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These pictures were taken for a calendar to raise funds to support the many therapy dogs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The dogs have a great effect on the community members who have taken on responsibility for them. As a result, the dogs have changed people’s lives. As the opioid crisis continues and the death toll rises, the animals have brought a sense of calm and hope. Having a dog to care for has given owners the routine they were lacking in order to make positive changes in their lives. Some have taken steps to reduce their drug intake and seek help for their addiction. The dogs are a regular sight in the neighbourhood, not only bringing cheer but saving people’s lives. Zelda, who has spent much of her life at the Overdose Prevention Society’s supervised-consumption site, has learned to identify when a person is overdosing and to alert staff members. The dogs and their people spend most days together and are inseparable, which has created unbreakable bonds.

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Julie Humphries with Po and Curley in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver. The two puppies are from a litter of 13 that were born in the DTES. Julie says the dogs help her use fewer drugs because she now has someone to care for.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Tom Venables with Zoe, who was being sold for $80 on the street when staff members at the Overdose Prevention Society decided to rescue her. It was nearly impossible to find a home for her due to behavioural issues but she found a place at Overdose Prevention Society and became the organizations first rescue dog.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Kris Young with Mogwai, who was rescued from the streets. After they found each, their quality of life has gone up. Kris was happy to take on the responsibility and was able to get back to a positive routine in his life.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Mel Carlson with Band-Aid and Sid Vicious. Mel works at the Insite supervised injection site where she inherited the two dogs from a friend who passed away.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Rodney Beamish with Lil Smokey. Rodney rescued Lil Smokey from a traumatic situation in the neighbourhood. A pet companion was not something that he had ever planned to have. However, Rodney was happy to give him a home.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Nikolas Perry with King Kong, who can make some strange turkey-like noises. He either likes you or he doesn't, but he makes everyone smile.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Robert Dumas with Pretty Girl. He thought he was saving Pretty Girl but he quickly learned it was the other way around. Now, she helps keep Robert on a positive path..Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Jamie Burry, a.k.a. One Ton, with Hazel, who was rescued from a puppy mill. Now, they sometimes wear matching clothes and you can hardly find them apart.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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