Olivia Doulos has a ‘Passion for Paws’

Chomedey resident is helping rescue Lebanon’s abandoned dogs

Olivia Doulos remembers the first time a consignment of dogs she had rescued from Lebanon arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It was last January and they were on their way to new adoptive homes in Montreal.

The Chomedey resident along with a few volunteer supporters had been waiting for more than an hour in an area near cargo arrivals. Up to that point, everything she had done to arrange for the rescue of the dogs had been “theoretical.” Here at last was the reality.

Olivia Doulos at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport with one of the rescue dogs Passion for Paws brought from Lebanon.

Couldn’t stop crying

“I had heard the sad stories and seen the pictures, but I still hadn’t seen any of the dogs, and so it wasn’t real to me yet,” she said in an interview with The Laval News.

When she heard one or more of the dogs barking and howling as they came through the doors into the cargo arrivals area, she suddenly felt gripped by a rush of emotion and started to cry.

“I was like hysterical, but a happy cry,” said Doulos. “But I couldn’t stop myself. I had never felt that kind of uncontrollable emotion before. Just seeing them and interacting with them in person it became so real to me.

A passion for dogs

“It filled me with a passion that I had never felt before. I’m already a very passionate and dedicated person as it is. But that made me feel something that I had never felt before in my life. It was indescribable.”

Doulos is the founder and sole proprietor of Passion for Paws. Although she runs the organization without profit motive, Passion for Paws is incorporated as a company because Doulos wanted to be able to expand the organization’s potential in a way that is currently not allowed for non-profit organizations.

Thirty dogs brought here

Before starting Passion for Paws, she had created a local dog adoption service in Montreal, arranging for the adoption of specific types of dogs. Facebook connections led her last January to partner with three dog rescue operations based in Lebanon. Since then, Doulos has successfully imported more than 30 dogs from Lebanon into Canada.

‘I had never felt that kind of uncontrollable emotion before,’ Olivia Doulos says about the first time some dogs Passion for Paws rescued arrived at the airport

Passion for Paws is a sideline for Doulos. The 22-year-old is currently a student of biochemistry at Concordia University, while also working part-time at a canine boarding centre where she is a receptionist and attends to the care of dogs.

Work clearing customs

According to Doulos, bringing dogs into Canada from an area of the world with a history of instability like Lebanon can be quite complex, involving a fair amount of paperwork to meet the requirements of Canadian customs officials.

A Passion for Paws team member, with a rescue dog from Lebanon.

After the dogs have been thoroughly screened, vaccinated and sterilized by dog rescue operators in Lebanon, they are accompanied on their plane trip by a “flight angel,” who is either a Passion for Paws team member or a volunteer from Lebanon.

As Passion for Paws has no physical pound or shelter of its own in Montreal, the dogs go directly to their new homes, after the adoption procedures have been completed by rescue operators in Lebanon.

Treatment of dogs in Lebanon

According to Doulos, the treatment of dogs in Lebanon differs significantly from the canine culture in Canada. It’s not at all unusual over there to shoot down strays – of which there is an abundance – or to poison them, she said, while noting that Lebanon is currently in the midst of a crippling economic crisis during which many pet owners abandon dogs.

As such, “there’s a percentage of them that lack socialization and need to be desensitized towards things here in Canada,” she said. “But then on the other hand, there are some that come here and within a couple of days they’ve settled in for their entire lives.”

She said the dog’s ability to adjust “really depends on what they’ve been through and the kind of character they have. If they have an outgoing and confident personality, it doesn’t usually take them that long. Whereas the more timid and shy take a bit longer to adjust.”

How much it costs

With an adoption fee that ranges from $1,200 – $1,500, Doulos acknowledges that the cost of adopting a dog through Passion for Paws is considerable, although it includes the plane flight, customs fees, a shipping crate, bedding, sterilization, vaccination and microchipping.

“We know that obviously it’s more pricey than getting a rescue dog in Montreal,” she said, adding that the cost of the flight drives up the fee, but that adoption comes with the satisfaction of having rescued a dog from a troubled area of the world. Further information on Passion for Paws can be found on their website: passionforpaws.ca.