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SAINT JOHN, N.B. - - - When the pandemic struck and borders closed to most travelers, many animal rescue agencies struggled to transport rescued dogs to shelters where they could receive care and connect to fosters or adoptive families. For months, Professional Truck Drivers have been volunteering to bring rescues on their trips across the Canadian-American border, or from one region of Canada to another. This work has been undertaken with the greatest consideration to, and full compliance with, COVID-19 regulations and restrictions.


Recently, the Saint John-based trucking company and J.D. Irving, Limited affiliate, Sunbury Transport (Sunbury), formed a partnership with the Relinquished Souls Animal Rescue Society (RSARS) to help transport rescues to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. RSARS' Foster Coordinator, Heidi Curtis, happens to be a Financial Analyst working with J.D. Irving, Limited in Saint John. She heard about the ad-hoc dog transports Sunbury drivers had been involved with, and reached out to a friend and Sunbury Fleet Manager, Rachel Buckingham, to see if Sunbury could become involved. Buckingham immediately alerted Sunbury Operations Director, Chris Bell, and set the events in motion.


"We care deeply about animal welfare at Sunbury, and the actions of our drivers over the last 12 months really do speak to that," said Bell. "We are so pleased we could help these rescued dogs find new homes in the Maritimes. Our drivers have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, keeping supply chains moving. This is just another example of our drivers responding with kindness and integrity when the need is high."


Buckingham has led the charge on the Sunbury side, coordinating with Fleet Managers, Drivers and Planners, while working closely with Heidi. She secured two drivers willing to help with the transports right away: Duane Leon and Yvan Secci. The following week, Sunbury moved its first two RSARS canine passengers, Dirk and Diesel.


Following transport, Heidi - or another in a similar role - takes over. Having been involved with RSARS since October, she has over two years' experience with other agencies and has year's experience adopting and fostering rescue dogs. In her volunteer role, she processes foster applications, matches rescued dogs with foster environments, manages the logistics and requirements of getting rescued dogs to their foster homes/families, and manages relationships with fosters, shelters and other rescue agencies.


"I rescued my first dog in 2017 and my second in 2018. My dogs provided me with so much that I wanted to give back to others what mine gave to me," said Curtis. "When I found out Sunbury


was going to help with these transports, I immediately felt a sense of pride and appreciation to work for a company that would go out of its way for such a great cause. I immediately started bragging to friends and family. It is a special feeling to work for an organization that supports your passion and aligns with your values."


"During the Covid-19 Pandemic, transport truck drivers not only deliver goods that are needed across the country, they also save lives across the world," said Robin Aiton, Canadian President, Relinquished Souls Animal Rescue Society. "Without their help, many lives would be euthanized as normal traffic is halted by borders. Shelters fill up quickly, and dogs of different breeds...would not have a chance during COVID-19 without their help. The truck drivers are absolute heroes during this time. We could not rescue and help certain areas without them. Sunbury has been so crucial to [this work]."


There are many ways to assist the Relinquished Souls Animal Rescue Society. The society is actively looking for adoptive homes, families and fosters, and volunteers to assist with transport, administration, home checks and reference checks, website upkeep, and more. Donations are also welcome and can be e-transferred to or directly to the society's veterinarian clinic in Moncton:


National Volunteer Week (April 18-24, 2021) is a time to recognize the incredible contributions, generosity, and integrity of everyday people across Canada. This year’s theme, ‘The Value of One, The Power of Many’ highlights the synergetic effects of collective action. With over 18,000 employees, J.D. Irving, Limited recognizes the thousands of volunteer hours its teams contribute each year. For more information, please visit or




About Sunbury


Sunbury is a premiere transportation company, specializing in US and Canadian cross-border shipments and offering logistics services. Its fleet can move goods via truckload, van, flatbed, bulk wood fibre or container service. Sunbury Transport draws on exceptional teams – in the office and on the road – to provide diverse and innovative trucking and logistics services. The company is headquartered in Saint John.




About J.D. Irving, Limited


Founded in 1882, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) is a family-owned business with diverse operations including forest products, retail, transportation, shipbuilding and consumer products. The company employs a team of over 18,000 people in in Canada and the United States and is proudly headquartered in New Brunswick. In business, community and the environment, the company has a longstanding commitment to finding a better way that spans generations. The


responsibility to make a positive difference in the communities, where JDI is proud to live and work, has meant decades of financial and volunteer support of research and programs that impact quality of life for patients and their families today and in the future.



 Dog Volunteers
 Dog 2
 Dog 3

Sunbury past rescues, courtesy of Sunbury Professional Drivers, Duane Leon, Olga Pecheniuk and Jean Guy Ouellette.  



Recent rescues, Dirk (L) and Diesel (R) in photos provided by Sunbury Professional Drivers, Yvan Secci and Duane Leon. 


 Heidi Curtis

Heidi Curtis, pictured with her two rescued dogs, Apollo and Aphrie. 




Anne McInerney


J.D. Irving, Limited




Sunbury Professional Drivers directly involved in this initiative, an official Sunbury spokesperson, and RSARS representatives can be made available on request to media.