Keta’s home at the hatchery

June 13, 2016 - Sayward, B.C.

At Big Tree Creek hatchery on Vancouver Island, there lives a dog called Keta who has worked for Marine Harvest Canada for longer than many of her two-legged colleagues.

She was brought to Big Tree Creek from another hatchery by former manager Barbara Addison. Her job is pretty simple: keep predators away from the fish and raise the alarm if there are trespassers or any unusual activity on the site.

Keta is a mixed breed who has never had puppies. She spends a lot of time around salmon and as a result gets quite excited when dogs visit the hatchery. Another pleasure has been the arrival of construction crews who are building the new recirculating aquaculture systems being installed by Marine Harvest.

“She knows all the break times of the different crews. She’s made friends with the construction workers and she’s regularly getting fed bagels and sausages,” hatchery manager Chris McNeill says.

Her diet is specially-formulated dry food recommended by a local vet. She isn’t fed fish feed pellets nor does she rely on food scraps from the workers. Even with all these options for food, and regular vet checkups, she has had trouble in the past keeping on weight.

“We’ve been worried about her over the years, she’s a naturally lean dog who works hard and it shows. In terms of health and safety we take care of everything for her, Keta has the same medical and dental care as the rest of us.”

The work she does is invaluable, according to Chris. “We’ve never had predator issues in our tanks and you can credit that to Keta. We’ve seen her chase bears off the site.”

Her work hours are flexible. She is free to dig beds all over the grounds or retire to her dog house beside the staff accommodation. There is a winter bed for her in the boot room on the coldest nights of the year.

While Keta is communally-cared for, she has a few special people in her life. Big Tree technicians Christine O’Connor and Ken Save are virtually her parents, while Port McNeill truck driver Doug Schofield is her favourite visitor. Doug makes two peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the morning, one for him and one for Keta. Consequently she goes crazy when his big red truck arrives.

Aged 13, Keta is getting close to retirement. Chris says she’s on blood pressure pills and permanently on light duties. She has no shortage of offers for homes to spend her end-of-life. Though after more than a decade of guarding salmon, she won’t be leaving Big Tree Creek until absolutely necessary.

Keta Big Tree Creek