News » Whistler

WAG on the march



It’s a Saturday lunchtime. You are having a day off the hill, avoiding the weekend crowds and giving your weary legs a well-earned break. Your stomach is rumbling so you head through the village to get a bite to eat. You hear them before you see them: the dogs of Whistler, on parade. For a town that loves their dogs as much as this one, it’s no surprise that Whistler has its own Dog Parade.

What may be a surprise, however, is that in an animal loving town such as this, only three years ago the local animal shelter was on the brink of closure. This small, but very worthwhile shelter is called Whistler Animals Galore, or WAG for short.

Founded in 1982 by dedicated animal lovers Dorothy Sabey and Debbie Chow, WAG began as an animal shelter and rescue service, primarily servicing the Whistler area. Dorothy felt there was a need for such a service due to the large population of animals in Whistler. The organization’s aim is now clearly stated as, "Protecting and enhancing the lives of lost, unwanted and homeless animals."

WAG has expanded to service the Sea to Sky corridor, but considering where it has come from it’s amazing WAG is still running. It has come from the brink of closure to being a thriving, essential part of Whistler’s animal-loving community.

David MacPhail, who has been involved with WAG since the beginning, describes the situation with WAG about three years ago as desperate.

"The co-ordinator had quit and I was the only one left on the board. I was basically left to turn off the lights and go home," McPhail says.

At that time WAG had no shelter, no volunteer program, no publicity and relied solely on foster homes for the animals that were left in its care.

At that same time, in Toronto, Jodi Stockfish, who was working in the public affairs department for the Bank of Montreal, decided that the time was right to finally get out of the city and move to British Columbia. Her original destination was Kelowna, but she met up with an old university friend and instead came to Whistler.

Jodi had always been an animal lover, spending time on farms as a child, volunteering at a kennel looking after 65 English foxhounds during university, and in Toronto volunteering for the Community Ride Association for the Disabled and with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Once in Whistler she volunteered with Puppy Zone, and after a while, found her destiny with WAG.

She called MacPhail out of an interest in helping with WAG. As he tells it, they met for lunch, shared similar ideas and goals for the shelter and Jodi was handed the task of turning the virtually bankrupt WAG around. Little did she know at that time the impact this small animal shelter with big ideas, would have on her life.