All dogs go to Haven

Haven Rescue founders, Brandon and Alex show off their homemade, organic dog treats. PHOTO: Lara O'Keefe

Haven Rescue founders Brandon Lee and Alexander Stevenson have a mission: to provide loving, permanent fostering to senior and special needs dogs who would otherwise live the rest of their life in a shelter.

Their plan is to spend the first year building a business from their homemade, organic dog treats “and after the first year we want to look at getting a piece of land and from there we want to rescue senior dogs from shelters. Because, I mean, we did a Petfinder search a little while ago and there’s over 100,000 dogs in Ontario alone and more than 10 percent of senior dogs will probably never find a home,” Lee explained.

The pair said they’ve always been animal lovers but Lee, who is originally from South Africa, came up with the idea for Haven Rescue after the death of his sister two years ago.

“I went back to South Africa and we did a traditional Shaman ceremony in the forest and I came back different. Life is too short,” he said. “So literally I gave all my possessions away, I stayed at my friends place on a mattress and just thought about ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ And I’ve always loved dogs. I’ve always loved animals. And I decided I’m going to start a rescue.”

But Lee and Stevenson are in no way naive about the realities of starting a rescue, which is why they decided to start a business that will ultimately help fund their shelter.

“Most rescues end up failing because there’s no funding for it. So we decided, why don’t we bring in services around our talents, build up services first so we don’t have to rely on anyone. So that’s the idea behind all the pet services and treats,” said Lee.

Both Lee and Stevenson have histories as professional photographers, caterers and bakers, while Lee is now additionally focused on becoming an expert in dog reiki (he is already certified in human reiki), and Stevenson is taking a course on canine massage at the Royal Canadian College of Massage. The two are also taking a dog CPR course.

Haven Rescue is officially launching its online store on November 1. Among the items and services that can be found on the store are pet photography and homemade organic treats which Lee said “are homemade and human grade. So a lot of the stuff we put into our products, we can actually eat as humans. There’s nothing that we wouldn’t feed our dogs that we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”

While the two live in the west end of Toronto, they will be shipping Canada-wide and will spend every Monday delivering freshly baked goods all around the Toronto area.

While their store will be Canada-wide, they wanted to place particular emphasis on the Beach because Lee has family who live in the area. Having spent time in the East End, the pair know that the Beach is home to many avid dog lovers. Beachers understand that “dogs are family,” they said. “They’re not just pets.”

“So basically we’re going to bake the whole week and all the fresh stuff we do the day before, and Monday’s we’re going to take the day to drive around and drop off treats. Like the way the old milk man used to do. We’re doing that with dog treats,” said Lee.

To find out more information about Haven Rescue, visit www.havenrescue.ca.

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