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Applewood team cares for animals

Pat Johnson   Feb-28-2019

Bodhi, a labrador-boxer-mastiff mi owned by Darren Graham.

Photo submitted

Darren Graham was awakened by a “bone-chilling” sound, something like a howling animal.

His first thought was that it was a coyote that maybe had been wounded or trapped or something awful because we are in the country and there’s lots of coyotes around,” said Graham’s fiancée Jacqui Micka.



When Graham went to investigate, opening the back door and turning the light on, the sound stopped for a minute.

But soon he saw a commotion in the pool.

“Sure enough, there was a giant beast of some description on the far side, just wailing,” Micka recounted. “By this time, I had woken up and come downstairs.”

The couple, who will marry this summer, are new to their largely rural neighbourhood and were having some septic work done. The fence had been partly dismantled to allow access.

“He went in to get a jacket and curiosity got the best of me and, while he was inside, I was kind of peeking out trying to see and I realized that it was a dog,” Micka recalled.

“He was in the corner of the pool and he had both front paws and as much of his body out of the pool as he possibly could, but he was stuck. And he just looked at me, with this face. So, I went over to him and said, ‘Calm down, Darren’s coming.’”

While the incident occurred before the recent cold snap, the pool has been turned off for months, so it was undoubtedly very cold.

The dog was a large, old chocolate lab, she surmised, and too big for her to lift alone.

“The way he looked at me, I thought, he just can’t wait,” Micka said. “So, I reached down and I lifted him and he did everything he could to lift himself at the same time and then, whoosh, he was out of the pool.”

The dog shook himself off and bolted.

“I have to hope and assume that he got home,” she said.

While anyone would rescue a dog that was struggling on their property, Graham and Micka’s relationship with animals goes much deeper than this one act of kindness.

Graham is the founder and owner of the Applewood Group; Micka is the company’s director of marketing.

Their Applewood Nissan, in the Richmond Auto Mall, donated the space where the RAPS Animal Hospital and the Regional Animal Protection Society’s administrative offices are located.

The in-kind contribution from Applewood is valued at about $500,000—a contribution that allows RAPS to save and improve the lives of so many animals.

Applewood also donated the RAPS Animal Control Van, an additional value of $60,000.

Their animal connection also got a lot more personal recently, when they adopted Bodhi, a labrador-boxer-mastiff mix.

The lucky three-month-old pup is a testament to the family’s devotion to animals.

“The exposure that I have had over my lifetime and certainly in Darren’s is just that unbelievable love and enrichment that animals give. I just know so many stories where they give people the purpose, oftentimes with the elderly folks and people who have lost their spouses,” Micka said. “There are just far too many neglected animals.”

Caring for animals may seem selfless, she said, but the rewards are real.

“I have always known that it’s something that feels good ... It’s a bit selfish, actually,” she said, laughing.

Pat Johnson is the communications manager for the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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