Ottawa Senators lend support to four-legged furry friends at Freedom Dog Rescue

Intimate benefit dinner at The Whalesbone raises $34,500 to help homeless and abandoned dogs

Hayley Thompson called it love at first sight.

Just so you know, she was talking about the homeless pup she adopted from Freedom Dog Rescue, not her talented hockey star boyfriend, Mark Stone, who’s also an alternate captain for the Ottawa Senators. 

Thompson said she spotted the cuddly little guy at a Senators home game last fall, during a Furry Fans night to promote local animal rescue organizations.

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“I saw this puppy and I instantly fell in love with him,” she told 74 attendees of a $350-a-ticket benefit dinner held Monday night at The Whalesbone restaurant on Elgin Street to raise money for the local dog rescue charity. It was attended by 10 players from the Ottawa Senators, along with their partners, and by the team’s former captain, Daniel Alfredsson, and his wife, Bibbi.

“I held him. He slept in my arms for a whole period,” said Thompson. “I texted a picture of this dog to Mark while he was playing the game and I said, ‘We’re getting this dog!’ I expected him to be the sanity in our relationship and to just say, ‘No way, it’s not going to happen. Sorry’.

“He said, ‘Sure, get him’.”

The couple already had two golden retrievers when they took in Eldrick, named after Stone’s golf hero, “Tiger” (Eldrick) Woods. The abandoned dog had been living on the streets in a First Nations reserve near Stone’s hometown of Winnipeg when he was rescued.

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Guests also heard the story of how winger Mikkel Boedker and his wife, Mathilde, came to adopt their beloved pooch, Dallas, from Freedom Dog Rescue. He’s named after the team that Boedker scored his first goal against as a new member of the Ottawa Senators. Mathilde happened to be bonding with the tail-wagger at the time, during the Furry Fans game night. The couple had previously discussed getting a dog after moving to Ottawa from California.

She and Thompson were part of the committee that organized the benefit. “We’ve experienced the amazing work that Freedom is doing with the whole adoption process and witnessed what an amazing job they’re doing with very limited resources,” Mathilde told guests.

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A half-dozen dogs from Freedom attended that night, some of them in their hockey pet jerseys. They were hugged, played with and just generally adored by guests.

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Ferguslea Properties owner Dan Greenberg and his wife, Barbara Crook, who are major supporters of the Ottawa Senators Foundation’s signature gala happening this Saturday, attended. So did Mark Motors co-owner Michael Mrak, well-known pollster Bruce Anderson, and Dr. Sanjay Acharya, who’s been promoted to chief of staff at the Queensway Carleton Hospital (he took over from Dr. Andrew Falconer, who’s now head of St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener). 

On hand was Peter McCallum, owner of The Whalesbone. The restaurant and its team were “a dream to work with,” Mathilde told the room.

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The evening brought in $34,500 for the volunteer-run charity. The organization raises slightly more than $200,000 each year, with 90 percent of its donations going toward vet bills. 

Freedom Dog Rescue has saved 651 dogs since it was founded four years ago. It provides its animals with loving, temporary care while it looks for good adoption households. “It’s all about matching the right dog with the right home,” said volunteer board member David Harding, who works as a compliance specialist at Nokia.

There was hockey memorabilia up for grabs as well as a catered dinner for eight with The Whalesbone’s head chef, Michael Radford; a one-week stay at a Punta Cana villa; tickets to the 2019 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, with accommodation; six backstage VIP tickets to the opening night of Bluesfest; and a package of 10 one-hour golf lessons donated by Marshes Master coach and teacher Derek MacDonald.

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