*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, 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

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