Don Cherry launches pet rescue foundation
Don Cherry and dog Blue in a poster for Don Cherry's Pet Rescue Foundation. (Supplied photo)
The thought of a dog shrieking at the top of its lungs and begging for survival still keeps Don Cherry awake at night.
Almost nothing makes the man they call Grapes more depressed than the thought of a dog in distress.
“It’s true,” said the legendary coach and broadcaster. “I can’t stand the thought of any dog being hurt or suffering.”
So when he was approached last year by Toronto businessman Brian Green — of Star Child Design — with the idea of creating a sanctuary to help animals, he just knew it was something he needed to do.
When the hockey legend launches the Don Cherry Pet Rescue Foundation Thursday, and a new dog treat called Simply Pets, it will be the culmination of a lifetime of loving dogs and his relationships with them.
“I knew I had to give something back after all they have given me,” the 81-year-old Canadian icon said.
Of course, there is his famous white bull terrier, Blue. He has owned several white bull terriers named Blue since 1975 when he was coach of the Boston Bruins.
“I always loved Blue but what people may not know is our family has had many dogs and other breeds, as well,” Cherry said.
He talked of his dogs in an exclusive interview about his new foundation which will, Cherry hopes, save thousands of canines from torture.
Lucy is the dog mentioned at the beginning of this column that Don still hurts over. “We just lost her a couple of months back,” he said.
But the later years of her life were joyful.
“She was abused and abandoned,” Cherry said. “She was alone in an apartment for five days with no food or water and was so desperate to live, she barked for five days until her vocal chords gave out.”
Lucy was a cross between several breeds of terriers and was a classic canine victim.
“To think that dog was barking for five days, people were just saying for her to shut up,” said Cherry. “They didn’t realize she needed help.”
Finally, somebody responded and her life was saved. Enter Don’s dog-loving daughter, Cindy Cherry.
“I heard about this dog being rescued and needing a home,” recalled Cindy. “We brought her home and dad just loved Lucy.” And Lucy loved Grapes. Cindy said all dogs seem to.
Don also thinks about Dudgeon — a golden Labrador that he had as a kid — all the time. “I was so close to Dudgeon that my first nickname was Dudg,” Cherry said. “In fact, when I hear someone call me Dudg, I know it’s someone I played with in junior in Barrie.”
Dudgeon had a better road than Lucy and returned the love. “My dad died after I left home; Dudgeon was a great companion to my mother,” Cherry said.
As Don said, “sometimes life is not fair for both humans and animals” but “some are “luckier than others.” With that in mind, Don is hoping his new foundation will result in many Canadians adopting rescue dogs.
And this is how a new product called Simply Pets was born. It’s a Canadian-made, veterinarian-approved doggy treat created by Chef Maurizio — the first of many Simply Pets products to be launched.
“My friend Brian Green approached me about endorsing the product but the only way I would do it was if every penny of what I would earn from sales of it would go to a rescue foundation, not just for dogs but for cats or other pets, too,” said Cherry.
Simply Pets treats will be sold exclusively at Walmart and PetSmart stores starting Thursday. Cherry plans to launch the product and the foundation the same day at a Walmart in Etobicoke.
Volunteers will do all the work at the foundation, he said, and the only benefactors will be the animals and those who want to help them.
“We will write cheques from the money raised from the sale of the treats to people who are helping animals. We hope to help dogs from puppy mills or who have been abandoned,” said Cherry. “Our dogs think these treats are delicious. On every bag, there will be a picture of a rescue animal that needs to be adopted. We hope that helps find some homes.”
And prevents any more pets like Lucy from suffering.