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Feature - Angels of Whistler

There are many people who donate their time to make Whistler a better place, here are five of them

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Opening the door at the WAG office, I was greeted by a cacophony of barks, yelps, meows and purrs – and Melenka standing, smiling in the middle of it all, cleaning equipment at the ready and two dogs bouncing enthusiastically at her side. The atmosphere was affectionate, controlled chaos.

"I find it so hard to leave," she confesses. "I sometimes arrive at 8 in the morning and before I know it, it’s 5 o’clock because there is just so much to do."

A self-confessed animal lover, Melenka responded to an advertisement calling for volunteers 18 months ago and hasn’t looked back since. However, she says more volunteers are needed – whether to help with cleaning, walking the dogs or just spending time socializing with the cats and canines.

"It’s not just a case of feeding them and leaving. We are very particular about our cleaning process because the animals can get sick," she says.

"I fall in love with the animals all the time, but we are all so happy when they get adopted. If one of them is not well I don’t sleep too well at night."

WAG volunteers come from all walks of life. Some are locals and some are visitors who miss their pet at home and want to come socialize with an animal. Melenka says dog walkers are especially tough to find during the ski season when most people are up the mountain, but the door is always open.

Melenka has other strings on her volunteer bow, such as library work, helping out at Whistler’s Spirit Day and assisting teachers, but WAG is her top priority.

"No matter what kind of mood you’re in, what you look like, how you feel, they just love you unconditionally, and that is really special."

Adopting a WAG animal involves a screening process that is taken very seriously. Eligible people are matched with animals of similar interests. For instance if you are a couch potato, a highly energized husky dog probably isn’t the best for you.

Melenka glances out the window, realizing a new storm in on its way and that she had better start driving to Vancouver. Will she miss WAG over the next few days?

"Oh I will," she laughs. "You need a break once in a while but I think about all the animals every day. I hate to leave them."

Sharon Broatch — Whistler Community Arts Council