*Leech Lake Legacy is a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit organization

Envisioning a world where every reservation dog and cat is well cared for

Thursday, July 28, 2011

AHS, MnPAW and Leech Lake – A Beautiful Partnership

I traveled for the first time to the Leech Lake Reservation on April 30 of this year, blissfully unaware of the challenges that lay before me.  I had no idea of the number of dogs that needed help.  I did not realize so many of the dogs would be in such terrible shape.  I could not have imagined the suffering that some of these dogs had endured.

I also had no idea how hard it would be to find places for all of these dogs to go.

Nine dogs were scheduled to be picked up on that first trip to Leech Lake in April:

  • ACT V was scheduled to take Buddy (a lab/St. Bernard mix with an injured leg)


  • Second Hand Hounds had agreed to take Lola (Shepherd mix) and Patches (the very pregnant St. Bernard who was renamed Madeline)
After a week of trying, I still had not found anywhere for the remaining six dogs to go - Andrew, Alexander and Annie (three-month-old Lab mix siblings), Bellie and Nellie (six-month-old Lab mix siblings) and Kane, a four-year-old Shepherd mix.

Kane - Adopted
 That’s when MnPAW (Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare) and AHS (Animal Humane Society) in Golden Valley reached out to me and began what has become an amazing partnership.

Before that first trip to Leech Lake, I had sent a request to many of the animal rescue groups in the Twin Cities asking for donations of food and kennels to bring with me to the Reservation.

Marilou with Pet Haven was one of the first people to respond.  We met on a Sunday afternoon so I could pick up the kennels Pet Haven was donating and we immediately hit it off.  We quickly realized that we were on exactly the same page when it came to animal rescue.

Pet Haven is a member of MnPAW (the Minnesota Coalition for Animal Welfare - a coalition of animal welfare organizations throughout Minnesota who are committed to working together to aid animals in Minnesota).

The Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley (“AHS”) is also a member of MnPAW.

Marilou contacted AHS and they immediately agreed to take in the six remaining dogs from Leech Lake.  Five of the six dogs they took in from that first trip were behavior tested, vetted and adopted out within a week.  One of the dogs (Andrew) did not do well on his behavior testing and was re-rescued by All Dog Rescue.  He went through some food guarding training and has since been adopted.

Since that first trip in April, AHS has taken in 47 dogs from Leech Lake.  Of those 47:

Felix - Adopted
  • 26 have been adopted
  • Four are currently up for adoption
  • One is in a behavior modification program
  • Three are on medical hold and being treated for injuries then will be placed up for adoption
  • Five were transferred to rescues
  • One puppy was adopted by an AHS staff member and unfortunately came down with Parvo and died
  • One puppy had Intussusception (an intestinal disorder) and died shortly after emergency surgery
  • Two had serious untreatable medical issues and were humanely euthanized
  • Four are currently waiting to be behavior tested
Of the 47, eight did not do well on their behavior evaluation.  Of those eight:

  • Three of the dogs were placed in one of AHS’s behavior modification programs (food and shy/fearful dogs) - two of them are currently up for adoption and one is still going through the program
  • Five of the dogs were placed with other rescues
Many of the dogs I have brought into AHS have come in with health issues including broken bones (pelvis, leg), lacerations, kennel cough, cherry eye and others.  Every one of them has been treated at AHS and once they were healthy, put up for adoption.  One of the dogs, Boots, was brought to AHS in May with a severely broken pelvis.  His pelvis was repaired and he has since been in an AHS foster home to recover.  He will soon be up for adoption.

Without AHS, these dogs would not have had a second chance.  The situation up at the Leech Lake Reservation is dire.  There is absolutely no way we would be able to help as many dogs as we have from Leech Lake if not for the partnership with AHS/MnPAW.

Every week, anywhere from 6-15 dogs are brought into AHS from Leech Lake.  Most of these dogs are adopted out within 5-10 days of when they arrive at the AHS shelter in Golden Valley.  My hope is that I as I get more volunteers to help with transport, and am able to get processes and structures in place, we will be able to bring back 25-30 or more dogs each week.

The animal welfare community in Minnesota is filled with passionate people.  By working together we truly can accomplish so much more.  I am grateful for the partnership I have with AHS/MnPAW and also for the Twin Cities rescue community and for those who have stepped forward to help out with dogs who have needed some additional training or behavior modification prior to being re-homed.

I will be traveling again to Leech Lake on Saturday, July 30 to pick up 10 more dogs, bringing the total number of dogs rescued from Leech Lake and brought into AHS through MnPAW to 57.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help with the efforts on the Leech Lake Reservation, please email me at jennyafitzer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spay and Neuter Clinic in Leech Lake - July 28-31

The University of Minnesota is sponsoring a four-day spay, neuter and vaccination clinic on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

The clinic will be held Thursday, July 28 through Sunday, July 31 at the Cass Lake-Bena Middle School.

Spays and Neuters will be offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Sunday is set aside for those animals who just need to be vaccinated.

On Friday at 5:45 p.m. there will be a Blessing of the Animals at the Leech Lake Fitness Center.

Directly after the Blessing of the Animals, a Parade will be held.  It will start at the Leech Lake Fitness Center and end at Dreamcatcher Park.

All people and animals are welcome.  If you and/or your animals are interested in participating in the Parade, please register at the following link:

The Parade will end at Dreamcatcher Park where prizes will be awarded to the animals in the parade.

Also available at Dreamcatcher Park after the Parade:

  • Face Painting
  • Horseback Rides
  • Storytelling
  • Pit Bull Booth
  • Grooming Booth
  • Name Breed Challenge
  • Pet Responsibilities
  • Fly Ball and Ability Demos
  • Dog Exhibitions
  • Reading with Dogs
Here is a direct link to the poster advertising the festivities:

Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The “E” Transport and Lilah

Most of the dogs we rescue from the Reservation do not come with names.  Because I am an (anally) organized person and because I believe that every dog deserves a special name, I decided early on in the process that all of the unnamed dogs in a given transport would be named with the same letter.  So for the first transport, all of the dogs were given names beginning with the letter “A” - Andrew, Aspen, Annie, etc.

My most recent transport was last Saturday.  Since it was the fifth transport, all of the dogs were given names beginning with the letter “E”:

  • Edgar and Emmit - two Corgi mixes rescued from the Bemidji Impound by Nancy (dogs that come into the Bemidji Impound are given five days - if they are not claimed in five days, they are euthanized - Nancy makes sure that no dogs from the Impound are euthanized - Yay Nancy!)

  • Edwina - a six-month old black lab mix who had been chained to a tree during a storm - her mother was killed when lightning struck the tree to which they were chained

  • Eddie, Elsa and Ellie - three-month-old black lab siblings

  • Emmy - mother of Elsa, Ellie and Eddie

Also on the transport were Duke and Dutchess whose owner had recently died.

Additionally on the transport were 13, six-week-old kitties (the first kittens I would be transporting from Leech Lake).

As I drove into the impound lot to pick up the dogs, I was working out the puzzle in my head as to how exactly I was going to fit nine dogs and 13 kittens into my Toyota RAV 4.  My friend Diane was riding shotgun on this trip and I wasn’t quite ready to tell her that quite possibly she would have at least two dogs in her lap for the three-hour ride home.

Just as I was turning into the lot, a car dodged in front of me and accelerated down the road to the impound, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.

I pulled into the lot, stepped out of my car and started into the building to begin my assessment of the animals we were supposed to transport.  The woman from the speeding car stepped in front of me and asked, “Are you the woman from the Cities who rescues dogs”?  Before I could answer, she started to tell me about someone named “Lilah” who needed rescuing.  She was talking so fast that I could only catch a word here and there - “Lilah”, “starving”, “abandoned”.

Eventually, the woman (Connie) was able to tell me all about Lilah.  She was a black lab whose family had moved and left her behind.  When Connie found her, she was dehydrated, starving and in heat.  Connie gave her water and food and somewhere safe to stay out of the path of the male dogs on the Reservation.

Eventually, Connie could no longer afford to feed Lilah.  She had somehow gotten wind that we were rescuing dogs from the Reservation.  She decided to find me and ask me if we could add Lilah to our transport.

Even though my mind was shouting, “How are you going to fit TEN dogs and 13 kitties in your car”, I agreed to transport Lilah.  I was really hoping that Diane wouldn’t mind three dogs in her lap.

Eventually, the impossibility of fitting that many animals in my car became a reality.  Amazingly enough, Connie volunteered to follow us to the Cities and personally transport Lilah.  In the end, Duke and Dutchess rode with her (a much more comfortable ride than three hours on Diane’s lap).

This transport makes a total of 51 dogs we have rescued from the Reservation.

Eleven more dogs are being transported on Saturday thanks to Nancy and Kristin.

See you again soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Madeline, a Success Story

Saturday, May 7, 2011 was my first trip to the Impound on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Cass Lake, Minnesota.  I made the three-hour trip to northern Minnesota with five other volunteers, all of us a little nervous as to what we would find when we arrived.

We were greeted by Rory, the animal control officer at the Impound.  Rory welcomed us with open arms, obviously happy that we were there.  He is a fabulous guy who loves dogs and is a great caretaker for the dogs at the Impound.

We walked back to the kennel area which went from utter quiet to utter hysteria in a matter of seconds as the dogs realized they had visitors and every one of them wanted to be the first to get our attention.

I walked to the last of the 10 kennels and was greeted by a pair of impossibly sad brown eyes, attached to Patches, an emaciated, very pregnant St. Bernard.  She patiently waited as I struggled to unhinge the lock on her kennel and then attempted to get the leash over her very large head.

As we walked out the door of the Impound, Patches took control of the situation and literally dragged me toward the woods surrounding the impound.  I do believe she was very ready to have her babies and wanted to find a place for a nest in the woods.  With the assistance of another volunteer (and a bucket of food), I was able to coax her out of the woods.

For the next half hour, Patches did nothing but eat, drink and poop.  One of the things I have noticed about the dogs that we rescue from the Reservation is how thirsty all of them are.  I would guess that they don’t have much access to water on a regular basis.

I was finally able to convince her to lay down so I could start picking ticks from her body.  I started with the 20 HUGE ticks that were attached to her jutting spine and then moved on to the many, many ticks on her ears and head (we ended up picking more than 400 ticks from her body, ew).

I did not have a big enough kennel for Patches so she ended up riding in the very back of my SUV where she patiently sat for the three-hour trip home.  Julie Cross from Secondhand Hounds fell in love with Patches (and renamed her Madeline) and brought her into her home to help nurse her back to health and assist with the birth of her puppies.

Madeline started having her puppies at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11, and was in labor for 15 hours.  She gave birth to 21 puppies of which 11 survived.

Madeline tested positive for heartworm, Lyme’s disease and a tick-borne illness.  She was extremely underweight, starving and anemic.  And she went through 15 hours of labor to give birth to 11 (now) very healthy puppies.  What an amazing dog.

Not every dog we bring back from the Reservation is in such dire straits as Madeline.  However, most of them are very underweight and suffer from various medical issues including broken bones, mange, heartworm, Lyme’s disease and other various maladies.

Madeline is now a happy, healthy canine who is getting ready to be placed up for adoption.  She is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work together to save those creatures among us who have no voice.

If you are interested in adopting Madeline or any of her puppies (picture below), please visit Secondhand Hounds’ website for additional information.

Thanks for visiting.  Hope to see you again soon.


Monday, July 4, 2011

The Beginning

Some months back, a man was fishing on a lake in Cass Lake, Minnesota. As he came ashore and stepped out of his boat, he noticed three scruffy dogs waiting for him. They scattered as he stepped towards them but only just out of his reach. He pulled out the bait he had left over from fishing and threw it to the dogs. They hungrily wolfed down the dead, rotting fish and looked eagerly for more.

Though the dogs were probably strays, the man felt like he needed to reach out to someone and not just abandon the three hungry animals. After many calls, he finally reached the local police. After explaining the situation, the police told him that the dogs were probably strays and if they picked them up, they would be brought to the local impound and more than likely shot.

The next call the man made was to his wife, who is an avid dog lover. With no hesitation, his wife jumped in her car and made the three-hour trek to Cass Lake. She brought the three dogs home with her and after many attempts, was able to find a local rescue group to take the dogs.

The wife did some research and found out that the area where her husband found the dogs was on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. She discovered that there were no humane societies or animal rescue groups on the Reservation and most stray dogs were brought to the animal impound where they met the same fate that the three strays had faced.

For the next several months, the woman made many six-hour round trips to the Leech Lake impound where she loaded up her car with stray dogs and transported them back to the Twin Cities. Two local rescue groups took them in and the number of dogs saved by this Angel continued to grow.

However, every one of the dogs that came from the Reservation needed full vetting, including vaccinations and spaying/neutering. Many of them also had heartworm or Lyme’s disease, so eventually, because of the cost, the rescue groups could not take in any more dogs.

The woman became desperate. She knew that if she stopped rescuing these dogs, they would die. She had heard of an amazing woman named Karen Good, who runs Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue on the Red Lake Indian Reservation (Red Lake Rosie’s is a non-profit animal shelter dedicated to rescuing stray animals and finding them forever homes.

The woman sent Karen the following email:

To: Karen Good
Subject: Cass Lake Dogs
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2011 23:54:36 +0000

Hi Karen

My name is Lisa. I spoke to you this fall in regards to the impound up on Cass Lake reservation. I have been going up there for the past 6 months I have brought back about 30 dogs. Homeward Bound has taken almost all of them. These guys have all been such wonderful dogs!!!

You are probably wondering why I am contacting you. I need some help Karen. I have been making the 4 hour trip up there myself and also trying to find foster for all these poor dogs. Homeward Bound bless their hearts can't keep taking all these dogs themselves.

I would appreciate any direction or guidance you could offer me. I can't turn my back on what I see up there, but I can't do all this myself anymore.

Karen you are very well known and respected by the rescue organization for all you do and have done. So I'm asking the best of the best for some advice.

Thank you Karen

Karen forwarded Lisa’s email to her animal-loving friends.

And that’s where I came in.

After reading the email from Karen, I thought “How sad for those poor animals, I hope someone will help them” and closed it.

But as I went through my day, the email kept popping back into my head. I first started to worry that no one would help them. Then I thought about forwarding the email to other people I knew who might want to help. And finally, I just thought “What the hell am I waiting for? I can help them.”

I emailed Karen and Lisa with my offer of help. Lisa and I had a long conversation that night and starting working on a plan to make an initial trip to the Reservation to see how I could help.

Lisa and I and four other volunteers made a trip to Leech Lake on May 7. We met with Rory, the animal control officer and two of the tribal policeman. They were all very excited that we were there and willing to help them find other options for the dogs.
Julie, Heidi, Diane, Lisa, Jenny

We transported nine dogs back to the Cities that first day. One of the dogs, Madeline, was a VERY pregnant, filthy, underweight, tick-covered St. Bernard who would not fit in any of the kennels we had brought. She ended up riding in the back of my car. She was a very patient passenger and only tried climbing into the middle seat a couple of times during the three-hour ride home.

A very pregnant Madeline
 Since that first trip to Leech Lake, we have transported 34 dogs off the Reservation. All but two of them have gone to rescues or fosters and been adopted or are in foster homes. The other two moved on to the Rainbow Bridge. I will tell some of their stories in future blogs.

I do want to take this time to thank everyone who has helped to save the lives of these dogs – from Rory, the animal control officer in Leech Lake – to his girlfriend who happily vaccinates the dogs – to the volunteers who transport food and dogs – to the rescues and individuals who have donated supplies – to the rescues/fosters and the Animal Humane Society of Golden Valley who have so willingly stepped up to take in these dogs – and to everyone who has offered their advice when I haven’t known where to turn.

This could not and cannot happen without this village we have created.

Together, we can do amazing things.
Together, we can save lives.
Together, we can make a difference.

Thank you again to everyone who has helped so far and everyone who has offered their help in the future.

And thank you for reading this Blog and spreading the word about Leech Lake.

I look forward to seeing you again soon.