When Jane Jorgensen started thinking about life after nursing, she knew one thing: “I wasn’t going to be one of those people who sat and twiddled their thumbs and felt sad.”
Jane, who retired last November at the age of 58, graduated from Acadia University in 1976 intending to be a teacher but the pull to be a nurse was stronger (her mother was a nurse in Amherst) and she trained at the Aberdeen School of Nursing in New Glasgow. Working as a critical care nurse in Amherst, as a manager of staff training and development at the Sunset Community, and finally as a nurse supervisor at East Cumberland Lodge, Jane managed to combine both her passions.
But don’t think she gave up teaching and nursing in retirement; she’s just changed her clientele.
“About five years before I knew I was going to retire, I started to plan on those things I’d always wanted to do. Driving horses, having bees, and having a boarding kennel.”
Because she and her husband, Gordon, used to run a dairy farm (health problems forced them into easier-to-handle livestock like sheep and llamas), they were able to convert the former dairy barn into dog kennels because it has concrete floors and is insulated; the former milk room is perfect for a grooming salon.
The kennel allowed Jane to indulge in another passion: rescue.
“We always had dogs that nobody wanted, that were abused or people threw away,” she says. “We love animals and we like being with them. I think I could make a pet out of anything.”
As dogs bark in the kennel behind her and Gordon plays with five newly-arrived puppies in the yard, Jane reveals her motivation for rescue.
“I cannot understand people who don’t look at animals as living, important beings. There are lots of people in this world who think of animals as a commodity or product or thing and that’s a mindset I cannot understand. I cannot understand why people don’t get that dogs have the same thoughts and feelings we have and if we don’t take care of them, well, that’s wrong,” she says. “Some of those people are going to go to hell and it’s for some things that are a real crime against animals.”
Jane and Gordon have seven pet dogs of their own and a collection of cats, but with a kennel of nine runs, Jane was able to offer her services to the Litters ‘N’ Critters Animal Rescue group.
“It’s a group of people who now focus on the northern dogs; we partner with the Happy Valley/Goose Bay SPCA [in Labrador]. Not to say that we don’t take dogs from all over because we do. We had a mum and her 11 pups from Sydney last year.”
Why are these northern dogs so urgent?
“There’s no vet care, they can’t get their dogs spayed or vaccinated,” Jane explains. “The Happy Valley/Goose Bay SPCA has a shelter that is half the size of my kennels. And the violence is unbelievable. And I’ve had dogs here that are the only ones who survived out of litters that froze to death.”
When the situation reached a crisis last year at the shelter in Happy Valley/Goose Bay, Jane was one of several volunteers who received Labrador dogs in a massive FedEx Canada delivery by plane.
“We got three bitches,” says Jane. “One had six pups, one whelped the next day and one whelped on the first of July. The dogs weren’t used to being fed. One didn’t know what kibble was. They were eating 21 cups of kibble a day between the three of them.”
The cost of feeding these dogs was overwhelming.
“I called Steve at the Co-op and asked if he had any broken bags of kibble he could give me at a discount price. He said he’d look into it. Well, they brought us almost 2,000 pounds of dog food. Co-op Atlantic gave us dog food, cat food and lab animal food.”
The food arrived as dramatically as the dogs: Harrison’s brought it to Jane’s home on Wallace Bay Road on a boom truck.
“They just came and delivered it,” Jane says. “And we’re still feeding the dogs from that. It was amazing. What a wonderful thing that was.”
(The cat food went to Marilyn Williams and the lab animal food went to Hope For Wildlife.)
Jane estimates that since she first started taking in rescue dogs in 2010, over 100 puppies and dogs have passed through her life.
“I get the chance to have all these puppies and not have to keep them. And Gordon has the chance for me to satisfy all this fur and I don’t say ‘We’re keeping them.’ I don’t have a hard time placing them but sometimes I have a hard time letting them go.”
Socializing is big part of Jane’s work in order to find homes for the dogs. The adult dogs that come from Labrador don’t speak English and some have never been inside a home.
“Many of them have never been handled or socialized but they’re quick learners. One thing here, because of the kennel, they learn really fast to be housetrained. It’s natural to keep their inside clean. We go out, we come in. They learn that when they do that, they get treats.”
It’s only Jane and Gordon doing all the work and it’s 24/7 but the rewards are huge.
“I’ve never seen dogs so forgiving and so loving,” Jane says. “The temperament of these dogs is unbelievable. We had a dog here a couple of years ago, he was beautiful. He was big, he was blond, he had blue eyes. He was gorgeous. He had been wrapped in barbed wire and stabbed with a barbecue fork 16 times and thrown away. Somehow he crawled to rescue and they shipped him down here. The only thing I found that made him nervous was the sound of a steel dish hitting the cement; he would cringe. He was the most loving dog; he loved everybody. He was adopted by a family with children and he’s the star of the show.”
Jane leans back in her chair and crosses her arms.
“We need to take a lesson from them.”