*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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Ituha" ... in the hearts of many

This morning, with the bitter cold, I can't help but think of Ituha (means 'strong and sturdy oak'). Her spirit shines on. The roots of her tree are reaching further into the earth, the soil and the hearts of so many; the branches of her tree are stretching outward, in all directions, to unite a community to launch the Ituha Animal Care Project. The Leech Lake Legacy board and leadership team are working hard to put together a plan and to gather supplies needed for Ituha Animal Caregivers.

So this morning .... I ask you to hold in your hearts the many other Ituhas who are out roaming reservations in the United States and First Nations of Canada, and let them know that they are not alone .. that we are working as hard as we can to get the Ituha Animal Care Project launched and to hold on .. that an entire community holds a blanket of warmth and love and hope around them. 

Any many thanks to all who have donated towards the Ituha Animal Care Project. We have begun purchasing the needed medical supplies for the Ituha Animal Caregiver totes, and will be reaching out shortly to see if you may be able to help us by donating some of the supplies for the totes.

Dear sweet Ituha, you will forever be in our hearts - your spirit will forever shine brightly. And in every tree, we will know, you are with us ... guiding us, inspiring us, and giving us hope.

When I am Among the Trees
By Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
     but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

To read more about Ituha's story [please note: photo of Ituha may be hard to see]

Blog post on Dec. 11, 2013 after she was picked up by Rory, Leech Lake CSO:

Blog post on Dec. 12, 2013 after Ituha crossed over to the spirit world:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Audrae Diestler leaves a Legacy of Love through Terri Hill

Audrae with her beloved dogs: Nikki and Shandy
Leech Lake Legacy/LLL was blessed a little over a year ago, when Terri Hill over heard a conversation regarding an upcoming Puppy Round Up at Leech Lake Reservation, and reached out to meet Jenny Fitzer, Program Director of Leech Lake Legacy who was organizing the Round Ups. The next day, we invited Terri to meet a transport arriving at the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society. From that day in October, 2012, Terri has become a core part of the LLL team and is one of the most dedicated and tireless advocates for the animals and the work of LLL. Last week, Terri lost a very special person in her life, her aunt Audrae. Audrae passed away at the age of 91, peacefully, in her sleep. She was a huge lover of animals. Terri's son Jesse wrote, "She was truly a role model for everyone in our family .... with a kind heart, generous spirit, exceptional intelligence, great sense of humor, who lived life the way it was meant to be lived. She touched the hearts of everyone who has been lucky enough to know her and we are all better people for experiencing the wonderful person she was." Terri surprised the Leech Lake Legacy board last night by informing us that she was purchasing a cargo van and would be donating the van to LLL in honor of her aunt Audrae. Today, Terri and Jenny went to the dealership and at 3 pm this afternoon drove off the dealership with Leech Lake Legacy's new transport vehicle, "Audrae. We are naming the vehicle Audrae, and her spirit will live on in the hundreds (make that thousands) of animals she will be transporting as they make their way to the next stage of their journey in finding their own forever homes, and in transporting supplies (dog houses, crates, food, etc.) from the Twin Cities to northern Minnesota.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Terri, and thank you aunt Audrae for the incredibly generous gift of a transport van for Leech Lake Legacy!!

Jenny is in heaven with the new LLL cargo van!!
"Audrae" will be taking her first trip to Motley to meet up with Nancy/Tom O (transport volunteers for Red Lake Rosie's Rescue and Leech Lake Legacy) this Saturday .. supplies will be heading up north, and dogs/cats from Red Lake and Leech Lake will be making their way to the cities.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ituha ... your spirit shines on

Reflections from Marilou (Co-Founder, LLL)

This morning I feel the need to take time to reflect and to allow all the emotions to come out. It has been a hard week for those of us involved in helping animals on Leech Lake and Red Lake reservations in northern Minnesota. On Tuesday, when Jenny (the other co-founder of Leech Lake Legacy) texted me a photo of a young shepherd mix (we named her Ituha – means strong and sturdy oak) who was brought into Animal Care Clinic in horrible, horrible condition my heart felt like it had been stabbed multiple times. For all the years I have been involved in animal welfare, I have never seen anything so bad. My heart hurt for the pain she had to endure. My heart hurt for the suffering she was currently feeling and for the many, many nights she was suffering out in the sub freezing temperatures of northern Minnesota, with no food or shelter, and a body that was being devoured by mange.  And my heart hurt for the hundreds, no … thousands of others like her roaming the reservations of the United States and the First Nations of Canada.
Ituha at the clinic after receiving loving care
I got a call from my contact Jan at Animal Care Clinic early yesterday morning .. Ituha had passed. All night I worried about her. I remember telling Jenny before I went to sleep that it wouldn’t surprise me if Ituha didn’t make it … that now that she is finally safe, warm and surrounded by love, that her spirit would be set free from a body that was beaten down and could no longer serve her. Yet I desperately wanted to believe she would make it, that she would survive this and that a community was ready to support her, love her, nurture her and provide her with whatever she needed to recover. I so desperately wanted to believe that there would be a happy ending to this story. We had a temp foster lined up for her, and we were ready to bring her down to the cities.

Yesterday morning the walls came crashing in. I could feel every muscle in my body tighten, the tears started flowing and they wouldn’t stop … and yes, I was even angry … angry that Ituha had to suffer for so long, alone; angry that we couldn’t save her; angry at the bitter winter; angry that my fantasy and hope of a happy ending wasn’t going to be. We have transported almost 2,000 animals from Leech Lake Reservation (and surrounding communities) since we began in May, 2011. There have been other losses but this one (like lil’ Dougie, an 8 week old pup we lost in June, 2012 and who inspired The Great Puppy Round Ups) … this one, hit me so hard. And I could feel the spirit of Ahnung guiding me through the grief, the pain. [Ahnung (means ‘star’ in ojibwe) crossed over to the spirit world in August, 2013. She is the fire and the inspiration behind Leech Lake Legacy]. I could feel her spirit with me, with Ituha …. I imagine Ahnung welcoming Ituha into the spirit world. Ituha hung on long enough to come into our lives … to touch us deeply and to inspire us to take our work at Leech Lake Reservation to the next level. Ahnung reminded me to be grateful for the many amazing humans (from Rory the Leech Lake Community Services Officer to the dedicated staff at Animal Care Clinic) who made it possible for Ituha to set her spirit free, in a warm and safe place … knowing she was loved …
Little Dougie
I learned from Ahnung to always, always fill my heart with love and hope, not anger or bitterness. There will be loss and pain, and even suffering caused by abuse that we can’t understand … but what will help us rise above all of that, and what will help us all heal, is coming together in community and reaching our hands and hearts out with love, compassion and a true desire to understand. 

Ahnung is no longer here in physical form. But she will always remain the guiding star for Leech Lake Legacy. And now she has gifted us with a new spirit, Ituha (strong and sturdy oak). The branches of the tree of Ituha has reached up to the skies … her spirit is up in the heavens guiding us; and it is now up to us, to create programs and services so that others like her no longer have to suffer. It is up to us to come together in community.

In honor of Ituha, we will be developing and launching a new program in 2014 called the Ituha Animal Care Project (which will be modeled after the Lakota Animal Care Project of Pine Ridge Reservation).  Ituha, like little Dougie, will continue to inspire and touch the hearts of many, and they will guide us from the spirit world. Chi miigwech Ituha … Chi miigwech lil’ Dougie … Chi miigwech Ahnung.

Daga (Please) Widokawishin (Give or grant me) Weweni ( Serenity)

To read more about Ituha’s story, click here.

And to read more about Little Dougie's story, click here.

And to read more about Ahnung's story, click here.

Ahnung - guiding star of Leech Lake Legacy

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ituha (strong and sturdy oak) – Safe journeys sweet girl

On Tuesday, 12/10/13 Rory (Leech Lake CSO) picked up a young shepherd mix (we named her Ituha which means ‘strong and sturdy oak’) who was in horrible shape and in obvious pain. She was immediately taken to Animal Care Clinic in Bemidji where she was given pain meds and a warm swirling bath to try to raise her body temperature, and also gave her subQ fluids as she was extremely dehydrated. Ituha had a very severe case of mange. When she arrived she was so cold that her body temperature would not even register on the thermometer. We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Animal Care Care (a special thanks to Allyson and Jess) for all they did to keep Ituha comfortable. With a warm swirling bath they were able to raise her body temperature back to normal, and she ate a little and drank.

It is with a very heavy heart I share with you that Ituha has crossed over to the spirit world this morning. As much as it breaks my heart it gives me comfort to know she is no longer suffering and that she is free from pain. Ituha must’ve known that she was safe and warm and loved … and that it was finally okay to set her spirit free from her body. I posted her photo and story on facebook yesterday, and am touched by the overwhelming response from everyone. Thank you for your prayers, your positive thoughts and your healing energy. I imagine Ituha being carried and supported by the loving energy of an entire community … and as she set her spirit free she has left a mark forever in each and every one of our hearts.

Ituha will not be forgotten … she is being cremated and her ashes will be sent to us. We will be having a prayer circle in her honor … and we will invite a community to come together to honor this amazing spirit who has touched the hearts of many and will inspire a community to hold hands and hearts so that we can continue to work together to help her friends at Leech Lake Reservation so that no living being ever has to go through the suffering and pain she had to endure.

Safe journeys sweet Ituha … as we look up into the night skies tonight, we know you will be the brightest star out there. And I am sure Ahnung (the fire and inspiration behind Leech Lake Legacy), who crossed over to the spirit world on August. 25, 2013, was there welcoming you ….

Rest well sweet Ituha ....

Marilou - Leech Lake Legacy Co-Founder
(on behalf of Leech Lake Legacy)

The loss of Ituha has touched so many of us deeply. It has brought to light an urgent need in current frigid temperatures to provide support and assistance to injured and sick animals, and those unable to fend for themselves. If you live on Leech Lake Reservation and are aware of any injured or sick animal, please call us at 612.437.9073 or email us at leechlakelegacy@gmail.com. 
Ituha finally able to rest after receiving loving care from the staff at Animal Care Clinic

Monday, December 9, 2013

Give the Gift of Warmth to a reservation dog

Are you struggling to come up with the perfect gift for a friend or family for the holidays? If so, consider giving the gift of warmth for an outside reservation dog. A gift of $75 will purchase one maintenance free, raised floor dog house to keep a reservation dog warm this winter.

A certificate will be mailed to your friend or family member, with additional information and a handwritten thank you from the co-founders of Leech Lake Legacy. Any amount helps!

There are 2 ways to make your donation:

1. Mail your check to Leech Lake Legacy, P.O. Box 385454, Bloomington, MN 55438 and provide us with a list of names and addresses of your friends/family members.
2. Make your donation online through Paypal, and in the memo field enter the names and addresses of your friends/family members. You may also email us at info@leechlakelegacy.org to provide contact info.

Chi miigwech,


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Esmerelda helps her friends

Esmerelda - June, 2012
On June 17, 2012 Esmerelda was one of many arriving on transport from Leech Lake Reservation. A resident had contacted Rory, Leech Lake Community Services Officer, that there was a stray dog living in an abandoned house. Rory stopped by every day and on the 7th day he found Esmerelda in the house, sleeping on a couch. She was apparently very happy to see Rory :)

For this particular transport, a groomer in Morrison County offered to bathe all the dogs coming down on transport before they continued on their journey to the Animal Humane Society so Esmerelda got pampered just hours after leaving the Leech Lake Impound. This was also a very full transport and due to the number of animals being transported, it wasn't possible to fit another crate in the vehicle. Much to Esmerelda's delight, she got to ride on Heidi's lap (who was in the passenger seat) from Morrison County to the Buffalo Animal Humane Society/AHS! As usual, there was a big welcoming committee by the staff at Buffalo upon arrival of the transport :)

It turned out that Esmerelda needed to have surgery. Our partner AHS made sure Esmerelda got the care she needed - she had FHO (femoral head ostectomy) surgery and spent 8 weeks healing, recovering and going through rehabilitation in a foster home. And the best part of all, she quickly got snatched up and adopted by an AHS employee, Melissa! Her new family absolutely adores, loves and pampers her! :)

Yesterday morning, we received a very generous donation from Esmerelda's family, with the following note:

Thank you so much for your generous gift Melissa ... Esmerelda will be helping many of her friends at Leech Lake Reservation through your donation :)

"I got your e-newsletter and wanted to make a gift to LLL for many reasons.

1.       Because we love Esmeralda and she has brought great joy to our house. She is so smart that it is sometimes tricky to stay one step ahead of her when it comes to keeping her from helping herself to anything edible.
2.       I am so impressed with what LLL has been able to accomplish in such a short time. The bringing of people together to help animals is so rewarding for everyone involved – even those of us who are on the sidelines cheering.
3.       I want to see you able to continue to do what you are doing and to do that you need $."