*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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

So You Want to Be an Animal Rescuer?

Thursday, January 5, 2012, 4:50 a.m.

I am awaked by the screaming of my alarm.  I’m already rolling over to hit the snooze button when I remember I’m not going to work today.  I’m driving up to Leech Lake Reservation to transport a carload of dogs back to the Cities.

6:08 a.m. – Finally on the road with a fully loaded car.  Crates, towels, pee pads, leashes, etc., etc.  Still need to stop and get gas and coffee.

9:15 a.m. – Stop to pee and fill up the car again.  Don’t want to have to stop on the way home since I will have canine passengers.

9:40 a.m. – Arrive at the Leech Lake Impound in Cass Lake, Minnesota.  Open the door and am met with the familiar smells of poop and bleach.  Dogs begin barking and howling immediately.  I see three dogs (Bly, Bena and Boo) I was expecting and one dog I was not expecting.  It’s a black lab puppy and I name him Bob.  I contact Jean from the rescue who is taking Boo and she tells me she would be happy to also take Bob.  I finish filling out my paperwork for these four while I wait for Rory (the Animal Control Officer) to arrive.  I will be spending the morning with Rory on his regular run to pick up animals.
10:15 a.m. – Rory and I get into his truck and head out to the first stop on his list.  Someone has two dogs they want to surrender.  Rory knocks and knocks on the door and the resident finally answers.  He steps outside and looks somewhat surprised when he doesn’t see the dogs.  “They were just here a minute ago.”  I will hear that phrase many times this day.  We leave without the dogs, telling him we will come back later.

10:40 a.m. – Arrive at house #2 where there is supposed to be a Chihuahua that someone wants to surrender.  Lots of knocking before a woman answers.  “The dog was just here…”  Turns out the dog is at her dad’s house – just across the street.

10:50 a.m. – Arrive at Dad’s house.  We are met in the driveway by two large German shepherds and a beautiful brindle Pittie puppy.  Dad has told us the Chihuahua could be anywhere.  We walk around the house and the yard, looking under things and in things but no luck.  Rory calls Dad again about the other three dogs and Dad tell us we can take the Pittie – which we do.

11:20 a.m. – After dropping the Pittie off at the Impound, we head out again.  We swing by the two sites that are available for our first spay/neuter clinic we are planning for March.  Rory tells me that the Tribe will fund all of the lodging and provide all of the food for the volunteers at the Clinic.  This is very good news.

Rory makes a number of phone calls to other people who have dogs they want to surrender but does not reach any of them.

11:50 a.m. – We head back to house #1, knock on the door again and this time we are successful in picking up the mother dog and her puppy.  Both of them have an obvious case of mange.  Mama looks miserable.  Her eyes are all puffy, her skin looks terrible and she is obviously exhausted.  While we are getting these two settled in their cages, a neighbor and his three dogs wander over and he asks me what happens to the dogs we take with us.  From the sound of his voice and the look on his face, he thinks I’m going to tell him that they are euthanized.  He seems very relieved when I tell him they are brought into rescues in the Cities who get them healthy and find homes for them.  He tells me he wants to surrender two of the dogs that are with him.  It is two young females – a German shepherd mix and a beautiful brindle Chow mix.  I notice both of them have some sort of skin issue.

(Mama dog with sarcoptic mange)
Side Note – I talked to Karen at Red Lake Rosie’s about the increasing number of dogs we are seeing from the Rez with skin issues.  This was her reply:

Lots of dogs relapse in cold weather - with starvation, dehydration, the immune systems are highly compromised.  Most people do not water-and in the winter- with NO SNOW and all lakes frozen, animals are severely dehydrated!! So sad as water is free and only takes a little energy.  Poor babies.  Karen

12:30 p.m. – After getting all of the dogs back to the Impound, we vaccinate them and get the new dogs settled in their kennels.  I’ve been on the phone with Jean from Carver-Scott Humane Society who is taking Bob and Boo.  She is also interested in Bosco (the itchy puppy we just picked up) but worried about him having sarcoptic mange.  She asks if I can bring him with me to the vet and have him tested.

12:50 p.m. – I’m finally on the road to Bemidji with Boo, Bob, Bly, Bena and Bosco.  When we arrive at the vet in Bemidji, I bring Bosco in with me to be tested for sarcoptic mange.  While I am waiting for the test results, the vet brings out Bindy, a black Chihuahua with an eye injury who was my original reason for visiting the vet.

1:45 p.m. – I’m back on the road again.  Bosco tested positive for sarcoptic mange which means Jean will be unable to take him.  Bosco needs to go back to the Impound in Leech Lake until I can find a place for him.  I am behind schedule and starting to feel a little stressed.  I’m also really hungry since I have not eaten since breakfast.  I dig through my bag and find some crackers which will need to suffice until dinner.

(Puppy with sarcoptic mange)
2:05 p.m. – I arrive back at the Impound to drop off Bosco only to discover that my key will not work in the door.  I call Rory – he is 45 miles away and unable to help me.  I keep jiggling my key in the lock, hoping it will work.  I want to cry.  My next call is to Nancy and Tom, my friends and Leech Lake volunteers who live in Bemidji.  I am sure they can hear the stress in my voice and Nancy does not even hesitate when I tell her what is going on.  She tells me to cover Bosco’s crate with a blanket and she will run over and get him settled in the Impound.  Once again, Nancy and Tom have saved me.

2:23 p.m. – I’m finally back on the road and heading to Animal Humane Society in Buffalo. 

5:48 p.m. - Arrive in Buffalo to drop off Bindy, Bly and Bena.  Met there by Marilou, the Leech Lake photographer.  I open up the back of the car and five dogs leap to their feet, barking hysterically.  Bindy’s crate is the closest to the door so I pull him out first.  I set him on the grass so he can go potty.  As he starts to walk, I hear a “pop” and Bindy gives a little yelp.  I look down in horror to see that the large, crusty scab that had been covering his injured eye is now on the ground.  Bindy does not seems at all concerned and continues to do his business.  When I pick him up to look at his eye, it is almost too much for my brain to handle.  I can only think of the movie “Terminator” as I Iook into the almost empty eye socket.  I cannot imagine how long this poor little guy has been living with this injury and how much pain he has been in.

6:27 p.m. - Back on the road for the final leg of my trip.

7:15 p.m. - Meet Jean from Carver-Scott HS.  Jean has agreed to take Bob and Boo.  It is our first meeting and I am thoroughly impressed with Jean.  She immediately goes into puppy mode when she pulls scared little Boo out of his crate.  I am so grateful to have made another great contact in the animal rescue world.

9:07 p.m. - Finally finished unloading the car, cleaning and breaking down the crates, emailing everyone who needs updates from the day and throwing in a load of laundry.

9:45 p.m. - Fall asleep in my baked potato.  Brush my teeth and am asleep before my head hits the pillow.
Fifteen hours.  Five dogs saved.  Another successful day.

Updates on the five dogs (as of January 15)
  • Bindy’s eye was removed on Friday, January 6.  He is recovering nicely.
  • Bena and Bly were both adopted through Animal Humane Society in Buffalo.
  • Boo and Bob were renamed Heidi and Jackson and are both in foster homes.
  • Bosco and Catori, the two dogs with sarcoptic mange, were taken in by Karen of Red Lake Rosie’s.  They are both recovering nicely.
I am most grateful to everyone who helped to make this day a success by working together on behalf of the animals.

See you soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Leech Lake Legacy 2011

Now that 2011 is officially in the books, I thought it was time to take a breath, sit back and reflect on the things we accomplished, and learned, in our first year of rescuing and re-homing animals from Leech Lake Reservation.

April 2011

One transport – 20 dogs (Alexander, Andrew, Annie, Aspen, Bellie, Brian, Buddy, Cassio, Kane, Katie, Lola, Lottie, Lucky Louie, Madeline, Max, Minnie, Nellie, Rex, Scout, Sprocket)

April 30, 2011 - My first trip to Leech Lake

I traveled with Julie, Diane, Heidi and Lisa.  I had no idea what to expect on this first trip.  I will never forget how my senses were assailed when I walked into the Impound.  The stench of urine was overpowering.  The noise was overwhelming.  I didn’t know nine dogs could make so much noise!

As I walked to the back of the Impound toward the kennels, my eyes needed to adjust to the darkness.  I walked up to the first kennel and was met by a pair of big brown eyes, looking at me with curiosity.  It was Madeline – an emaciated, starving, very pregnant St. Bernard who waited patiently while I fumbled with the rusty latch.  When I finally opened the gate and hooked the leash to her collar, Madeline took over.  She dragged me out the front door of the Impound and yanked me toward the nearby woods.  At the time, I had no idea what she was trying to tell me but in hindsight, I think she knew it was time to find a place to nest and have her babies (she gave birth to 21 puppies a few days after being rescued).

A very pregnant Madeline
We rescued nine dogs that day (20 if you count Madeline’s 11 surviving puppies).

May 2011

One transport - 2 dogs (Barry, Boots)

May 12, 2011

I received a call from Rory, the Animal Control Officer in Leech Lake.  He had picked up two injured dogs – Barry who had a large, nasty wound on his back and Boots who had been hit by a car.  Both of the dogs needed immediate vet care and since Leech Lake had no funds for vet care, Rory was wondering what I wanted him to do.  I told him to bring the dogs to the vet – I would take care of the bill and figure out a place for the dogs to go.

Boots #1
ACT V Rescue took Boots, fixed his injuries and found him a forever home.  Animal Allies took Barry, fixed his injuries and found him his forever home.

This was my first interaction with ACT V and Animal Allies.  Both of them have become critical partners in our work in Leech Lake.

June 2011

Two transports, 13 dogs (Boots #2, Carter, Cass, Cedar, Chester, Cinder, Cindy, Clem, Clementine, Cleo, Coco, Conan, Pepper)

June 10, 2011

Déjà vu – I received a call from Rory about another dog named Boots who had been hit by a car and needed emergency vet care.  I reached out to Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley who agreed to take Boots.  They fixed his broken pelvis, placed him in a foster home for eight weeks while he healed and then put him up for adoption.  Boots was adopted within hours of being placed on the floor.

Boots #2

Cass was a big, sweet, older Shepherd mix who had been at the Impound for more than a month before he was finally transported on June 18.  As do all dogs we transport from Leech Lake, Cass went into the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley where it was discovered he had a large tumor growing in his throat.  The decision was made to have Cass euthanized.

(Before Cass was surrendered, he had lived in a home in northern Minnesota.  Soon after he was surrendered, he escaped the Impound and found his way home.  His former owners returned him to the Impound.)

After the decision was made to euthanize Cass, Marilou decided to bring him home so he could enjoy his last day out of the shelter.  He spent the day with Marilou and her dogs, basking in the sun, eating as many treats as he wanted and that night, sleeping next to Marilou’s bed.

Marilou brought Cass to her own vet the next day, where she was with him as he peacefully went to the Rainbow Bridge.

Cass on his last day
July 2011

Six transports, 37 dogs (Ardon, Asha, Austin, Daisy, DJ, Dolly, Diablo, Dusty, Eddie, Edgar, Edwina, Ellie, Elsa, Emmit, Emmy, Fabiola, Falana, Fannie, Farley, Felix, Fletcher, Flicka, Flower, Frankie, Fidelis, Fredericka, Garbo, Geddy, George, Gertie, Goblin, Gully, Hickory, Holter, Jake, Lilah, Lobo)


Emmy and her three puppies were rescued from the Impound on July 9.  They were brought into AHS where the three puppies were almost immediately adopted.  Emmy, however, was passed over again and again.  She had spent some time in the Shy/Fearful Dog Program at AHS but even after that, no one wanted to adopt Emmy.

On Friday, August 5, Emmy was featured as WCCO’s Pet of the Week.  Emmy was adopted the very next day.


Jake was brought in to AHS on July 30.  He was behavior tested, vetted and placed on the floor for adoption.  Soon after Jake was placed on the floor, he suffered a seizure and was no longer able to be placed for adoption at AHS.

We tried for two weeks to find a place for Jake.  We struck out again and again.  Everyone was full.

On Friday, August 19, Jake had been in the shelter for 19 days.  He was becoming anxious and stressed.  The reality was that there was nowhere for Jake to go and it was time for us to make the painful decision about Jake's future.

Jake was scheduled to be euthanized on Saturday, August 20.  Marilou and I visited Jake one last time and took him outside for a long walk.  He cavorted and frolicked and thoroughly enjoyed being outside.  My heart was sobbing as I shut Jake in his kennel and said good-bye.  I was distraught that this sweet, lovable goofball was going to die.  What a terrible tragedy.

Thankfully, Jake’s story has a very happy ending.

Marilou was as distraught as I was and was not going to let Jake die.  She reached out to her friend Tom at Lucky Dog Pet Lodge who agreed to house Jake until he could be adopted.

Jake did not spend much time at Lucky Dog before he was adopted by a very nice family.  He currently resides in Richfield.

August 2011

Four transports, 26 dogs (Ichabod, Justice, Karma, Kasper, Kibbles, Kimba, Koda, Kuma, Laddie, Lady Bug, Lancelot, Larry, Lazarus, Legacy, Lenny, Leona, Lilah, Lola, Loretta, Lorraine, Lotus, Lucian, Luigi, Lulu, Luna, Slim)

August 27, 2011

There were 18 dogs on the August 27 transport including 13 puppies.  All of the dogs had been removed from one house on the Reservation.  The three vehicles that made up the transport were all packed to the roof with dogs.

We needed to find a place for the 13 puppies to stay for a few days before they could be brought into AHS.  I somehow convinced Marilou to agree to house them in her writing studio – with the understanding that I would be there to take care of them.  Little did we know what we were getting into.

Five of the puppies were no more than four weeks old and were barely able to eat (meaning we were bottle-feeding them).  All of the puppies had severe worms and on Day Three, we wormed all of them.  We then did nothing but clean up poop for two solid days.

The 13 Poop Machines
By the time we dropped the puppies off at AHS on Day Five, I was so tired I could barely form a sentence.

Three of the puppies were too small and weak to leave Marilou's, so they were brought into ACT V Rescue and Marilou continued to foster them.

Two of the left-behind puppies - Lazarus (renamed Rez) and Little Lenny were adopted by two different families.  They are both thriving.

Little Lenny

The third left-behind puppy was Legacy.  He quickly won Marilou’s heart and became her fourth “failed” foster.  He now resides at her house in Bloomington and has become the "spokes dog" for Leech Lake Legacy.

Leech Lake Legacy
September 2011

Eight transports, 31 dogs, 1 cat (Maddie, Maggie, Magoo, Maize, Maple, Maria, Marley, Max, Melvin, Missy, Mister, Monty, Munchkin, Mystic, Nate, Nester, Orson, Peanut, Percy, Persimmon, Pete, Petunia, Pippin, Puck, Qain, Qbert, Quacks, Qualla, Quazzi, Quincy, Rambutan, Roo)

September 14, 2011

Orson was brought down from Bemidji on a transport in the middle of the week.  I met the transport in the Cities with the intention of bringing Orson into AHS.  During the drive, Orson suddenly went stiff and I thought he was dead.  I was close to South Hyland Pet Hospital which is where Dr. Vicki of ACT V practices so I bee-lined it for Dr. Vicki’s as fast as I could drive.

I rushed Orson in the front door.  Vicki took one look at him and immediately brought him in to be examined.  Orson had a lot of health issues.  Most of his teeth were gone and the ones that were left were rotten.  His fur was so matted that he could barely walk and he could not lift his leg to go to the bathroom.  While Vicki and the vet techs were working on de-matting him, it was discovered that maggots had burrowed their way into his skin and were eating at his flesh.

Orson - Before
Orson was groomed and bathed and fixed and then fostered by Diane.  He has recovered from all of his health issues and has found his forever home.

Orson - After
October 2011

Two transports, 14 dogs (Samson, Sawyer, Shen, Sidney, Sigmund, Smurf, Spanky, Spirit, Stanley, Stella, Stormy, Sullivan, Susie, Talullah)

Two of the dogs - Smurf and Sydney - went to AHS in Golden Valley.  Stella (momma) and her 11 puppies were transported to Animal Allies in Duluth.

November 2011

Three transports, 18 dogs and 6 cats (Snoopy, Vader, Vandy, Vassar, Veronica, Victoria, Vicuria, Vincent, Vinny, Viola, Virgo, Waffles, Wanda, Waseca, Wee, Willow, Willy, Winky, Winnie, Winston, Woobie, Xanadu, Xavier, Xenio)

November 19, 2011

Wanda and Winston were brought into AHS on a transport on November 19.  On December 12, both of them broke with Parvo.  Generally, when a dog breaks with Parvo, they are euthanized (Parvo is a deadly disease and incredibly contagious and it is very costly to treat).

Dr. Vicki at ACT V Rescue brought both dogs into ACT V Rescue and after many long nights and a lot of money, Wanda and Winston were nursed back to health.  They are both currently in foster care.

December 2011

Three transports, 32 dogs (Algonquin, Angeni, Animosh, Apisi, Ariel, Avigdor, Yadra, Yankee, Yanni, Yarrow, Yasmine, Yaz, Yentl, Yeti, Yoda, Yogi, Yoko, Yolanda, Yosemite Sam, Yoseph, Yoshi, Young Blood, YoYo, Yukon, Yuri, Yvette, Zamboni, Zen, Zephyr, Ziggy, Zippy, Zoomer)

December 18, 2011

On December 18, I received a call from Nancy, a Leech Lake volunteer who lives in Bemidji.  She and her husband Tom had stopped by the Impound to drop off a dog at the supposedly empty Impound and were quite surprised to be greeted by 18 puppies - all barking and wagging and hoping to be picked up by the nice lady or her husband.

I immediately called Rory (the ACO) to find out where the puppies had come from.  It turns out they had been picked up the night before from a farm in northern Minnesota and brought to the Impound.

I knew we needed to get the puppies out of the Impound as soon as possible.

After many phone calls and pleas for help, all 18 were transported to the Cities and brought into AHS where they were quickly vetted and placed up for adoption.

Yasmine - one of the 18 puppies

Yoko - one of the 18 puppies
Reflecting on 2011

I have always believed that each of us has the capacity to make a difference in our own lives and in other lives – be it human or animal.

What was proven to me over and over again during my work with Leech Lake in 2011 is how BIG of a difference we can make when we work together.

The last story about the 18 puppies proved it again.  In less than 24 hours:

  • AHS agreed to take in 18 puppies with no time for their usual preparation
  • AHS donated the use of a van and a volunteer to meet the transport in Motley
  • Nancy and Tom from Bemidji picked up the puppies at the Impound and drove like maniacs to meet the AHS volunteer in Motley (both of them needed to get back to work)
  • Marilou met the transport at AHS to take photos and video
  • AHS staff met the transport and worked closely with us to name the puppies, vet the puppies and get them settled into their temporary home
  • Potential adopters stepped up and adopted many of the puppies within 24 hours of them being placed up for adoption
I see so much negativity in the animal rescue world and people so quick to point fingers.  My wish for 2012 is for all of us to try and set aside our differences and instead of pointing fingers, ask what we can do to help each other.

If we all do that, think of everything that we could accomplish – TOGETHER!

Perhaps we can all make that our New Year’s resolution.

I would like to extend special thank yous to the following for their assistance in our efforts at Leech Lake:

All of the volunteers, both in the Cities and in northern Minnesota, who worked tirelessly to help rescue 200 animals
Rory, the Animal Control Officer in Leech Lake
ACT V Rescue & Rehabilitation
Animal Allies Humane Society
Animal Humane Society
ARVSS (Animal Rescue & Veterinary Support Services)
Lucky Dog Pet Lodge
MnPAW (Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare)
Pet Haven
Pet Project Rescue
RAGOM (Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota)
Red Lake Rosie's Rescue
Second Hand Dog
Secondhand Hounds
South Hyland Pet Hospital
Tri-County Humane Society

We recently set up a Facebook page for Leech Lake Legacy:

And here is a video of the happenings at Leech Lake in 2011:

See you soon.