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Fate brings dog to safety

By Pat Johnson

Published 12:25 PDT, Fri August 30, 2019

Brea St. James, is a Vancouver actor who has a cool pad in Mount Pleasant, but she had a dream of spending a summer in a camper, taking her wherever the road may lead. She did not anticipate it to be quite so life-changing for her – or for the dog she encountered along the way.

Brea St. James, is a Vancouver actor who has a cool pad in Mount Pleasant, but she had a dream of spending a summer in a camper, taking her wherever the road may lead. She did not anticipate it to be quite so life-changing for her – or for the dog she encountered along the way.

St. James and her Italian Greyhound-Chihuahua-cross, Milly, were hanging around Spanish Banks when she was drawn to a man and a French mastiff who were walking by. She sees something of fate’s hand in what happened next.

She started talking to the man and getting to know the dog, Samantha. She noticed a tumour on the dog’s head, which the man said he didn’t have the money to get removed.

“I was so drawn to this dog,” she said. “Then I'm noticing that she's very skinny. Then I notice that she's got patches on her that have no hair. She wasn’t well.

“Something broke in me,” she said.

She could scrape together $400. She said to the man, “Hey, what if I gave you this money and I buy your dog from you?”

He said, “Is that the best you can do?” 

“I can give her a better life. (I was) trying anything to get her away from him.”

After the transaction was agreed to, they went to the man’s car, in which he and Samantha were both clearly living, and in which feces and other waste was visible. Incredibly, the man had papers indicating that Samantha was a purebred with papers going back four generations. Eventually, after some more odd twists, the man departed. 

“And I burst into a bucket of tears, because I had this huge, beautiful, amazing animal that was so sick,” said St. James. “Immediately I put something out on Instagram and said, I have this dog and I don't know what I'm doing. A friend started a GoFundMe page. 

The campaign raised $3,000 in the first couple of days and now stands at about $5,000. The goal is $7,500 to cover all of Samantha’s medical needs.

Someone suggested non-profit RAPS Animal Hospital. The hospital is caring for Samantha at deep discounted cost.

Eyal Lichtmann, RAPS’ CEO says, “We wish to honour the amazing gesture of kindness St. James has shown to Samantha.”

“They were so amazing,” she said. The exam indicated a range of conditions, all of them manageable. “She has a bunch of infections. She was 50 pounds underweight. She's gained 15 pounds in the last two weeks or so. She was so scared and sick.”

Through social media, an entire community mobilized to help Samantha. People volunteered to walk her and dog-sit.  

“It's been a whole village, an incredible, incredible village of people,” she said.

Today the 18-month-old dog is a “bundle of love,” St. James said. “But what’s so incredible is the community that has stepped up to the plate. She's getting spayed and neutered, getting her tumour removed, her paws and ears cleaned properly, her swelling is way down.”

Best of all, she’s found a new forever family. A man in Kelowna who has a French mastiff already and lots of space for Samantha to roam has visited her three times already and will adopt her after Samantha finishes her medical treatments.

“It's just an amazing finish to the most intense three weeks I could ever imagine,” she said.

Why she was compelled to approach the man and the dog in the first place remains a mystery even to her, St. James admits. 

“Her spirit was screaming at me,” she said of that first meeting. “Anyone that felt what I did would've done it.”

Pat Johnson is communications director of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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