It’s been quite the journey for famed Ontario homeless man James Caughill and his dog Muck.
Caughill set out to walk from Ontario to Vancouver six years ago and arrived in Hedley, British Columbia, on Tuesday.
When Caughill became homeless in 2016, he said shelters wouldn’t allow him to stay because of his dog. This sparked his march to raise awareness of the issue.
Her original dog, Muckwah, passed away in 2019, but her second pet, Muck, remains by her side.
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“Muckwah and I wrestled on the streets of St. Catharines. For three months I lived in an unused dumpster, we ate out of the dumpsters. I would go to this dog-friendly library and use the computer to look for shelters where I could go with my dog and there were none,” Caughill said.
“We started on September 24, 2016, at two o’clock in the afternoon – we started our walk across Canada just to raise awareness. (Pets are) a family, they are the most important thing.
He went on to say that some shelters have started allowing pets, following his campaign.
“We have 35 shelters now accepting pets that didn’t before, all because of us,” Caughill said.
Six years after his debut, Caughill says he didn’t expect his journey to be this long. He encountered a few bumps in the road, including the COVID-19 lockdown where he was stuck in a small town in Manitoba called Cypress River for 17 months.
“No, I thought it would take a year or two at most. It took two and a half years to get out of Ontario because of the detour,” Caughill said.
“We could have taken Highway 11, but just like Highway 1 here, there are no towns to stock up on.”
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The couple are currently traveling along Highway 3, walking about 15 kilometers a day. Caughill pushes his tent and supplies in an orange cart with the sign saying Homeless James and Muckwah.
He takes away the winters so that they are the last stop before the cold comes, it will be Princeton.
“We will be taken care of and we will go to Abbotsford for the winter. In the spring (we will go) back up to Princeton where we left off,” he added.
With more than 9,000 Facebook followers, Caughill has seen many residents donate supplies and space to pitch his tent. Some people even stop to check on him while he’s on the road.
“At Hedley we have a nice lady who is going to let us stay in her yard for a few days,” he said.
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This is his first time in British Columbia and he says the reaction from residents has been mostly positive, adding that he is surprised by the overwhelming response to his story and books.
“I would say 80% – 80% fabulous, fantastic – but that’s one extreme or the other,” Caughill said. “And it’s great, 90 per cent of my book money goes to three homeless shelters in Ontario,” Caughill said.
Although he has received some negativity, he says he won’t stop until he reaches Vancouver.
From there, he plans to take a train to Washago, Ontario, to finish his next book before flying out on his next trip through Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
“When I see the Welcome to Vancouver sign it will be fine, but my next trip is just to say I’ve been walking across the country,” Caughill said.
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