of the cage she still wagged her tail and let everybody pet her."

Faith is Dubé's third one-eyed dog. The string began with Rosie I, two months old and needing her eye removed when Dubé adopted her in 2002. Rosie II, rescued and surgically repaired three years ago, was a dog originally from Israel that somehow ended up at the Montreal SPCA. The dog's Israeli owners were going home and couldn't take their pet with them. It was Dubé to the rescue -again.

She and Leanne Turner launched Rosie Animal Adoption eight years ago. It has become a network of 50 volunteers who rescue dogs that are in danger of being euthanized.

The dogs receive thorough veterinary care: vaccinations, defleaing, deworming, spaying/neutering, hospitalization if necessary to counter kennel cough and other ravages of overcrowding at dog pounds. Once the animals are healthy, they're placed in foster homes with families who have dogs, and are put up for adoption on a website:

Applicants fill out questionnaires that determine their suitability as dog owners. An adoption costs $350.

Dubé will turn 61 this month. She is retired, "which means I can work on Rosie's Adoption seven days a week."

In their Baie d'Urfe home, Dubé and her husband have four dogs, including the original Rosie and a border collie.

When she worked as a warranty administrator, her hobbies were ballroom dancing, gardening and regular trips to the gym. A herniated disc and five months of bed rest obliged Dube to find something else to do with her free time.

She had grown up with house pets in Lachine and loved dogs. Dubé, who had two dogs at the time, spotted Rosie I during a 1991 visit to the SPCA.

The rest is animal rescue history. The grassroots group has engineered more than 1,500 adoptions of dogs who, the website says, "would not have had a second chance if Rosie had not stepped in to care for them, which is why we took them on."

"It's easy to say sick dogs should be put down," Dubé said. "But when you hold them and look in their eyes and know they have a chance to survive ..."

Especially when it's one eye you're gazing into.

But altruism is expensive. Two Rosie dogs have required complicated leg surgery this year.

Rosie Animal Adoption has no paid employees and relies entirely on donations to cover an annual budget of about $85,000, almost all of which is disbursed on veterinarian fees. Knowing I'm a dog lover, Dubé asked that I mention donations are down and 2010 is shaping up as a tight year, with 125 dogs processed already, compared with 115 in all of 2009.

For information or to donate to Rosie Animal Adoption, call 514-217-DOGS (3647). On the Web:

Read more.

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