By Amanda Matwie

From the time she was teenager, Candace Harrison knew that she wanted to help animals. At thirteen years old, she was rescuing rabbits and building heated shelters for them. Back then, she thought she might like to be a veterinarian. Over time it became clear to her that her heart lay more in the advocacy and rescue work. Her biggest push towards rescue work came from a dog named Scooter who came into her life with severely matted fur and a missing leg. Scooter was four years old, and Candace’s home was the fourth one he’d landed in during his lifetime. He was part of Candace’s family for thirteen years. “Through him,” she says, “I learned about the difference that I can make, and what I was capable of doing and will continue to do.”

Candace got her introduction to Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) in 2020, when her employer at the time teamed up with the rescue to house some adoptable cats in their store. Soon after, a customer brought in a stray kitten and when no foster homes were readily available, Candace volunteered to look after the kitten temporarily, but didn’t pursue fostering any further at that point.

When seventeen-year-old Scooter passed away in 2021, Candace’s family decided to adopt a dog so that their remaining resident dog wouldn’t be alone. The adoption process proved more challenging than anticipated, as they discovered that their dog Pokey was not going to accept just any dog into their home. With help and encouragement from SCARS, Candace’s family found the right fit and adopted Rose in September of 2021.

A few months later, in December of 2021, with four cats and two dogs at home, Candace knew that she wasn’t ready to adopt any more animals but still wanted to help animals. Knowing that foster homes for puppies were in incredibly high demand, and that fostering would be great socialization for Rose, she signed up to foster puppies for SCARS. As of January 2024, Candace’s family is on their twenty-fourth foster. Their ninth foster, a pup named Dillon, was a “foster win” and never left, sticking close to their resident dog Rose and making himself at home from day one.

Fostering for SCARS led to Candace getting involved in volunteering for the rescue, helping at adoption events. It was through one of these events that Candace met and fell in love with a kitten named Spyder (now Nova) who has been a great help teaching foster puppies how to play tag. Then in 2022, SCARS was preparing to open the Morinville Rescue Centre and Candace saw an opportunity to help even more. She started transporting supplies for fosters and transporting animals between facilities. By the time that the rescue centre opened in October 2022, Candace was working with the “Morinville crew” part time along with fostering puppies. She loves being part of the SCARS community and meeting so many people with the goal of “saving one paw at a time.”

Candace has discovered a love for photography, which she puts to good use capturing the time she spends with the various animals that come into care at the Morinville Rescue Centre. “As long as there is a paw needing our help, we will be there,” declares Candace, going on to tell me about how heartbreaking it can be to watch some animals stay in care for far too long. She talks specifically about Chucky, a dog who was brought into the Morinville Rescue Centre with the first “round up of pound dogs” that SCARS did in October of 2022 and is still in care over a year later. “I don’t understand why he hasn’t found his forever home yet,” she says, “but on the other hand it gives me more time to play soccer with my buddy.” Candace knows that it will be bittersweet when Chucky finds the home that is “out there somewhere… just taking a little longer to find.”

A lover of animals in general, Candace fosters both cats and dogs. She has also made room in her heart and home for the occasional rabbit. Her door is always “open to all animals in need.” The hope of a “second chance at a brighter future” for all the animals that come into care, a sense of humour, and an ability to make the best of difficult situations are all things that keep Candace going through the roughest moments of rescue work. She also tells me how rewarding it is “seeing an animal that may have had a rough start blossom and turn into a great companion.” Imagine, for example, the joy that she and the rest of the Morinville Rescue Centre team felt when a dog who had been too scared to move through the hallways without people crawling along beside him gained confidence and ran through those same halls. Those changes, no matter how small, make every single day worth it according to Candace. “It’s not always roses,” she admits. “Sometimes help comes too late, but in the short period (of time) we are able to show them there is someone who cares about them.”

Candace, along with the rest of the “Morinville Crew” and the SCARS community in general, understands that not everyone is able to adopt an animal. “Adoptions open doors for the many more waiting to come into care,” she says, but if adopting an animal is out of your reach due to finances, other commitments, or whatever else, fostering is a great option. It’s a “great way to provide and help out where you are.” SCARS provides all the basic supplies needed to give cat or dog a safe place to land outside the confines of the rescue facility, as well as covering the vet bills and providing an amazing support system for new and experienced foster homes.

If fostering is not in your wheelhouse, don’t worry. There are still so many other ways to help! Advocating for the spaying and neutering of animals, speaking out against animal abuse, and sharing SCARS’ social media posts are all ways to spread the word about rescue efforts. Everything from donating money, to donating food and other supplies, to volunteering a few hours of your time, helps. “No matter your involvement with SCARS,” Candace assures, “it provides benefits for animals.” She reminds me that SCARS relies on people and surrounding communities to make a difference.

Find out more about volunteer opportunities with SCARS.