It might be unusual for the opening of a pet shelter to elicit tears, but this was not an ordinary building.
Though the structure contains kennels and runs and pet food, on the entranceway wall is a photo of a woman looking fondly at her little Jack Russell terrier. In one hand she holds a cup of Tim Hortons coffee.
Below the photo is an explanation.
“This pet shelter is named ‘Marilyn’s Place’ in honour of Marilyn Kalke who dedicated her life supporting hundreds of women who were fleeing abusive relationships throughout her career as the Residential Coordinator at the Transition House.
“Marilyn had an amazing passion and connection to both humans and animals with many of her own pets that were part of her family. She passed away on November 15, 2021 before the pet shelter could be completed, but we know she would be proud of this project that will support both humans and animals to be safe from abuse.”
On Wednesday, May 25, people gathered in Salmon Arm for the opening of the pet shelter.
Marilyn’s son Jordy spoke about her. He said she would have appreciated the shelter so very much.
“She absolutely loved animals and she did anything she could for animals, to help them in any way she possibly could. Which is also something she brought with her into this job that she loved more than anything else. This job was her whole life from the moment she got it.”
Jordy said his mom and her then young sons had to leave a situation similar to what women who stay in the SAFE Society’s Transition House face.
“One of the things that I know all along the way that was always problematic for her, was knowing that some people didn’t have the opportunity. When they wanted to leave, they had to think about, ‘what am I going to do with my animals that are so important?’”
He said it would have meant the world to her to know that barrier no longer exists. He concluded by thanking those who made possible the shelter and the honouring of his mother.
“My brother and my family couldn’t be happier,” he said, his voice catching with emotion.
Jane Shirley, executive director of the SAFE Society, also gave an emotional tribute to Marilyn Kalke and her significance.
“She worked with us for 27 years… a really long time. Because of Covid we haven’t been able to do anything for her, so this is for Marilyn.”
When inviting people to stay and have refreshments, she smiled about Marilyn’s penchant for coffee.
“We have coffee – she loved Tim Hortons coffee…, she loved the SPCA, she loved working with women. She worked with vulnerable people for her whole life, actually,” Shirley said, noting at one time Marilyn worked supporting people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Shirley said the SAFE Society is very excited with the completion of the second phase of the project, the third which will include landscaping and further outfitting of the shelter.
She thanked supporters, including the Shuswap Community Foundation, McDiarmid Construction, Women Who Wine, the Shuswap SPCA, Paige Hilland and the many other people who helped out with the project.
Then came the ribbon-cutting, carried out by Jordy Kalke, Jane Shirley, Karen Berger who is the SAFE Society president; and Maxine Kaszas, a close friend and longtime co-worker of Marilyn’s.
National statistics provided by the SAFE Society show 59 per cent of women studied delayed leaving an abusive partner due to concern for a pet. Eighty-nine per cent of women in domestic violence shelters who had pets reported their pets were mistreated.
Animals can be used by abusers to control victims and keep them in fear, to punish or silence them, and to eliminate a source of comfort or support.
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