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.

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.

dog
From left, organizers Olivia Donnelly, Bill Johnston and Mathilde Boedker, at the second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street, on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
Ottawa Senators player Scott Sabourin and Jaime Hunt bond with one of the puppies, as does player Nick Paul (seen in the background), at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.”

dog
Ottawa Senators winger Mikkel Boedker and his wife, co-organizer Mathilde, at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
Ottawa Senators player Nick Paul with Janessa Shaw at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
Ottawa Senators winger Connor Brown with his fiancée, Madison Shaw, at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
Co-organizer Olivia Donnelly with her boyfriend, Ottawa Senators centre Chris Tierney, at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

dog
From left, Craig Sasso, Peter McCallum and executive chef Michael Radford from The Whalesbone Restaurant Group at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
From left, attendee Max Lizondo with Anil Mital and Monica Mital at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
Doug Hewson, managing partner of Portland Private Equity, with Marisa Campbell at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
From left, Timothy Orr (CIBC Wood Gundy), with co-organizer Bill Johnston, Andy Sparks (Royal LePage Team Realty), Karen Sparks (Wesley Clover Parks) and Lori O'Neill at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
From left, Bibbi Alfredsson with Dan Greenberg and her sister-in-law, Jillian Alfredsson, at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
From left, Mark Monahan with Ottawa dentist Frank Lee and co-organizer Bill Johnston at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
dog
From left, Greg Roscoe, financial adviser at Raymond James, with Chris Hunt, a lawyer with Rasmussen Starr Ruddy LLP, at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

dog
From left, Ottawa Senators players Colin White, Mikkel Boedker, Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.”

dog
Freedom Dog Rescue co-founder and volunteer president Brigitte Larsen with co-founder David Harding with Storm at a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.”

dog
Some 80 people attended a second annual benefit dinner for Freedom Dog Rescue, held at The Whalesbone on Elgin Street on Monday, February 3, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca