I am like many Quebecers: hyper-sensitive to the fate of animals, riled up by these images of poaching or dogs and cats abandoned to their fate, Instagram photographers proud of their trophy hunting in Africa. I am in shock as soon as I cross a crushed raccoon on the road, discouraged by so much of the misery animals face on this planet.

Like many, I often look away, unable to tolerate the evidence – prominent in the media – of our cruelty and unconsciousness. But some, rather than look away, have decided to act and devote themselves – body and soul – for these four-legged friends.

I witnessed this devotion last February. Thanks to an organized visit to the Centre Refuge Nymous by your editor, Luigi Morabito, who also has the welfare of animals at heart. I remember the interview the founder gave to Denis Lévesque in 2015, when his pet raccoon, Nymous, was confiscated by the Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles.

Jacques Lessard appeared completely helpless, a grief that was difficult to watch. After an intensive campaign, the Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles finally issued a special permit and Nymous returned home, only to die a few months later. However, Nymous left his his owners with inspiration: to start a rehabilitation centre that would open its doors to other species at risk.

I later met Lessard again in Ste-Beatrix. This time, he was in much better shape! The shelter he set up with Rachel Ouve has become a sanctuary for wild animals that are wounded, abandoned or endangered by humans. A mission of observation, education and rehabilitation, for dozens of animals that nobody wants or is willing to save, the Centre is something Ouve and Lessard take very seriously.

You should see the place! Their residence has become – over time and after many animal adoptions – the undisputed kingdom of the animals, organized according to their needs. In a once abandoned room – which has become a playground – chubby, happy raccoons are everywhere. There’s Miracle, born in St-Hilaire. There’s Lucio who is blind and once escaped drowning and has a sixth sense for sniffing out danger. And Lucas, the negotiator who resolves the conflicts.

In the last drawer of a piece of furniture, you’ll find an improbable friendship: Martha the raccoon and Ioan the groundhog, close together, taking a nap. In the room, a newcomer in his cage: a possum. It is an incredible and moving scene…

In the kitchen, it's time for treats. We prepare huge platters of mussels for the raccoons, who love it. It costs about $18,000 of food per year!

There is a unique atmosphere of mutual aid. The founders have attracted many volunteers and friends of the animals they rescue. People like Kim Bruneau, a generous artist, businesswoman and philanthropist, who undertook renovations and organized a benefit evening at the end of March for the benefit of three organizations, including the Centre Refuge Nymous. And people like Morabito, who fell in love with this mission and asked me to act as a volunteer photographer. This is the essence of a committed photographic art: We take a photo to share, and at the same time, give back to the animal that offers us so much beauty. In short, a beautiful whirlwind of solidarity exists around these two passionate people and their rescue centre.

The Centre’s needs are numerous: you need a nursery for babies, an annex instead of the garage for new arrivals in quarantine, pens for bears, and place for end of life care for animals who cannot be rehabilitated.

Pens will be added to those that Lessard built with his own hands for more animals. Like the four silver foxes who were saved from the fur factory, and Coyo, the coyote, survivor of a car accident, who underwent orthopaedic surgery to save his paw. There are also several raccoons ready to return to nature. Lessard can barely handle the emotion of sending them off. There is also Gaby the skunk and the star, Chenoa, the beautiful gray wolf who arrived at a young age.

Have you ever played with a wolf? That’s exactly what Lessard and Ouve do, just as if Chenoa were a playful dog. They have an amazing connection with this animal who literally screams with joy as the couple approaches! Absolutely beautiful photo opportunities!

By the way, this photo close-up of Chenoa holds the record in views of any of my images on FLICKR. Nearly 120,000 people have admired this wolf.

To you both Ouve and Lessard, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do!

Translated by Maria Barillaro