Local Organization Has Rescued Thousands of Dogs

Story by Pat Forrest, Photo by Paul Krasauskas

About ten years ago, Thunder Bay’s Erin Manahan was told she had two years to live. After receiving a successful stem cell transplant, she faced a long recuperation and the boredom that often comes with it. As she had always been a lover of animals, she started volunteering to help those in need and before long, as she puts it, “it grabbed her and never let her go.” She is now the president of Northern Reach Rescue Network.

The Northern Reach Rescue Network is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2014 by Darlene Vezina. Yet another animal lover, the late Vezina worked as a nurse in remote fly-in northern communities. When she retired, she was contacted by a resident of one of those communities who was looking for help for a dog needing veterinary care. Vezina started reaching out to pet rescue operations for advice, and soon the rescue network was born.

In the network’s first year, 285 puppies and dogs were brought into rescue. Now they are averaging about 1,500 cases annually. The network not only rescues sick, homeless, and stray dogs, but also takes in dogs surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them. Once the dogs are flown into Thunder Bay, they are given veterinary care if needed and fostered locally until they are ready to travel to various southern Ontario organizations, where they are fostered and eventually adopted. Other dogs are spayed or neutered and sent back home to their owners.

“There are no spaying or neutering services in the remote communities currently,” says Manahan. “We want to do all that we can to support these responsible pet owners who want to help to control the population.”

Asked what Vezina would say about the work of the rescue today, Manahan doesn’t hesitate. “It would blow her mind and she would be so grateful and amazed at all that we do,” she says.
Manahan says that their work is not just about helping animals, but also about assisting people in need. “We hear from partners who have surplus clothing or other supplies and want to offer them to us. The network is very strong and focused on providing help where it is needed.”

Supported by about 200 volunteers and with no paid staff, Northern Reach Rescue Network relies solely on donations to continue its work. Funds go towards flights, ground transportation, emergency veterinarian services, food, supplies, and more. The need is especially great right now as their van—which they were still paying off—hit a moose, and having to rent vehicles has tripled their costs. Tax receipts are available.

To learn more and to donate or offer to volunteer, go to northernreachrescuenetwork.com.