Ivana Halliday quickly opens the door and slips inside Gilligan’s kennel, offering sooth words of encouragement and praise.
The sandy-coloured pitbull is delighted to see her, especially the leash in her hand, which means a morning walk is in store.
Halliday gives as much unconditional love to the dogs at the Victoria SPCA as she receives, far beyond the four days a week she spends walking them.
Her dedication has earned her the B.C. SPCA’s Volunteer of the Year award, which she will be presented with on May 27.
“She’s amazing,” said SPCA branch manager Penny Stone.
“She’s light and she can take the biggest dog. She’s a fireball.”
Stone and assistant manager Cory Bond nominated Halliday for the award, and weren’t surprised she won out of all 17 branches in the province.
“They said, ‘You should have nominated her years ago,’” said Stone.
It’s telling that Halliday has a key to the Victoria branch, and that she cries tears of joy and sadness every time a dog is adopted.
“I love the dogs,” said the Saanich resident. “It just shows that they’re in my heart and I can’t walk away when they look at me.”
She began spending one day a week at the animal shelter in 2000, and then when she retired in 2006, she became a constant fixture.
When Halliday arrives for her morning dog-walking shift, she brings bones purchased from the grocery store, and sometimes shredded cooked chicken and rice for stressed canines or fussy eaters, such as Gilligan.
The treats, walks and scratches behind the ears are Halliday’s way of showering love on the dogs, some of whom have never experienced a gentle hand or kind word.
“The look on their face is totally amazing,” she says.
“It’s the best thing I do. It warms my heart.”