Family dog's struggle inspires Team Power Smart winners

Rob Klovance

Melissa Tye's journey to a men's quarter-final ice hockey game at the 2010 Winter Games reads like a quirky, heartwarming indie movie, complete with a dying family dog and the most unusual Power Smart incentive imaginable.

Let's start at the beginning.

When Melissa Tye's retriever Tanner was diagnosed with cancer last winter, she wanted to provide him with as much comfort as possible in his final days. But Tanner preferred the cold, and staying close to him outside in the snow was not a practical option.

"The cold weather was the only thing that seemed to soothe him," recalled Melissa, who lives in Surrey with her two sons. "So it was either go out there in the snow and sit with him under umbrellas, or keep the house cool so he could stay indoors and be around us."

Melissa, sons Matt and Kyle decided to turn off the heat and, when necessary, wear coats to stay warm indoors.

"It was for a good cause – we'd do it again in a heartbeat," says Melissa, adding. "We did it for him... Tanner died just days before his seventh birthday, last March."

The story does not end here. Rather than return to their old ways, Melissa figured the family could cut down on their electricity bills in part by continuing to turn down the thermostat this winter.

"If the heat comes on at 64 [fahrenheit], I'm running upstairs asking 'Why's the heat on?," she says. "You get used to it, and when you need extra warmth, you just use a [space] heater. That's all you need."

Those energy savings haven't just paid off in lower BC Hydro bills. Melissa joined Team Power Smart earlier this year and won a monthly 2010 Winter Games ticket draw that just happened to be two quarter-final hockey tickets.

The only question was who she would take to the game.

And that decision turned out to be quite easy. Her oldest son Kyle, 22, not only has a job and managed to buy tickets to several other 2010 Winter Games events, he's working on the day of the game. That means that the "starving student" in the family, 20-year-old Matt – who attends Vancouver Film School – gets to go with mom to the game.

"Matt graduates on February 26, so he's right in the heat of things," she says. "Not only does he not have any money, he doesn't have any time to go to these things... but [on February 26] he has a free day.

"If I had my choice, the two boys would have gone together. That would have been perfect. But Kyle's working, so now I have to go."

What it's like to be Power Smart

The Olympic spirit seems to have infected Melissa, who has embraced the challenge of reducing the household electricity consumption by 10% over 12 months.

"It's like a competition," she says. "You get the new bill and look at the previous years and check to see "Did I do it? Did I do it?" ... I'm convincing the guys that they don't have to put the computer on hibernate. I don't care if it takes a little while to warm up – it needs to go off. I'm really starting to get them used to turning off the lights more often – every little bit helps."

Tanner would agree.

Rob Klovance is managing editor of