For the last month, Monica Cruz and her seven-month-old pitbull Princess have been inseparable.
Every day, the duo wakes up in her bed at Rock Bay Landing, a shelter operated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, and goes for a walk to the dog park.
It’s become routine for the pair who have called Rock Bay Landing home for the past month. But it wasn’t always easy finding a home for both pet and owner.
Cruz, 39, originally came to Victoria a year-and-a-half ago from Saskatchewan with a friend. Unable to find a safe ride back home, she ended up living on the streets of downtown Victoria for several months.
After eventually finding shelter at Rock Bay Landing, a friend who owned Princess at the time, asked Cruz to watch her temporarily.
Within a few days, Cruz said her mood improved dramatically. Princess’ health also improved and she gained a healthy amount of weight.
The friend eventually gave Princess to Cruz.
“She’s like my daughter, she’s my child, that’s how much I love her. She won’t leave me and I won’t let her out of my sight,” Cruz said, adding her ex-husband won’t let her see and talk to her three children anymore.
“She’s my therapy dog. She’s been there for me and got me to forget everything. She feels my pain. She goes everywhere I go.”
But finding emergency homeless shelters that allow dogs into the facility was a challenge. Cruz said she left several shelters after they told her she had to leave Princess outside.
It’s a scenario that many homeless pet owners have faced — trying to find a warm place to shelter overnight with their pets.
The Victoria Pet Food Bank and Feral Cat Rehabilitation Society, an organization that provides assistance to animals in distress and low-income families with pet food contributions, is trying to change that.
Margarita Dominguez, president and founder of the society, said pets shouldn’t be left out in the cold and wants all shelters in Greater Victoria to accept pets.
She said currently all Cool Aid properties and the First Metropolitan United Church allows pets, but she hopes places such as Our Place will do so as well.
“The pets are the family of the people living on the street. They have nothing, they have lost everything,” she said. “If they don’t allow animals in shelters, it’s the same as saying ‘don’t come here’.”
Dominguez started an online petition to place dog homes in front of soup kitchens and shelters, which has garnered more than 1,300 signatures.
She also plans to urge council to make the new emergency shelter for residents of the tent city outside the courthouse pet-friendly as well.
For more information visit safars.org or call 778-352-2999.