*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, March 4, 2015

God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

Saturday, February 21, 2015
5:00 a.m. – A screaming alarm wakes me up in an unfamiliar bed and it takes a minute for my groggy brain to remember I am in Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.  I stumble out of bed and try to focus on making it to the bathroom without tripping over the miscellaneous shoes, bags and other items strewn along my path.  

I make it into the shower without injury and as I stand under the steaming water, I think about the previous evening when I received a late-night call from Dr. Vicki.  She was calling to see if I could help organize transport for a severely burned puppy from Red Lake Reservation that needed to get to Minneapolis as soon as possible.  A few phone calls and emails later and transport was set.  I think again to myself how lucky I am to be involved with such a passionate, dedicated network of animal lovers and send a silent prayer that the injured dog survives the trip.

I am in town with a group of Leech Lake Legacy volunteers to host a Surrender Event at the Tribal Police Headquarters in Cass Lake.  Once a month, we set up at the Tribal Police garages and provide an opportunity for residents of the Reservation to surrender their animals to us.  We take in animals (dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, etc.) all day on Saturday.  We are able to provide simple services to dogs and cats (de-worming) and also trim nails.  And we provide dog and cat food to pet owners.

Surrendered at event
5:30 a.m. - I head outside to start the cargo van and open the hotel door to a face-numbing blast of icy wind.  The thermometer reads 16 below zero but with the wind it feels 20 degrees colder.  The van grumbles and complains but after a bit of coaxing, finally starts up.  I crank the heat on full blast, pull my hat down around my ears and begin the arduous task of scraping the inch of ice from all 11 windows on the van.

5:45 a.m. - I wasn’t scheduled to meet up with the other volunteers until 6:30 a.m. but as I was leaving the facility the night before, I discovered that we were out of toilet paper.  Since I was coordinating the clinic, I figured it was my responsibility to make sure we had enough TP to get us through the day.  I certainly didn't want a mutiny on my hands.  My first stop was Teal’s, the local grocery store.  I left the van running as I pulled into the lot and was thoroughly disappointed when I ran to the door and realized they didn’t open until 6:00.  I jumped back in the van and attempted to keep warm until the store opened.

1 of a litter of 3 puppies surrendered at event
6:15 a.m. – It is still dark when I arrive at the garages.  I fumble with the door lock – my fingers are frozen and don’t work the way I want them to.  I finally get inside and am thankful for the blast of hot air that hits me in the face.  I flip on the lights and hear cars pulling up outside.  The other volunteers have arrived.

Surrendered at Event
7:59 a.m. – Crates are assembled.  Donated dog and cat food is neatly stacked and ready for distribution.  Pee pads and fluffy blankets line each crate in preparation for a new occupant.  The “Surrender Animals Here” sign is set up outside the door with an arrow pointing to the correct entrance.  The group photo has been snapped.  All of the volunteers have their assignments.  We wait with shivering anticipation for that first surrender.

Our Fantastic Volunteers
Jenny, Wendy, Bill, Teresa, John, Jenna, Melissa
Nancy, Sandra, Jarre, Linda
Trudy is taking the picture
8:02 a.m. – Ozzy drags his owner in the door, wagging his stub of a tail and slobbering with excitement. Ozzy is a big, brindle bulldog mix, all wiggles and happy dances.  His owner is an elderly man who tells me that due to a death in the family, he needs to surrender Ozzy.  As we work on the paperwork together, I can see sadness in his eyes.  I know how difficult this must be for him.  He doesn’t say good-bye – a simple pat on Ozzy’s big head and the owner is gone.  Ozzy stares at the door with a puzzled look on his face – not quite sure what is happening.

12:45 p.m. – Surrenders have been steady all day.  We have taken in a couple litters of puppies, a number of adult dogs and a few cats.  We have trimmed a few nails and handed out a lot of dog food.  A previous surgical client named Chili came in with his owner to have an injured eye looked at.  It’s still really cold outside but thankfully, it hasn't stopped residents from stopping by.  Many of the owners express their gratitude for helping them find a home for their animals.  We see a lot of tears.

Jessie and Jenna
5:00 p.m. – Our photographer, Trudy and her husband, John have finished taking pictures.  The last of the surrendered animals have been fed and tucked in.  The delicious smell of dinner from simmering crockpots is heavy in the air and I announce to the hungry group that it is time to eat.  Diane and Terri have provided us with a fantastic array of edibles – soup and Sloppy Joe’s – fruit, chips and dessert – all of it quickly devoured.

10:00 p.m. – We finish walking the last of the dogs.  The dogs, cats, puppies and kittens have all been fed and settled in for the night.  The volunteers who are staying overnight begin to get ready for bed.  I hear a ruckus outside and peek out the door – in the darkness, I see three, 4-legged shadows who scatter from the spilled kibble they were eating.  I step further outside and whistle – hoping without hope that they will realize that I can provide them a warm bed and a good meal.  They disappear into the darkness.  The freezing wind hits me in the face as I turn to go back inside – sending a quick prayer into the night that the three dogs find some shelter tonight.


Ora and Orange Blossom
Final numbers for the weekend:

Total number of animals surrendered - 26
Total number of dogs surrendered – 19
Total number of cats surrendered – 7

We will be back again on March 20-21 for a spay/neuter/wellness clinic.  And, as always, we will take in surrendered animals and give out free dog and cat food.  Hope to see you then.

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