‘Diamonds’ are a human’s best friend

Local rescue dog to co-host heartwarming TV show

Filmmaker Ian Bawa (rear) and Diamond (dog) are the hosts of Finding Diamonds on CBC Gem.

Daniel Crump

From humble beginnings to CBC Gem, Diamond, a one-eyed husky-Labrador, has become Winnipeg’s cutest celebrity.

“She gets recognized more than me,” her owner Ian Bawa says. Bawa is a Winnipeg-based filmmaker and host of Finding Diamonds, set to air on CBC Gem starting March 25.

“She is a one-eyed dog, you know,” he says.

Diamond came to Bawa in 2021 through a fostering program at Manitoba Underdogs Rescue (MUR). She was surrendered by her family in Easterville to receive medical care in Winnipeg.

“When Diamond came to us, she was dealing with an eye condition that needed urgent attention to save her eye health and vision,” MUR executive director Jessica Hansen says in an email to The Uniter.

“Despite our efforts, her condition persisted,” she says. Bawa fostered Diamond throughout her treatment, made possible through donations and fundraising through MUR.

They eventually removed her eye in February 2021, and Bawa adopted her permanently.

“(Diamond) has thrived with the love and care from both our agency and her devoted dad, Ian,” Hansen says. “Their bond is a shining example of why fostering and adopting rescue animals is so rewarding.”

Bawa says Diamond rescued him more than the other way around. They met shortly following the death of his father, who was his last remaining parent.

“I was extremely lonely,” Bawa says. “I was truly depressed at the time. Having Diamond come in gave me purpose.”

After nuzzling her way into Bawa’s heart, Diamond won over his TikTok followers.

“I started making little shows with her. One is called ‘Ian and Diamond give advice,’ where people call in, and Diamond gives feedback through an AI-generated voice,” Bawa says.

This caught the attention of producer Scott R. Leary at Farpoint Films and filmmaker Quan Luong, who pitched them Finding Diamonds, which was sub-sequently picked up by CBC.

The show takes the duo across Canada to capture vignettes of people whose pets helped them heal from traumatic experiences.

Bawa says the producers approached him because of his vulnerability, which fosters genuine connection.

“A lot of my film work (Strong Son, My Son Went Quiet) is about my family, my dad,” he says.

In the show, people open up to Bawa and Diamond – who is also a certified therapy dog – about how their pets met them in their grief.

“I think there (are) times in our lives where we feel unloved, and these creatures who want attention, want affection, they do that for us in our time of need,” Bawa says.

“That happened to me, and that happens to a lot of people in these stories.”

The first season of Finding Diamonds documents real people recovering from injury, bullying or seemingly impossible situations – including a Syrian woman reunited with her beloved cat after fleeing from war.

“That was because of an immigration officer who really loved animals,” Bawa says. Hansen says they are the perfect hosts.

“Ian and Diamond’s story is just too heartwarming to pass up. Their connection is something special.”

“She has a very calm presence, and that’s one of her greatest gifts,” Bawa says. “It gives me so much joy to share her with the world.”

Follow Ian and Diamond on TikTok @ianbawa and stream Finding Diamonds for free starting March 25 on CBC Gem.

Published in Volume 78, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 21, 2024)

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