With the drama, stress, and the very real horror that we see in the dog rescue industry, you need a partner in crime who is compassionate, strong, and capable of happy moments and hysterical giggles in a big pile of bleak and unrelenting stress. For that and more, I am entirely in the debt of the magical soul that is one, Jill Bekar.
People ask me all the time how I got into my line of work. And there are lots of things I tell people when they ask me how they can get a career in dog rescue – aside from telling them not to do it. Just kidding. Kind of.
Let me explain…
First, I’ll ask them if they want to work with dogs or if they want to rescue things. If it’s the former, I’ll tell them to first rescue a dog and then turn them into an Instagram Celebrity. Because if you’re going to teach your dog to do one trick, teach them how to make money. Have you seen Menswear Dog? He’s a Shiba Inu with a better wardrobe than literally anyone you know and makes more than in one month than you would in a year. Yeah. So. Teach Fido how to do that.
If raking in the dough with your dog’s perfectly timed selfies isn’t your thing (not all of us like to be millionaire’s, it’s cool), then that leaves you with: rescue. And if you don’t mean in the Fire Rescue/Park Ranger sense, then I’ll usually try not to dash your hopes and dreams with the truth. Because while rescuing dogs has its rewards, while we do occasionally bathe in the pure joy that we made a difference, there is, like anything, another side to it.
It’s called reality. And it can be soul crushing.
When you’re in the business of rescuing dogs from death row, your job is essentially 24 hours, on TOP of already working a full-time paying job (because news flash, rescuing dogs doesn’t pay the bills) and you need all the energy you can muster to fight for the dogs who need you. Or there’s Jill, who works full-time, has a husband and a kid, AND still manages to get out there with me at 3:00 AM, battling snow storms and sleep to rescue dogs in need.
That’s the reality of dog rescue. There’s no punching out at 5, setting your phone on mute, ignoring emails until Monday while you take a weekend trip to the Island. If you do all the above, it’s not just one or two important emails you miss. You miss an opportunity to make a difference. And sometimes that difference is life and death to a dog who deserves every ounce of a second chance at finding unconditional love and a furever home.
That’s reality. And that’s why Jill is more than just a Volunteer. More than our Adoption/Foster Coordinator, she is my partner. My friend. My ride or die and my hero.
Jill has been with me since the beginning of Thank Dog I Am Out. In fact, her dog, Sydney, one of our very first rescue dogs, and Sydney’s story and arrival on TDIAO’s doorstep is how we met.
Sydney’s story, like nearly all dogs we rescue, was a sad one. She was found, starving and near feral, with her companion, Annie on a California farm that had burned down, killing their humans. These two were left alone for months to fend for themselves until Animal Control rescued them, and, in a rare move in animal rescue, placed them in two separate shelters. A classic story of loss, love, and separation, it tugged at my heartstrings, and, as it turned out, Jill’s.
At the time, we didn’t know the two of them were rescued together. We found Annie and relocated her to a rural farm on the outskirts of Vancouver for her to live out her last days – Annie was very sick, and the only thing that could be done for her was to make sure that she lived out her days as peacefully and happy as we could.
We soon learned that it wasn’t just that Annie was terminally ill and mourning the loss of her past life. She was mourning the sudden void of her best friend, Sydney, who, after some digging, we were able to locate and bring up to Canada.
It was our hope that just as we saved Sydney, Sydney would save Annie, who had completely shut down. I understood before their meetup that if it did not work between the two dogs, if too much had transpired in the time of their rescue and transportation, that I would have to let Annie go, a decision I did not come to lightly. Refusing to eat, refusing to walk, hiding from other dogs; she had no quality of life. In hindsight, I realize now that we were placing all our hopes on Sydney.
Jill, in the meantime, watched the tale of Sydney and Annie and their pending reunion on social media. A dog lover and ardent rescuer, Jill fell in love with Sydney, and for good reason. Though this sweet girl had a lot of issues to overcome, Jill saw the spirit within her and knew that all this gal needed was a confident, caring hand to help her remember what it was like to be a dog – goofy, loveable, carefree, afraid only of the vacuum cleaner and sometimes their own fart.
When the two were finally reunited, we were all in tears – the change in Annie was so evident:
We discovered that not only were they a bonded pair, they were mother and daughter. From hopeless to full of life, Annie lit up at the reappearance of her friend. And though Annie only lived for another 6 months, she lived them out in complete joy with Sydney, who Jill fostered – and then adopted.
Life doesn’t always go the way you’d expect. And if anyone knows the truth behind this statement, it’s those in the business of animal rescue. Case in point: Jill thought she was simply adopting Sydney, but just as she gained another furry member of the Bekar Clan, so too did TDIAO adopt Jill into our cool, quirky, sometimes crazy (but always in the best of ways) family. And we have been inseparable ever since.
Jill embodies TDIAO – she is TDIAO. She is the heart, soul, and wheels of our organization. As the Adoption/Foster Coordinator, full-time rescue partner, and “almost” Founder, Jill is the most committed dog crazy person that I have ever had the pleasure of walking the earth to rescue magnificent floofers with. You don’t always get to do the thing you are more passionate about in life. Some days, I wish I never got into dog rescue. Most days, I count myself lucky I get to make a difference. Every day, I count myself twice as lucky that I have the highest honour of doing it all with Jill.
So. When I tell people not to get into dog rescue. When I tell them to think about doing something else, anything else. What I’m really telling you is don’t do it unless you can commit to it. 100%.
Don’t do it unless you are willing to have your heart broken a million times and then sewn back up with every dog you rescue.
Don’t do it if you’re more of a cat person.
Definitely don’t do it if you’re allergic to dogs.
And definitely – definitely – only do it if you can find in a person the wonderful, dedicated, heartwarming partner in crime to help you get through the dark days. To encourage you that everything is worth it, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Who can remind you that just one dog saved is all the world’s difference to that one dog. To laugh, cry, scream, and sigh, and giggle like 12-year olds over dog memes with you. If you can find that, times it by ten and never let it go. That’s what I’ve found in Jill. And to me and the 663 souls that she has helped save so far, it is all the difference in the world.