*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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year ... and the launching of Leech Lake Legacy's new tag line.

Guest blog contributor: 
Craig Berdan, LLL Board member/treasurer and volunteer extraordinaire!

“Saving cats and dogs…because they matter.”

These words may have inspired you to become involved with Leech Lake Legacy.  We have a generous donor base and volunteer contingent due in no small part to big hearts and soft spots for cats and dogs.

Since our humble beginnings with transports in 2011, we’ve found more ways to help more animals.  Consider how our core programs have changed since then:

• Spay/neuter clinics have grown from none to eight clinic days per year, and include transport service from remote reservation communities
• Wellness clinics have grown from none to 12 clinic days per year
• Transports now occur at least once per week, and we have monthly surrender events; animals from White Earth and Red Lake reservations and surrounding communities are being served as well

But we know that spay/neuter and wellness clinics and transports and surrender events can go only so far in improving the lives of reservation animals.  While we will not stray from those core programs, we need to be open to new ways of reaching reservation animals and residents, earning and keeping reservation residents’ trust, and providing what we can to further improve the lives of reservation animal.

As communities in general struggle with issues like poverty and violence, we can see direct impact on the animals in those communities.  Healing and help is needed by both people and animals, and so you’ve seen additional efforts provided for reservation residents by Leech Lake Legacy like:

• Transport and distribution of donated pet food and cat litter
• Fundraising for and distribution of dog houses and straw
• Volunteer staffing at the Leech Lake impound
• Delivery of donated clothing and school supplies

Of course, healing and help is needed far beyond Leech Lake Reservation.  Look for Leech Lake Legacy to continue to reach out to the remote communities of Leech Lake Reservation and to assist at White Earth and Red Lake reservations.  As we work with Native America Humane Society, we hope to make Leech Lake Legacy a model organization to be replicated on other reservations.

The work we hope to do will require substantial financial resources.  Unfortunately, when people needs and animal needs compete for funding, people needs usually “win.”  We need to be mindful of the people-impact of our work by asking these questions,

How can we help reservation animals in such a way as to also improve the lives of people in the reservation community?   

How can we help people in the reservation community in such a way as to also improve the lives of reservation animals?

And so, after much reflection and discussion ... we are changing our tagline to words that more accurately reflect what we do and what we hope to do as we move forward into 2015 and beyond:

“Serving reservation animals and the people who love them.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 End of Year Letter

Cici gave birth to Gabby on Dec. 20, 2014
We would like to extend our deepest thanks for supporting us in our efforts to help the dogs and cats of Leech Lake Reservation and the surrounding communities. We would not be able to do what we do without your support.

[Photo on left: to read more about Cici's story .. click here]

Because of our generous supporters, 2014 was an amazing year for Leech Lake Legacy:

We transported and re-homed over 1,000 dogs and cats.
We hosted four spay/neuter clinics on the Reservation where 363 dogs and cats were altered. We also provided wellness checks and vaccines for another 512 dogs and cats.
We held 12 surrender events where more than 491 animals were surrendered and transferred to our partner rescues and shelters in Minnesota.
We provided emergency medical care to countless dogs and cats needing immediate attention.
We distributed 289 doghouses and bales of straw for outside Reservation dogs as a part of The Yukon Project. We also distributed cathouses for feral and community cats.
We distributed more than 50,000 pounds of dog and cat food to pet owners.
In partnership with The Native America Humane Society and other partners, we collected and distributed over 6,500 winter wear items (hats, gloves, scarves and coats) and over 1,000 school supplies for the children of Leech Lake Reservation. A special thanks to the Helen Woodward Animal Center for securing a majority of the winter wear donation.

Our goals for 2015 are even greater. We will host eight events at Leech Lake Reservation offering spay/neuter and/or wellness services.  Every month, we will host a surrender event, which provide an opportunity for residents to surrender animals for which they are no longer able to care.  We will collaborate with Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue to offer two spay/neuter/wellness clinics at White Earth Reservation.  We will continue our weekly transports of dogs and cats from the Leech Lake Impound, and will be working on education and outreach programs in partnership with the Leech Lake Tribal College. And inevitably, there will be injured animals on the Reservation who will need immediate and often expensive medical care.

In order to continue the transports, the clinics, and provide emergency care to injured animals and shelter for outside Reservation dogs and cats, we need your support. If you would like to contribute to Leech Lake Legacy, you can make an online donation at www.leechlakelegacy.org/donate or send a donation to:

Leech Lake Legacy
PO Box 385454
Bloomington, MN 55438

On behalf of the Reservation animals, we wish you Happy Holidays … and with your support, we commit to serving reservation animals and the people who love them.

Chi miigwech/Many thanks,

Marilou Chanrasmi Jenny Fitzer
President/Co-Founder Co-Founder/Program Director

Flash was surrendered to LLL on 12/13/14. He is in a temp foster home recovering from a wound.
He apparently is pretty comfy in his foster home :)
Where's Waldo ... no, Where's Flash??

Monday, December 22, 2014

A special Christmas gift from Cici

Cici's story is yet another example of how we can do so much more for the animals when we all work together.

Here is Cici's story:

From Karen of RLRR:

"Initially Red Lake Rosie's Rescue/RLRR got a call from a lady in Rice Lake, a community on
the White Earth Reservation that a female dog would need to be taken or would be shot. Our friends Bill, Teresa, and Cassie responded and brought CiCi to the RLRR shelter."

Karen then reached out to Jenny (Leech Lake Legacy, Program Director) about Cici. We suspected she was pregnant so we reached out to our amazing temp foster, Heidi who immediately agreed to take Cici until she had her puppies.

Cici had been with Heidi for a few weeks and on Saturday, 12/20 we got a call from Heidi that Cici had given birth to one puppy ...

and here is the rest of her story in Heidi's words:

"I felt like a kid waiting for Santa to come on Christmas night!  I was filled with excitement waiting for Cici, my first mother, to have her babies.

Cici is just one of the many precious reservation animals who made her way into our teams helping hands and open hearts.  Originally from White Earth reservation Cici ended up with Karen at Red Lake where her future began.  Cici is wonderful, a gentle soul and a sweet spirit.  What a great girl she is, having her around is a treat.

Saturday, December 20th, around 2:00am she woke up and I knew it was time.  Shortly before 8:00am a beautiful baby girl was born.  Her name would be Gabriella, Gabby.  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  It was just magic; that's the first birth I've ever seen!  More then excited I was just in awe.  Well one hour goes by, two hours go by and no more babies.  Long story short with the guidance and advice of Dr Vicki (of Act V Rescue & Rehabilitation), Jean (of Carver Scott Humane Society), and Julie (of Secondhand Hounds) Cici was going to the vet.  An x ray showed an empty uterus.  Cici had a litter of ONE!  Didn't see that one coming!  However, relieved we went home to rest.

Cici is a mother in every sense of the word.  She is caring, watchful, diligent.  She loves that little girl, and I wonder if having just one increases her nurturing or if she is just naturally a great mother.

It is my absolute pleasure to be apart of Cici, and of course Gabby's story. 

From Cici, Gabby, and myself a big thanks to everyone!


Congrats Cici, and welcome Gabby ..... a big thanks to Heidi, an amazing network of animal welfare groups working together to help the animals.

Gabby, you are without a doubt, a special Christmas gift ....

"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." ~ R. Satoro

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In memory of Terri Neumann

Terri with her dog Windsor
On December 9th, Leech Lake Legacy lost a dear friend and supporter, Terri Neumann. Terri's sister Vicki has been volunteering with Leech Lake Legacy from our early days and got her sister Terri to also get involved with Leech Lake Legacy :) Terri helped in so many ways ..... She would also temp foster cats/kittens for LLL. We send our deepest condolences to Vicki and her family. We asked Vicki to share a few words about her sister ..... RIP Terri Your spirit will continue to live on through your sister Vicki and the work she does with LLL ...

"Terri has always been an animal lover and owner. The dog she leaves behind is Windsor and the cat is Cleo. Cleo came from Leech Lake Legacy. Terri helped foster some kittens from Leech Lake, as well as the feral kittens we trapped in our yard. She never did a transport, but I think I could have eventually convinced her to ride shotgun with me to Motley."

Terri's obituary was in last Sunday's paper.

From Terri's obituary:

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Terri's honor to Leech Lake Legacy.

By clicking on the Donate button below, your donation will be made
'In memory of Terri Neumann'

A celebration of Terri's life will be Thursday, 12/18/14, 4-6pm
Buca Di Beppo
7711 Mitchell Road
Eden Prairie

Eddie ... the will to survive

Eddie at the impound
One of our dedicated volunteers, Nancy O'Sullivan, is a tireless advocate for all animals. She informed us that Eddie's time had run out at the Bemidji Impound ... could we help? I asked Nancy to share Eddie's story:

"We don't know much about Eddie's past, but I told him several times we were leaving it behind him anyway and moving forward onto new and better things. Eddie was diagnosed with FIV at his vet visit in Bemidji, but Amber (a Leech Lake Legacy volunteer) was more than happy to take Eddie into her home to foster.   

Eddie weighed in at 6.5 lbs when he arrived at our home. We discovered he was a huge chow-hound and loved his meals.....and he especially loved it when we laid next to him, petting him while he ate.   
Eddie in temp foster with Nancy and Tom O.

I hope Eddie hangs in there.   His heart and lungs and his tummy were checked out by Bemidji Animal Hospital and all were in great working order.......he was skin and bones though when we picked him up but I believe he gained a bit of weight with his foster care here for 10 days. Still, I
worry about the FIV and if he is strong enough to live with it.  I think he has had a very tough life, but he obviously wants to live and become a great addition to a loving family for the rest of his days.   He was cuddly and affectionate with us and followed me around when I could sneak him in a
larger room without our dogs.  He was nose-to-nose with our chocolate lab once and it resulted in a 'duh!' moment, so Eddie is just a laid back kind of guy. 

It didn't take long to fall in love with Eddie......his eyes melted my heart, and his sweetness
touched my soul."

Eddie will continue to need medical care and is definitely not out of the woods. Please continue to send lots of positive, healing energy his way.

A big thanks to Nancy for all you have done for Eddie .. and a big thanks also to Amber for your willingness to take a special needs cat into your home and for providing the necessary care.

Eddie - one week later

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Gift Certificates - Avoid the crowds and help a reservation animal in need

Looking to avoid the crowds at shopping malls? Can't think of what to give your friend or family member for the holidays?

How about giving the gift of warmth and medical care for a reservation animal in need? And who says you can't send a gift, or multiple gifts to yourself! :)

We will mail a gift certificate to your friend or family member .....

You can pay online (be sure to provide the name and address of where you would like the gift certificate to be mailed in the memo field), or send us an email at info@leechlakelegacy.org. Orders can also be made by check (Leech Lake Legacy, PO Box 385454, Bloomington, MN 55438). Please email us your order, however, so we can begin preparing your gift certificates.

LLL Gift Certificates

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wenda: The journey of a regal cat

Wenda was surrendered to Leech Lake Legacy at our Oct. 12-13, 2014 clinic. Unfortunately all of our partner shelters and rescues were at capacity with cats and kittens so we had nowhere for Wenda to go. Wenda ended up having to go back to the Cass Lake impound (on Leech Lake Reservation) where she spent the next month. Many thanks to our amazing volunteers up north who would visit the cats at the impound (and Wenda was one of many) .. they made sure she had the appropriate care and took time to also play and socialize them.

On Nov. 14th, Wenda came down to the cities with all of her fellow cat friends at the impound. There were also Red Lake reservation cats that were on transport ... a big surgery (spay/neuter) clinic was scheduled in partnership with the University of Minnesota SIRVS (Student Initiative for Veterinary Services) group and 26 cats were scheduled to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated by vet school students under the supervision of vets. The surgery clinic was hosted at Silver Lake Animal Hospital in Oakdale, MN. That day one of the vets volunteering was Dr. Karen Lopez. That day Dr. Karen fell in love with Wenda, an older gray cat with lots of personality!! :)
Wenda at the surgery clinic ..
not quite ready to wake up :)

All 26 cats, after surgery, were taken to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley for temporary lodging until we could figure out if any of our partner groups could take these 26 cats into their adoption program. We lucked out .... all 26 cats were placed with either the Animal Humane Society or Angel of Hope rescue. Wenda, ended up going to a foster home with Angel of Hope rescue.

A few days later we got an email from Dr. Karen indicating that she couldn't stop thinking about Wenda and was interested in putting an application in for Wenda. We put Dr. Karen in contact with Angel of Hope Rescue. Not long after, we learned that Wenda was officially adopted by Dr. Karen. Today, we got an email from Karen:

Hello all,
   I am happy to report that Miss Wenda has settled into her new home very nicely.  She is affectionate, playful, very neat, and just a little nervous.  She loves to be brushed and has slept in bed with me every night since she came home on Sunday.  She particularly likes playing with a little white mouse toy that a friend of mine sent to us.  I am thoroughly enjoying her, completely in love with her, and she has brought the warmth back into my apartment.  As I type she is lounging in her pink bed on my bed. I've attached some pictures of her.  Feel free to share with others.


Congrats Miss Wenda and Karen!! We are so happy for you both :) And many thanks to all who helped care of Wenda along her journey to finding her new forever home :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Puppy Roundup - November 15, 2014

Dog and cat food will also be available. We will also be distributing 80 dog houses and straw to those who have pre-registered at previous clinics. If you did not pre-register for a dog house please come after noon (12 pm) on Saturday, November 15th and all remaining dog houses not distributed will be handed out to residents of Leech Lake Reservation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Yam ... quills no more

Yam is picked up b Rory, Leech Lake CSO
Yam was picked up by Rory, Leech Lake Tribal Police Community Services Officer, at the end of October. Her face and body were covered with porcupine quills and Rory immediately transported her to our partner Animal Care Clinic in Bemidji where she was sedated and the hundreds of quills removed. We also learned that our sweet girl was very pregnant.

Jenny (LLL Program Director) worked to find placement for Yam with one of our partners and we were ecstatic when Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth said YES! Yam gave birth to 10 puppies at the vet clinic the night before she was transported (unfortunately 1 puppy did not survive). She then gave birth to one more puppy the very next day but unfortunately one more puppy did not make it. Yam, and her surviving 9 puppies, are being pampered in a loving foster home with Animal Allies.

We are grateful to Rory, Animal Care Clinic, Nancy/Tom (for transporting Yam from Leech Lake to Duluth), and Animal Allies for taking Yam and her puppies into their program. We are also grateful to all who support us so that we an provide the necessary emergency medical care for dogs like Yam who come into our program.

We will be sure to post updated photos of Yam and her puppies.

Yam recovering after surgery to remove the quills

Yam getting pampered at Animal Care Clinic
Yam and her puppies getting ready for transport

Monday, November 3, 2014

Give to the Max - November 13th

The biggest giving day in Minnesota is scheduled for Thursday, November 13th! Help us reach our goal of raising $10,000. We have $4,000 in matching gifts so our first $4,000 in donations will be matched dollar for dollar!

Here are ways you can help:

1. Schedule your donation today. Link to the Leech Lake Legacy Give MN page: https://givemn.org/organization/Leech-Lake-Legacy

2. Help spread the word. Send an email to your friends and family. Share on Facebook and Twitter.

3. Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LeechLakeLegacy) and help us keep the excitement and momentum going on November 13th.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Leech Lake Legacy October 11, 2014 Clinic

Winky, one of 66 animals surrendered
Leech Lake Legacy hosted a 1 day clinic on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at the Tribal Police garage. It was a beautiful fall day and we are truly grateful for our partnership with the Leech Lake Tribal Police and the support of Steve White, Dist. II Representative for the Leech Lake Tribal Council who provided lodging for volunteers who traveled to Cass Lake to volunteer.

We are also grateful to the Alex Sterling Foundation for kicking off a $3,000 donation  for dog houses as a part of our Yukon Project. An additional $3,000 was raised to match the generous donation by Denise and Steve Sterling and a total of 120 dog houses and 120 bales of straw were ordered. A huge thanks also to ADMC Distribution and Chuck & Don's  for partnering with us so we could obtain substantial discounts on the price of the dog houses and for delivering at the dog houses directly to the tribal police headquarters in Cass Lake.

At our one day we provided the following services:

  • 44 animals came in for wellness checks and vaccinations
  • 66 animals were surrendered
  • Approximately 90 dog houses with a bale of straw were distributed [the remaining 30 dog houses were distributed the following week]
  • 30+ large bags of winter wear (hats, mittens, coats, gloves) and school supplies were given to the Leech Lake tribe for distribution to the children of Leech Lake Reservation. Many thanks to our Leech Lake Legacy supporters, Hats and Mittens, and to the Animal Humane Society, Now Board and Grand Ave Pet Hospital for reaching out to their customers/supporters and having donation bins at their locations. A much larger donation of winter wear is on the way from the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California (miigwech to our partner Native America Humane Society for this new connection) ... more info to come on this soon.
  • Approximately three thousand pounds of dog and cat food were distributed

A HUGE thanks to all the LLL volunteers, and a special thanks to our volunteer vet, Dr. Dani.

The first family to pick up a dog house at our clinic!

Dr. Dani stays busy ally day seeing 4-legged patients

Waiting to see Dr. Dani

For more photos click here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leech Lake Legacy Purple Hoodies on Sale!

Leech Lake Legacy Purple Hoodies

Pre-orders will be taken until Saturday, October 25, 2014
Help spread the word about LLL and help us raise some funds to continue our programs

As winter is approaching, consider buying an LLL hoodie for yourself .... maybe also consider buying a few more as gifts for friends and family with the holiday approaching?

Cost: $40 per hoodie

We expect delivery of the hoodies the second week of November. Hoodies can be picked up from the LLL office in Minnetonka. We will contact everyone who has placed an order via email of pick up times. We will also let you know of other pick up locations and events LLL will be at. You can email leechlakelegacy@gmail.com with any questions.

If you would like your hoodie shipped:

Shipping and Handling: 
$8 / per hoodie

Payment options:


If you would like to order more than one hoodie, you can select your quantity when you check out on the paypal site.

If you are needing the hoodies to be shipped to you please be sure to select 'S&H' from the drop down and 'Add to Cart'.

Please indicate in the Memo field when you check out your hoodie size(s), or email leechlakelegacy@gmail.com.

Mail a check to:

Leech Lake Legacy
PO Box 385454
Bloomington, MN 55438

Indicate quantity and sizes and provide an email address and/or phone #. If you would like us to ship the item(s), please include payment for shipping and handling.

Payment must be received by October 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Leech Lake Legacy Sep2014 Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic

Zeus .. one of our first surgery patients!
Leech Lake Legacy hosted a 2-day spay/neuter and wellness clinic on Sept. 12-13, 2014. We are grateful to the ASPCA for the generous grant and for sponsoring our September clinic. Many thanks also to the Leech Lake Tribal Police for partnering with us to host the clinic and for providing lodging and dinners for our volunteers. We are now in our 3rd year of hosting clinics in Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Reservation. In order to expand our reach  into more remote communities on Leech Lake Reservation, we offered a wellness clinic at Lone Eagle Community Center in Ball Club and offered transport of pets to Cass Lake for spay/neuter services. The following are the results of our 2-day spay/neuter and wellness clinic:

- 98 spay/neuter surgeries
- 1 specialty surgery
- 134 animals since through our wellness clinic (117 in Cass Lake and 17 in Ball Club)
- 55 animals surrendered. Animals released to the care of Leech Lake Legacy are transported and transferred to the care of our partner groups, who then spay/neuter and vaccinate the animals, evaluate them, provide any necessary rehab (whether medical or behavioral) and place them up for adoption. The surrendered animals at our Sept. clinic were transferred to the following partners: Animal Humane Society, Animal Allies Humane Society, Angel of Hope, Carver Scott Humane Society, and some were placed in temporary foster homes with Leech Lake Legacy.

Dog and cat food were also distributed to residents of Leech Lake and a car load of donated school supplies were given to Kathryn Fairbanks, Leech Lake elder and board member of the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school.

Two Leech Lake pups (Gilligan and Louie) also came to pay us a visit. Gilligan (formerly Gilbert) was surrendered at our June event and Louie was a stray released to the care of LLL at our July clinic. Both pups were transferred over to Patriots Assistance Dogs and are in training to become service dogs.  We had visits from the Lakeland News, the Cass Lake Times and the DeBahJiMon papers.

A special thanks to our volunteer vets, Dr. Pierce Fleming of Plymouth Heights Pet Hospital and Dr. Dani Schwartzmann for volunteering at our clinic and helping with wellness and pre-surgery. We also had 4 vet school students from the University of Minnesota shelter medicine club volunteer on Saturday who were of great assistance to Dr. Pierce who was our only volunteer on Saturday! Thank you!

Chi miigwech to all of our amazing volunteers and to all of our supporters! We value our relationship with each and every one of you, and are truly grateful to be working together and making a difference in the lives of animals and pet owners of Leech Lake Reservation.

and for more photos from the clinic:

Monday, September 22, 2014

In memory of Karl .... RIP sweet boy

We received heart breaking news tonight from Karl's family (June and Cody) ... they sent an email to Sharon and Barbara Kinsmith who fostered Karl when he arrived into LLL's program at the beginning of the year (his story is below). Karl was adopted by June and Cody at the end of May, 2014:

"... I wanted to let you know with immense sadness that Karl passed away at the emergency clinic very early this morning. His stomach had bloated and twisted multiple times. Even with surgery, the vet and we, were not sure how he would recover. He went very peacefully on a nice big blanket with his head on my lap, cody petting him, and his puppy tucked in with him.

Thank you for putting him into our lives. We loved and still love him more than anyone could imagine.

Is it ironic that we had been teaching him to flip a treat off of his nose and catch it...and last night was the first time he did it successfully? He was never the most graceful, but always the most loving."

RIP Karl. You have touched the hearts of so many and you will be the brightest star in the night skies tonight. Let your spirit soar now .. and know that you will forever live on in the hearts of so many.

Karl's story (from the LLL blog post in Feb., 2014:

Karl was found as a stray on the Leech Lake Reservation by one of Leech Lake Legacy's volunteers. He had been living in the woods for some time before he decided to jump into the volunteer's car who had been trying for some time to catch Karl. He was transported to the Animal Humane Society in the Twin Cities for vetting, vaxing, and evaluation. He spent some time at the Animal Humane Society getting lots of love and pampering and going through their process to get the sweet boy ready to be placed up for adoption. The vets noticed a mass on his leg and as they were preparing to get him ready for surgery, he collapsed. This led to further diagnostics and tests, and we soon learned that Karl has a heart condition. Leech Lake Legacy made the decision to transfer Karl to a temp foster home with Sharon and Barbara.

X-rays show a possible enlarged heart, but that may be just a reflection of how full of love and affection he is. He may also have a megaesophagus, a condition that's managed by having him step on a step stool to eat so that he's almost upright on his hind legs. He learned that trick in about a minute, which shows how smart he is, and how much he loves to eat.

He enjoys his toys and will bring every one of them, one by one, from the toy box in the bedroom until he has them scattered around the living room. He's an excellent tennis ball catcher, too.

Thank you to the residents of Leech Lake Reservation who left food out for Karl and worried about him until he was finally brought in from the cold to begin his new life in the Twin Cities.

And thank you to Sharon and Barbara (and your pup Moose) for opening up your heart, and home, and for loving and caring for Karl as we continue to explore and get some answers to so many unknowns.

But there is one thing that we know for sure, Karl has a BIG heart, and yes, it is full of love and attention!

And after several months with Barbara and Sharon, he was adopted by a young couple at the end of May who fell instantly in love with Karl.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Leech Lake Legacy's partnership with Patriots Assistance Dogs featured in Cass Lake Times

Leech Lake Legacy connects with PAD

By Allan Olson – Cass Lake Times (Sept. 17, 2014)

Teamwork, collaboration and networking are all very important tools for any organization to have, including Leech Lake Legacy, which donates hundreds of volunteer hours for the good of the pets in the Leech Lake community.

This year the network reached out to Patriot Assistance Dogs (PAD) of Detroit Lakes and helped connect that program with dogs that they are able to train for use in their veterans program.

According to Dennis Junker, a volunteer trainer and former Cass Lake resident and alum (Class of ’78), as well as a 14-year military veteran, 75% of the dogs used in the program are rescue dogs. He explained that they currently have two sources of dogs for their veterans’ program – Leech Lake Legacy and Second Chance Pups of Lincoln, NE.

The dogs are trained for veterans with PTSD; they help provide personal space for those veterans, Junker explained. They can help to interrupt a panic attack or calm a veteran waking up from night terrors. In the case of a panic attack in public (i.e., in a store), the service animal is trained to lead them to the nearest outside exit – typically toward a garden or park area or some similar peaceful setting. Additionally, they are trained about how to act on various modes of public transportation, and how to stay out of the way of traffic. They have experience with city buses, along with ambulance training – remaining poised in the presence of running lights and sirens and firemen running in and out in full turnout gear. Some dogs also have additional training for individuals with diabetes; their K-9 partners have the ability to detect low blood sugar levels, along with alerting to seizures.

Leech Lake Legacy has provided PAD with two dogs – Gilligan (formerly named Gilbert by LLL) and Louie; both are a black lab/mixed breed. “They both showed so much natural instinct, I had to take them,” Junker said. Gilligan was adopted by PAD in June and Louie in August. Both appear to have a natural instinct for such training. Another dog donated by a family living on the Leech Lake Reservation – Sadie – will be fully certified within a month and has already been assigned to a Bemidji veteran.

The entire training process can take anywhere from six months to a year, and the veterans getting the dogs must also have about a month of training with their future service companion. For most dogs, it takes approximately 18 months before their training is complete and they are mature enough to be assigned to a veteran. Before being put on duty, the dogs are given a complete physical with hip x-rays, along with an examination of their internal organs. “We want to make sure they have the longest service life possible; hip problems or others issues could shorten it,” Junker said.

After being fully trained, each dog is valued at $10,000 - $12,000, according to Junker. “At this time, we don’t charge our veterans anything,” he said. The dogs are also sent with a basic first aid kid, and the owners are trained on using that and some other basics to help offset any additional costs. The program will also train a veteran’s personal dog if it passes their temperament test and physical exam.

The program has been in existence for three and a half years. In that time they have placed 34 dogs, and have a few others pending. Their costs have all been offset by grants and fundraisers to date. The dogs are all trained in the Detroit Lakes area. Most of the dogs they use range from 45-80 pounds. They have been placed with veterans in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

Barry Stephens, an Air Force veteran who served during Operation Enduring Freedom from 2004-07, is now the proud owner of Sadie. He is currently attending Bemidji State University, and Sadie attends classes with him. “Everyone on campus seems to know her name, but not mine!” he quipped. “There was a small hiccup when I first was planning to bring Sadie with me to campus, but I called PAD and they talked with officials at the college and explained the law, and then all was great. All the professors have been excellent to work with. I emailed them at the beginning of the semester and let them know, and there hasn’t been an issue. Sadie brings a different atmosphere to the classroom, and breaks the tension in the room.” Barry is working toward a graduate degree in English, and hopes to focus on writing.

“Sadie is an excellent dog, and PAD is a great program,” he said. “They set me up with leashes, toys, collars, medical supplies, hygiene needs, and basic first aid. With Sadie, I feel like I can be out in a crowd. She has my back so I can relax.” Barry shared that he recently went to a large campus event which he probably would not have been able to attend without her because his anxiety level would have been too high. Sadie provided the calming influence he needed.

Many veterans feel that they can’t go to their children’s school events, games or concerts because of the anxiety level created by the crowd, Junker said. With a service animal like Sadie – or someday Gilligan or Louie – they will hopefully alleviate enough of that anxiety to allow those veterans to attend those important functions and be able to participate more in their loved ones’ lives.

Junker hopes that eventually the VA will cover the costs associated with providing these service animals. “They do it for seeing-eye dogs and hearing dogs,” he said. “While these are still service animals and their owners can take them anywhere, they are still different in terms of VA acknowledgement of care. It’s still a relatively new concept. It takes time, but we are making progress.”

Occasionally they do run into a business that will not allow the animal into their building, but usually it’s because they are unfamiliar with the law, which states that a business can only ask the owner, “Is it a service animal, and what does it do for you?” According to Junker, they cannot ask what is wrong with the veteran.

This is a tremendous partnership,” said Marilou Chanrasmi, Leech Lake Legacy co-founder. “Dennis is great to work with, and we are thrilled about our partnership.”

My opinion is that Rez dogs rule!” Junker said.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dog houses being delivered ... straw needed for the dog houses

Thanks to the generous donation from The Alex Sterling Foundation and our supporters, we were able to raise $6,000 at our fundraiser in July to purchase dog houses for the outside reservation dogs of Leech Lake Reservation. This will be the 3rd year where we have been able to distribute dog houses.

Many thanks to ADMC Distribution and Chuck & Don's for partnering with us, for the second year in a row, to purchase outside dog barn houses at a substantial discount, AND for delivering the houses to the Leech Lake Tribal Police in Cass Lake.

The 120 dog houses we have ordered are on their way, and Leech Lake Legacy (in partnership with the Tribal Police) will be distributing the dog houses and straw on October 11th. We will be going through forms filled out by residents and contacting those who have requested dog houses. Leech Lake Legacy will work with the Tribal Police to prioritize who will receive dog houses.

We would like distribute a bale of straw with every dog house. A bale of straw will cost us $4.25. If you are able to contribute towards the purchase of straw for the dog houses we would greatly appreciate it, as will the dogs :)

Straw for Dog Houses