Leech Lake Legacy believes that by working together and collaborating with a larger network of animal welfare organizations, we will be able to do more for reservation animals and pet owners (www.leechlakelegacy.org)
*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
Last November, on a cold Saturday, I made my weekly trip to Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota to pick up a load of surrendered/abandoned animals from the Leech Lake Impound. Scheduled to be on the transport were seven dogs (Willy, Woobie, Willow and four not-yet-named German shepherd puppies) and three kittens (Waffles, Winky and Wee).
This transport was a going to be a little bit more of a challenge than normal in that all of the animals at the Impound needed to be bathed before they could be transported to Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.
The normal chaos ensued as we loaded up the animals – barking, meowing, swearing. We hauled the dogs and cats to the dog wash in Bemidji and started the not-very-fun task of bathing 10 very stressed and uncooperative animals (imagine how happy the three cats were to be bathed on this extremely cold November day).
We had finished with a couple of the dogs when I crouched down to get the next dog out of his kennel. It was Willy. His head turned my way when I called his name and I remember thinking how big and black his eyes were. He was a little hesitant to step out of his kennel so I patiently waited for him to make his way out and then I helped him up the ramp to the bathing station.
Patient Willy - Waiting for his bath
After Willy and the rest of the animals were dropped off, I didn’t think about him again until December 15 when I received an email from my contact at AHS that Willy was going to need extensive eye surgery and he would be unable to be treated at AHS. I would need to find a rescue willing to take in Willy and get him the surgery he needed.
Willy was permanently blind in one eye and would need surgery to remove it. He was almost completely blind in the other eye and would need surgery to hopefully repair the eye enough to allow him some sight. During his examination, it was also discovered that he had what appeared to be a bullet in one of his cheeks.
I was crushed when I received the email. I spend a lot of time rescuing and re-homing dogs and cats and I know how hard it is to re-home healthy dogs. How was I going to find someone who could afford to take on the burden of Willy’s two necessary and very expensive eye surgeries?
On Friday, December 16, I received a call from a very excited Marilou (Leech Lake Legacy). She contacted Kathie Johnson, Director of Animal Services at the Animal Humane Society, and together they came up with a plan to give Willy the second chance he deserved. AHS was going to perform the enucleation (removal of one of Willy's eyes at a cost of approximately $800) and would donate $1,000 towards surgery for cataract surgery on his other eye. Marilou committed to raising the difference of $650. And as only Marilou can do, she quickly reached out to her contacts in the animal community and was able to raise enough money to offset the cost of his surgeries. Kathie Johnson also offered to foster Willy!
Willy - Post-Surgery
Willy had his surgeries and spent a couple of months recovering in Kathie's home. He was recently adopted. I received the following email from his foster momma:
Mon, February 20 - He was adopted this afternoon by my good friends. They adore Will and I’m so happy they have adopted him. A little sad of course, but I know he’s in good hands. Can you please thank the folks who donated money to help with his surgery? I would like them to know that Will has been adopted and what an impact they’ve had on his life. Dr. Bob Larocca from the AnimalEyeSpecialtyCenter in Andover and his team deserve a special thank you. They are so generous with their time and expertise – I can’t thank them enough for all their help with Will. He is such a good dog and so different from when he came to my home almost 2 months ago. I told him every day what a lucky dog he was and it all started with the great efforts of LeechLake Legacy. It’s these experiences that remind me why I do what I do and how lucky we are to have this relationship with you and how much we can accomplish by working together. Will is a testament to this and I am proud to have been his foster mom. Our house is a little quieter tonight and our shoes are safe but he made a huge impact on us as well. We will miss him.
Thank you again to everyone who touched Willy and helped him on his way - from the ACO in Leech Lake to the volunteers who helped bathe and transport to AHS to Marilou to his foster mommy and his new family and to everyone who so generously donated money so Willy could see again.
We are so much stronger when we work together for a cause. Willy is a testament to that.