by Lauren Golosky
It's off-season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and many players are escaping the cold for a warmer climate.
But it’s not just fun in the sun for everyone.
On Jan. 12, Saskatchewan Roughriders slotback Chris Getzlaf went south to Cancun, Mexico, to work with Cats and Dogs International.
CANDI is an organization that sterilizes stray cats and dogs in Mexico and the Caribbean, both areas with large stray animal populations.
Getzlaf, who is also a financial consultant in Regina, usually spends his off-season working, volunteering for the Red Cross, and making appearances with the Riders. But when Winnipeg Blue Bomber Chris Cvetkovic approached him about CANDI, Getzlaf got involved.
“It’s a great way to get out of the cold and help a really good cause down here,” Getzlaf said via Skype from Mexico. “I think dogs outnumber humans two-to-one down here and it’s an eye-opener when you’re driving around up and down the streets and you see dogs walking everywhere.”
Tourists can relate. Vacationers often complain of mangy strays wandering the streets outside of their pristine resorts. It is estimated that Cancun has over one million stray dogs.
At CANDI’s sterilization clinic in Bonfil, Mexico, Getlzaf has been helping the veterinary technicians prep the dogs for surgery and using his football size and stature to help carry dogs in and out of surgery.
For Getzlaf, who owns a seven-year-old pit bull in Regina, the experience of “seeing everyone come together” has been rewarding.
“You see a lot dogs come in that are in pretty bad shape and after they come in and they go through their spay or neuter, and they go through recovery where they get all cleaned up, you see how they can actually turn out if they have some proper care and attention.”
Although Getzlaf said it is gratifying to see the transformation of stray dogs into healthy ones, some of which are even adopted, not all stories he has to take home are happy.
“We had to go and try and rescue a dog that had been hit by a car and we got her back to the clinic,” he said. “But she had to be put down. That part is real sad.”
Despite the challenges of working in impoverished areas, lifelong animal lover Getzlaf is enjoying the journey.
“I didn’t know it was going to hit home as much as it did to be honest,” he said.
More information about CANDI can be found at www.candiinternational.org.