When Isabella arrived at the Fort McMurray SPCA, she’d seen the worst that humanity has to offer. The skinny 11-week old puppy’s leg was shattered, nine of her ribs were broken and she had suffered head trauma, the result of severe neglect and abuse. But once she made it through the shelter’s doors, a different fate awaited. Gentle hands stroked the pup reassuringly, while soothing words calmed the frightened animal. The voice was that of Tara Clarke, a voice that has greeted scores of lonely, abused creatures since Clarke began her work with the SPCA two years ago.
“Izzy was in very rough shape when she was brought into the shelter,” recalls Clarke. “After two surgeries, extensive medical intervention and veterinarian care and lots of love, she has recovered and blossomed into a beautiful, healthy puppy full of affection and energy.”
Clarke was instrumental in the dog’s care and recovery, but Isabella is only one of many. Under Clarke’s watch, the SPCA sees more than a thousand abused and abandoned animals come through its doors every year.
Not only is Clarke tasked with ensuring that the many needy animals, from dogs and cats to rabbits andguinea pigs, are housed, fed and cared for and their vet bills paid, she also ensures the SPCA’s many public education programs and community supports and services, such as the Animal Safe Haven program, continue to operate.
“To be surrounded by the unconditional love that domestic animals give us is a blessing,” she says of what keeps her going through all the traumatic cases, financial stresses and organizational headaches of running a busy animal shelter. “It is so inspiring to see an animal heal both physically and emotionally right before your eyes. Finding a second chance at a forever home is beautiful, and I feel so lucky to witness this transformation and happy ending on a daily basis.”
In addition to her work at the SPCA, which takes her well outside the 9-5 parameters of a typical job, Clarke is also an active volunteer, giving her time to various organizations including Jessie’s Centre, Africa’s Children, Africa’s Future, and U=Me=We, which creates awareness of HIV and AIDS.
“My desire is to be involved in the community and help others. To be a part of progress and change really is thrilling,” Clarke says of her volunteer work.
Clarke has made Fort McMurray her home, and says that the friends she has made her, both two-legged and four, will always play an important part in her life. “My future definitely holds many animals, the FMSPCA, friends and my dear family,” she says, adding with a laugh, “and maybe a vacation!”