Puppy love: Ottawa Senators, business community come to the aid of homeless and abandoned dogs

Second annual benefit dinner raises $34,000 for Ottawa-based, volunteer-run Freedom Dog Rescue

Editor's Note

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark MotorsBruyère FoundationMarilyn Wilson Dream Properties, the National Arts Centre and Sparks Dental. Read their stories here.


What’s better than dining out with a bunch of friends at one of the best spots in the city, The Whalesbone on Elgin Street?

How about cuddling with some insanely adorable puppies while at said restaurant?

Mathilde Boedker, wife of Ottawa Senators winger Mikkel Boedker, was back Monday night to co-host a second annual benefit dinner in support of Freedom Dog Rescue, a volunteer-run, Ottawa-based charity dedicated to rescuing homeless and abandoned dogs. Joining her this year in hosting duties was Olivia Donnelly. She’s the girlfriend of Ottawa Senators centre Chris Tierney.

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

The 80-person crowd included players from the team and their partners, members of the business community, and fellow organizer Bill Johnston. The Ottawa lawyer is what you’d call a behind-the-scenes guy who, according to Mathilde, “is actually doing most of the work.”

The $350-a-ticket night raised a net total of $34,000, with 20 per cent of those proceeds going to the World Wildlife Federation for Australia, where recent wildfires have had devastating effects for millions of animals.


The Boedkers have a personal connection to Freedom Dog Rescue; they adopted their dog Dallas from the charity.

Mathilde told OBJ.social how much she loves having a furry friend to keep her company. Her family is back in her homeland of Denmark and her husband often has out-of-town games.

“He’s good for Mikkel, too,” she added. “No matter what his day has been like, a dog will always bring a smile to your face.”


On hand were Peter McCallum, Craig Sasso and executive chef Michael Radford from The Whalesbone Restaurant Group ownership team, along with their friendly staff. 

OBJ.social spotted such returning faces as corporate director Lori O’Neill, luxury home seller Tony Rhodes, venture capital veteran Doug Hewson, and Dan Greenberg, owner of Ferguslea Properties. There were also new guests, including Wesley Clover Parks executive director Karen Sparks, Bluesfest founder Mark Monahan and Tim Hortons franchisee Anil Mital and his wife, Monica. Monahan donated to the live auction a backstage VIP opening night package for Bluesfest while the Mitals donated a one-week stay at a villa in Punta Cana.


Other items included a golf trip to the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, courtesy of Mark Culver; a dinner party for eight, hosted by Chef Radford and The Whalesbone Restaurant Group; and courtside seats to a Toronto Raptors game.


Freedom Dog Rescue, which started five years ago, has to date rescued 1,011 dogs. Last year, alone, it adopted out close to 400 dogs.

The charity also has a small program that places dogs who are palliative in volunteer foster homes, where they can live out their remaining days.

“This is not a cheap undertaking for us,” said Freedom Dog Rescue co-founder David Harding, whose day job is working as a compliance specialist at Nokia. “Our vet bills last year were $400,000.

“We rely on these kind of events and donations coming in from the public to really fund our efforts.”


The pups, who looked sporty in their Ottawa Senators sweaters, worked their canine charm on the crowd during the cocktail hour, before guests took their seats for dinner. Prior to serving of the first course, the room was formally welcomed and thanked by the gracious hosts. By this time, the pups were together in a pile, fast asleep on a table. 

Mathilde told everyone how said she’s gained more than just a dog since she and her husband moved to the nation’s capital in 2018. She’s also learned what it means to live in a supportive and caring community. 

“One thing I’m going to take from Ottawa with me when I leave is you, the community. It warms my heart.”


— caroline@obj.ca

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.