The Joy of Giving

New $2.5-million gift to OVC Pet Trust in memory of cherished companion  

Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight with their dog Stewart (Credit: Christina Gapic)  



Emmanuelle Gattuso and her husband Allan Slaight remember James as the love of their lives. The black-haired, white-bearded Poodle was a special part of their family since he was a puppy.    


Gattuso had been trying to convince her husband to get a dog for about five years, when she and a friend happened to drive by a sign labelled “Puppies for Sale” on a trip to the Niagara region. The black poodle walked straight over to Gattuso, and she quickly made up her mind to bring him home.  


“James chose us,” Gattuso recalls.  


Gattuso remembers James as being an “incredible, sweet, well-behaved dog, who always wanted to please us.” Shortly after James joined their family, Gattuso and Slaight welcomed Stewart into their lives – a red toy poodle (James and Stewart are named after Slaight’s favourite magician – Canadian Stewart James). When James passed away in 2013 at the age of 12Gattuso struggled with the loss. She keeps James’ ashes in a marble box on their coffee table in their Toronto home and says that even though he is gone, a part of him will always be with her family in their hearts.  


It’s the love Gattuso has for her pets that has motivated her, through her philanthropic foundation, La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, to lead the way for OVC Pet Trust’s Friends Together for Longer Campaign at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. The new $2.5-million gift will construct the James Slaight Advanced Surgical Complexa significant part of a $9-million project to create new surgery and anesthesia facilities. This state of the art surgical area, named in memory of Gattuso’s poodle James, will include multiple suites of operating rooms equipped to offer a vast number of routine and advanced surgical procedures, which will allow OVC to provide the highest standard of care possible to pets.  

Gattuso's Poodle James' memory will be honoured with 
the new James Slaight Advanced Surgical Complex at
OVC. James passed away in 2013. 


Gattuso says she’s fortunate to be able to help others, and feels that giving isn’t about recognition. Rather, giving should be an attitude – and satisfaction comes when you know you have done something for somebody that has helped them in one way or another. Whether it’s supporting a cause that’s close to her heart in the arts, culture or health (such as making a historical $50-milllion gift to the Princess Margaret Hospital to support personalized cancer medicine in 2013) Gattuso’s philanthropy is a catalyst for progress and innovation.  



“There are a million ways to give – whether you give time or money. Money is not always the most important thing,” Gattuso says. “In this day and age, we are constantly looking inwards – looking at our phones, checking our messages, trying to improve our own lives; sometimes all we need to do is open our eyes and look outward – look across the street and see what needs there are. All you need to do is look around and you’ll find them,” she says, when asked about her advice for giving back.  



When asked why she supports Pet Trust, Gattuso highlights the importance of the human-animal bond, and the passion she has felt during her visits to the OVC. “Pets are so important in peoples’ lives. One of the reasons that inspired me to give is the passion I experienced that all of the veterinarians and team members at OVC have for their patients,” she reflects. “I have had the opportunity to talk with some of the surgeons and oncologists on staff, and they all have one thing in common: they are passionate about the work they do, and they love animals.” 


Passion inspires passion,” Gattuso adds.  



Gattuso’s dogs have undergone various types of surgeries during their lives, and she champions the importance of quicker recovery time, and less pain following surgery, which will be made possible with the creation of the new facilities at OVC.  


“Our pets give us so much; they’re our family members, and they bring out the best in us,” Gattuso says. “I feel very fortunate that I can help.”   


While it’s clear Stewart is an important member of the family, the impact James has had on Gattuso and Slaight’s lives is special, and his memory will live on through their gift to OVC.  


“I think anyone who owns a pet should understand the importance of giving to OVC Pet Trust. People love their animals so much – you don’t have to talk to them about Pet Trust for very long before they ‘get it’.”  

Emmanuelle Gattuso and her dog Stewart (Credit: Craig Boyko, Art Galley of Ontario, 2016)