It’s been quite the journey for well-known 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, B.C., on Tuesday.
When Caughill became homeless in 2016, he said shelters wouldn’t allow him to stay because of his dog. This sparked his walk to raise awareness about the issue.
His original dog Muckwah died in 2019, but his second pet Muck remains by his side.
“Muckwah and I struggled on the streets of St. Catharines. For three months I lived in an unused dumpster stall, we ate out of the dumpsters. I would go to this dog-friendly library and use the computer to search for shelters I could go with my dog and there were none,” said Caughill.
“We started on Sept. 24, 2016, two o’clock in the afternoon – we started our walk across Canada just to raise awareness. (Pets are) family, they’re the most important thing.”
He went on to say that some shelters have begun to allow pets, following his campaign.
“We have 35 shelters that are now taking pets that weren’t taking pets before, all because of us,” said Caughill.
Six years after starting out, Caughill says he didn’t expect his journey to take so long. He has hit a few bumps in the road including the COVID-19 lockdown where he was stuck in a small Manitoba town called Cypress River for 17 months.
“No, I thought it would take a year or two at the most. It took two and half years to get out of Ontario because of the roundabout way,” said Caughill.
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“We could’ve taken Highway 11 but just like Highway 1 out here, Highway 11 there’s no towns to get supplies.”
The pair is currently traveling along Highway 3, walking approximately 15 kilometers a day. Caughill pushes his tent and supplies in an orange cart with the sign reading Homeless James and Muckwah.
He takes winters off so the pair’s last stop before the cold comes will be Princeton.
“We’ll get picked up and we’re going to Abbotsford for the winter. In the spring (we’ll go) back up to Princeton where we left off,” he added.
With more than 9,000 followers on Facebook, Caughill has seen many residents donate supplies, and space for him to pitch his tent. Some people even pull over to check in on him while he’s out on the road.
“In Hedley, we have a nice lady who is going to let us stay in her yard for a couple of days,” he said.
It’s his first time in B.C. and says the reaction from residents has been mostly positive, adding he is surprised by the overwhelming response to his story and his books.
“I would say 80 per cent – 80 per cent freaking fabulous, fantastic – but it’s one extreme or the other,” said Caughill. “And it’s great, 90 per cent of the money from my books go to three homeless shelters in Ontario,” said Caughill.
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, Ont., to finish his next book before taking off on his next journey through Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I.
“When I see the Welcome to Vancouver sign that’ll be good, but my next journey is just to say that I’ve walked across the whole country,” said Caughill.