The manager at the BCSPCA Williams Lake Branch, Liz Dighton, grew up in Victoria with dogs, cats and horses.
She moved to the Cariboo six years ago with her husband, Richard, and the youngest of their three daughters.
“Victoria’s a beautiful city, but if you have arthritis and it’s raining all the time, you get pretty old, pretty fast. Here we don’t have the dampness so you don’t get the pain. I love it up here. That’s what sold me immediately,” Dighton said.
The Dightons live at Borland Valley, near 150 Mile House, along with two horses, three dogs and one cat.
“For us it’s definitely home.”
When they made the move, their original intent was to semi-retire, and have a “much needed” change of pace, however, Richard was hired as a large truck driver at Mount Polley mine. And after a year with the Cariboo Advisor, Dighton became the manager of the SPCA.
Dighton loves the variety of her job and said she never has the same day twice.
“I love the variety and dealing with the animals, the good and bad of it because there are two sides to the coin. I like making a difference in animals’ lives.”
That’s the fulfilling part of the job, coupled with seeing a change in public attitude toward animals.
Obtaining the animal control contract with the city, after the city pound was closed, has allowed the shelter to be renovated and updated.
“Being able to upgrade the air filter system even, has been a logical step to ensure we can do our work properly.”
Dighton also enjoys visiting classrooms to make oral presentations to children and the added bonus of having those same students later recognize her at the Stampede or at Canada Day celebrations in the park.
“It’s neat that you make enough of an impact that they remember you.”
Money is always one of the biggest challenges for the branch.
The SPCA is non-profit and covers the cost of spaying and neutering animals in preparation for adoption.
“We use both local vet hospitals. We’ll phone to see who can get them in the quickest because getting them adopted and into a home is the perfect world.”
They also rely on an “excellent” network of foster families to help out when needed.
“We will put it out to the community on the radio, newspapers, and we’ll get calls back in minutes. We have awesome community support. I can’t say enough about it,” Dighton said.
A few years ago the boiler broke. They put the word out that it was freezing and the branch no longer had a heating system. Within hours people were dropping off as many heaters as the branch could accommodate.
“Having that kind of support makes everything worth while.”
Two full-time and three part-time staff run the branch, with “lots of” volunteers help by walking dogs and cleaning. One shift helps in the morning and another in the evening.
Big projects she would love to realize are a covered dog area in the back so staff no longer has to shovel snow or deal with pouring rain and the mud.
It would provide shade in the summer too.
Fresh gravel on all the walkways, and a small area for livestock are also on her wish list.
“Two weekends ago we had a mini pony brought in by the RCMP and it would have been great to have a real facility for her. She was great, and it all worked out fine, but it would be have been nice.”
One of her favourite animal stories was when the city bylaw officer brought in two chickens.
“We have the dog contract, but they somehow corralled two hens in the downtown. Only in Williams Lake. The hens promptly gave us two fresh eggs the next morning,” Dighton recalled with a chuckle. “You never know what the day will bring.”
The hens’ origin never materialized, no one came forward, and the hens were adopted out.
Dighton said every animal has its own story.
“We had the two dogs that were found in the dumpster recently. We’ve had people bring in litters of puppies they found at the share shed. They will see a box that says ‘puppies,’ and then will go around and scoop up all the puppies and bring them here. It happens regularly and kudos to the people who take the time to help.”
Within the context of the BCSPCA, the Williams Lake branch is governed by the provincial body and that helps the branches to survive.
“Being a non-profit, they go out for the big corporate donations. As local branches we’re encouraged to do that as well. For us here, we do not make enough on our own. If we did not have the provincial support we would close.”
Local fundraising does mean the funds stay local though.
The branch doesn’t have a board of directors. Instead, it has a community council that helps with a “bit of everything.”
“They help us with fundraising, with getting out into the community, locally supporting the SPCA and helping spread awareness.”
Presently there are six members on the council and Dighton said there’s room for more.
“We are always looking for new people and new ideas.”
Dighton has always loved animals and she’s a self-described numbers geek — two characteristics she brings to her job.
“It really balances me and gives me a job I really enjoy. I also have the creative side and I enjoy writing stories about the animals that come in.”
In 2012 they received 950 animals, in 2011, just over 1,000. The beginning of 2013 has been “very quiet” for animals, however, soon kitten season will hit.
“The middle of February might be crazy. It’s one of those things.”