Nineteen-year-old London Clouthier is the alpha leading the front of the pack in the promotion of animal welfare and looking after furry friends with her job as an animal care attendant at the city branch of the SPCA.
London told The Northern View being employed at the animal welfare agency since January has been a huge benefit in her life. Having been born and raised in Prince Rupert she struggled through school with anxiety and if it wasn’t for the comfort animals her challenges would have been more difficult.
Growing up in the family home with a younger brother and sister, her dad was allergic to animals so her exposure was limited. However, the family welcomed a Yorkshire terrier a few years ago and the menagerie has grown from there, she said.
“I still live at home with our tonnes of animals. We have a zoo at home,” London said.
It was during the COVID-19 lockdown when the family didn’t have much to do and started to get a little down that the animal kingdom in her home started to grow.
“We each got a pet and then it turned into a couple of pets, then a couple more pets,” she said.
A bearded dragon became her brother’s, with then three more lizards, and a turtle. Unknown to how it happened, an amputee hamster missing his tail, front feet, and back toes became her sister’s.
“Aptly named ‘Stumpy’ he is living his best life now with lots of love,” London said.
Three skinny pigs appeared on the homefront scene, which have become London’s responsibility. Skinny pigs are hairless guinea pigs that appear “skinnier” due to the lack of fur, hence the nickname.
As well, ‘Hedgey’ the hedgehog is part of the family. However, he is not as cuddly as the other pet-members of the family. He is a bit prickly physically and personality-wise, London said. Her mom has taken over the custody and care of the insectivore because despite his cuteness he would bite London.
“I did research and stuff, but you don’t realize how prickly and not friendly they are. They’re not really companion animals unless you have the time to spend with them like 24-seven and get them used to you,” she said. “I’m not quite sure what happened but he didn’t want to have it with me – with anyone else he is fine.”
As well as her priory of all creatures great and small, London is currently fostering Augustus ‘Gus’ a six-month-old male cat whom the SPCA is looking for a home. The black beauty came to the animal welfare agency a few months ago with some health issues and has rebounded miraculously with love and medication. Now healthy and strong he is currently sharing a room with London, who said she will be extremely sad to see him go when he finds his fur-ever home, but knows there is a family out there who needs this little guy in their lives.
London said working with animals has brought out the best in her.
She has tried working in a pharmacy, coaching children, being a cashier and worked at different desk jobs, but nothing fit. None of them were what she really wanted to do.
“They were okay jobs, but I didn’t get up and enjoy going every day,” she said. “But since working (at the SPCA), I really love getting up and coming to the animals. It’s a really good part of my day.”
London also loves to sew and took the subject all through high school. She has sewn clothing, quilts, baby clothes, and considered the idea of pet clothes when it was put to her, but her main goal is to have her own pet grooming business which she is currently studying for online. She is presently on track to finish in July.
“I actually enjoy getting on the computer and learning about all of it. So it’s really interesting what you learn because they teach you the origin of all the animals and all about them.”
She pictures a pet grooming trailer where she can groom local animals after hours and on her days off. Clients can bring their animals to her for pampering in bathtubs, with grooming equipment.
She said her learning curve at the SPCA has been phenomenal with the management and other staff being so supportive and sharing their knowledge.
It’s challenging, she said, when some of the animals come in after being in a less than adequate situation.
“Like some of the animals, they come in off the streets and they just haven’t been taken care of. They’re emaciated and they need help. It’s also hard seeing them go after you’ve been taking care of them,”.
But she knows they are going to loving homes so it makes it easier.
Dealing with a lot of cats is part of the job with nearly 3,000 feral cats in the city, London said. Prior to working at the SPCA cats were not her favourite animal but she has come to enjoy the felines for their companionship and comforting wiles.
As a youngster growing up with apprehension and uneasiness, she said that in elementary school her mom would have to come into class to stay with her
“To be honest with you … I had a really, really hard time in school. I had anxiety since I was younger. It started to really get bad when I was in Grade 6,” she said. “It was very hard.”
She said counselling and unmeasurable support from her parents helped her through.
“If I didn’t have my parents, I don’t think I right would have come out of it.”
London said she would offer a few words of support to others dealing with similar challenges.
“I would tell them that it is hard in that moment and it is going to be really hard,” she said. “But, you are strong enough to overcome it and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s never going to be that way forever.”
“I find animals help a lot. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just seem to calm me. We can talk to them. They are not going to give me heck — they just listen.”
Adopting an animal is something London recommends if people have the compassion to care for and the time to spend with a pet.
“There are so many animals out there that are abandoned, and can’t be taken care of that need homes,” she said. “[People need] to make sure they have the time for the animals, because they definitely need attention, just like any human would need attention.”
“I know everyone wants to have a young cat or young puppy, but we do get lots of older dogs in and older cats that need loving homes as well. They are only little for a very short period of their lives,” London said. “Personally, if I was to adopt, I’d adopt an older animal, because they need a good life too.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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