Call them Doghouse Truckers.
The stars of the reality television show Ice Road Truckers, Winnipeg-based Polar Industries, are making space for some new cargo bound for the north — doghouses destined for Norway House and beyond.
The trucking firm was responding to a plea from a local animal-rescue operation, which needed the shelters to arrive before winter.
There are an estimated 4,000 dogs in Norway House and hundreds are strays.
“There’s no shelter for these dogs,” said Jasmine Colucci, a volunteer for Norway House Animal Rescue (NHAR). “They just have to face the hardships. And a lot of them don’t make it through the winter. There are mothers having puppies and the chances of the babies dying (without doghouses) goes way up.”
Usually, NHAR’s efforts revolve around shipping dog food and supplies to Norway House, a community of about 6,000 residents just north of Lake Winnipeg. They also plant contraceptive microchips in dogs and fly canines south to place in rescue homes. This year, the group has flown more than 270 dogs from Norway House to Winnipeg at a cost of up to $200 per animal.
In the past, NHAR director Debra Vandekerkove said the group has shipped about 20 doghouses to the community over a two-year period. But the mode of transport was a pickup truck, which had limited capacity.
“We’re busy enough with food and medical supplies,” Vandekerkove said. “You have to decide what’s more important, food or shelter. It’s like Survivor.”
But that’s another reality show entirely. This weekend, however, Polar Industries will haul up the first load (seven) of doghouses. Owner Mark Kohaykewych said his crew of drivers — featured on the popular History Channel show about hauling freight to isolated northern communities — will continue to transport doghouses to any destination when space is available.
“It’s a great cause and we wanted to support it,” Kohaykewych said. “We’ve got extra room on trucks, so we’re going to keep sending them up. And when the ice roads open up, there isn’t a community we don’t service.”
Kohaykewych said his own rescue dog, Izzy, has already been inspecting some of the doghouses — notably an insulated, 400-pound shelter built by students at Winnipeg Technical College. “It’s gorgeous,” Vandekerkove said. “It’s excellent for moms and puppies.”
Colucci said the houses are required because there aren’t enough foster homes in the region to house stray dogs, which number two per home on average. The average lifespan of those animals is less than two years, according to tracking data NHAR obtained from microchips.
The effort was brokered by Margaret Foster Hyde, a former trucker who founded Furry Hobos N Hiway Heros, a collection of drivers from across the country who regularly transport rescue dogs and/or supplies. Their motto is, “It doesn’t matter how a dog gets there as long as it gets there.”
“I knew Mark would do it,” said Foster Hyde. “I’ve always watched that show and he seems to be one of the good guys. Here’s a trucking outfit that’s giving back to the community they’re hauling into. It doesn’t always work that way.”
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