Katie Powell and her army of volunteers are helping fight the flood one dog at a time.
Powell, a 26-year-old paramedic, and her Save a Dog Network charity from Winnipeg have collected and -- through a wide network of volunteers -- are distributing 170 bags of dog food, 46 bags of cat food and 120 cases of bottled water to southwestern Manitoba communities where evacuations due to flooding have taken place or are on a flood watch.
That includes Sioux Valley Dakota, Canupawakpa Dakota and Birdtail Sioux First Nations.
Some families had to leave behind their dogs and cats because of emergency departures and temporary lodgings that do not accept pets.
"People contacted Alicia (a volunteer in her network) asking, 'Can you please go check on my dog because I'm devastated I had to leave him behind.' So we're helping to collect food," said Powell. "People have said to me, 'I could never leave my pet behind.' These people didn't really have any choice."
She said rising water forced many families to leave quickly. Water came so fast on the north side of Sioux Valley it broke basement windows in some homes.
"We're not here to judge, we're really here just to help the dogs. And the cats, who I guess are honorary dogs right now," Powell said.
Alicia Hoemsen, founder of the Strays That Can't Pay rescue in Westman, said there are 25 dogs, eight cats and four kittens at Sioux Valley Helen Pompana and other volunteers are feeding with food donated from the Save a Dog Network. Still more of the food is on standby in Brandon for transportation to dog-food banks in the other two First Nations but is available to other communities in need.
"We have two volunteers (Helen and Lee) at Sioux Valley who live in the community, and they go every night to the evacuated area to feed the animals and check on them," Hoemsen said, noting officers from the Dakota Ojibway Police Service are also assisting to get them safely in and out of the flooded area. "Our concern at this point is the long-term effects of the flood, how long people will be out of their homes and how long we can keep doing this."
Powell said she returned from work last Saturday night to find volunteers waiting along with stacks of bottled water, dog and cat food all piled on the front lawn of her St. Boniface home. She had made a plea for dog food the previous day on SADN's Facebook page after Hoemsen told her about the need to feed the stranded pets.
"I was just thrilled and so overwhelmed, it was all within 48 hours," Powell said.
That's where the network came in. The food was supplied by numerous private donors and Pet Valu on Reenders Drive while Costco on Regent Avenue gave two pallets of water. The food was transported to the drop-off location in Brandon by Winnipeg Exclusive Bus Tours, whose owner Maisie Hicks was sending a bus to Brandon to pick up cadets to take them to a camp.
"She said, 'It's going empty so fill 'er up!' So we did our best!" laughed Powell.
Strays That Can't Pay volunteers transported half the supplies to Sioux Valley. The other half is being stored with a volunteer who has the space in Brandon until it is needed. The SADN is continuing to collect supplies for communities in need such as food, ice cream pails and bowls. Anyone wishing to donate, volunteer or needing assistance for pets can email Powell at email@example.com or drop off food at Pet Valu locations in Winnipeg or Best West on St. Anne's Road.
"We're here to help anyone affected by the flooding, whoever is in need, a stray or an owned animal left behind, any spay and neuter clinic, we're there for them," Powell said. "We're not a rescue; we're that support for (rescue) groups who are maybe running low on puppy food and we can give them that."
Powell noted the SADN charity number is currently being legally changed as it was donated by a family friend who ran the former Feline Protection charity.