Snoozing on a fluffy bed is one of the nine puppies that Laura Snoek of Ziggy’s Rescue had in her dog room after receiving the first of two deliveries of rescued dogs from Saskatchewan in late October. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Snoozing on a fluffy bed is one of the nine puppies that Laura Snoek of Ziggy’s Rescue had in her dog room after receiving the first of two deliveries of rescued dogs from Saskatchewan in late October. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Ziggy’s Rescue in Port Alberni gives refuge for dogs

Animal rescue is hard, heartbreaking work

At Laura Snoek’s Beaver Creek house, dogs rule.

It is not uncommon for a wriggling puddle of puppies to descend on a visitor, vying for snuggles and attention. Two large resident dogs patrol the fence line, looking imposing but just as happy to lick a proffered hand.

Snoek is the owner behind Ziggy’s Rescue—new to the Alberni Valley since just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but two decades along counting Snoek’s time in Saskatchewan.

Snoek began fostering dogs when she was 18 years old, but has been rescuing animals since she was a child. She has been running her own animal rescue for 12 years.

“It started with Ziggy,” she said.

Ziggy was a puppy when Snoek rescued him from a rural area of Kamloops. “He brought so much to my family’s life and I wanted to help other people enrich their life by finding that perfect companion, while saving these deserving dogs,” she said.

Ziggy is gone now, but Murphy—discovered at a prairie dump in 2021—and Oscar have taken his place, as have whichever puppies that are occupying what used to be Snoek’s sunroom.

Snoek does not rescue dogs from other countries, just from remote communities in Canada. “We have enough problems in Canada, for sure,” she said. She was living in Saskatchewan before moving to the Alberni Valley to be closer to family, which is why her rescues are concentrated on the prairies.

There will always be dogs to rescue until fines for mistreating animals are higher, she said. Some of the dogs she sees are allowed to roam free in communities, and they aren’t spayed or neutered; compounding the problem.

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Snoek is working on registering Ziggy’s as a non-profit charity, and she has a small board of directors. She has been able to do a bit of fundraising, but it doesn’t go far. This year she has made four trips to Saskatchewan to bring back dogs. Her adoption fees don’t even cover the cost to feed and provide vet care for the dogs.

Snoek works with several different animal care organizations, and she has a veterinarian in Nanaimo who takes care of her rescues. Anytime a dog is transported from another province it goes into a 14-day quarantine before landing at a foster home.

She works with a number of foster families on Vancouver Island, and she provides dog food and other items to the fosters too. She always needs puppy pee pads, crates and puppy food, as well as food for large-breed dogs. Bosley’s by Pet Valu is helping raise donations for Ziggy’s Rescue and has been incredibly supportive, says Snoek.

“Foster homes are key to this. I have some fantastic foster homes,” she said. She would love to sign on more.

There are forms on the website at to become a foster home and to adopt rescued dogs. Volunteer Kimberlee Voorspools looks after adoptions and home checks. Snoek always has small projects that need to be done, such as putting up fencing so the dogs can go outside, and insulating her puppy room. Any volunteer assistance for these small projects is appreciated.

What she really needs is someone to help with fundraising, says Snoek, who is a self-employed bookkeeper. She doesn’t have the time to devote to finding and writing grants, and organizing the three or four online auctions that Ziggy’s operates every year.

Running an animal rescue can be a thankless job when it comes to directly supporting the animals. Puppy snuggles only get you so far, and they don’t provide food to foster families or veterinary care to abandoned animals. Sometimes the puppies she rescues are dealing with viruses, parasites or starvation, and they die. It leaves Snoek weary.

“This isn’t for everybody. There’s lots of tears involved. We do our best and there’s lots of happy tales. Sometimes an adoption is super special.

“I’m tired of crying over other people’s lack of care, lack of compassion,” she said.

When she needs a reminder of why she keeps rescuing animals year after year, she picks up a thick binder that sits on her coffee table. The binder is full of pictures of dogs she has rescued, slipped into plastic protectors with some information on each dog.

“We’ve (rescued) over 100 dogs this year,” she said. “I remember every one of them.”

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