The biggest question when we first started this rescue was how can we do the most good with our limited resources. We have worked closely with animal services in the past, taking dogs from them when they were full or had pups that might not do well in their adoption program. But the majority of our adoptable dogs have been owner relinquishments. Since we’ve opened, the number of relinquishments calls we get has grown exponentially, and we almost always have a waitlist. While we know we are doing these pups a great service by helping them to find a forever home and keep them from continuously being shuffled around from house to house, we knew that there was so much more we could be doing.
A few weeks ago, we received a request from one of the rescues in our network asking if we had any room for some puppies and mamas who were in a pretty bad situation on the reservation. Of course, we said yes (despite being over capacity already)! Danielle and I loaded up crates into two vehicles, and drove to Ridgway where we met the transport, Hannah, coming from Arizona. She was so forthcoming with information on the dire situation that they came from, and we had an eye-opening glimpse into a world we only knew a small bit about. We had no idea just how bad it was for pups on the reservation and from this particular area in Arizona. We ended up with four litters; 16 puppies and three nursing moms total! To say we had a full load was an understatement. I won’t go into the devastating details on just how bad the situation is for reservation dogs, but it is important for the public to know that while we are proud to be a no-kill rescue, most of the shelters in this area are what you might call “all-kill” for lack of a better term. Aside from the constant threat of euthanasia, these dogs are kept in dismal housing, sometimes with no food or water for days at a time. The feeling that we were making even a small impact in such a big problem was extraordinary, and despite the sobering reality we were introduced to, it was easily one of our most memorable and heartwarming days to date.
In the rescue world we see a lot of people who expect dogs to understand that adopters are saving their lives. You see the cute commercials, and the tear-jerking stories of appreciative dogs, but unfortunately that’s not typically the case. We see a lot of people walk through our doors and genuinely get their feelings hurt that the dogs they meet don’t immediately come crawling to them with pleading loving eyes, begging to be saved, and bonding immediately. That’s just not usually how it works. Especially at our rescue, where they are treated with love and affection daily, enrichment, and tons of friends to play with all day. However, despite knowing that, and at the risk of humanizing dogs when I know I shouldn’t, I can honestly say that these moms we transported are not only the sweetest things you’ve ever met, but you can see in their eyes that they know things are getting better for them, and they are so grateful to be out of a scary situation, where they and their puppies receive safety and hope.
Now that we know just how bad things are on the reservation, among other places that are not as lucky to have no-kill shelters and public funding, we are veering our focus more towards that need. While we have an extensive waiting list of folks wanting to surrender their personal dogs, and will continue to help in this capacity as much as possible, we feel in our heart that reaching out to these communities who have no resources to help with the growing homeless pet population is the best way that we can do the most good. While that means, yes, our very limited funding will now be even more strained with the cost of vaccinations, spaying and neutering the puppies and moms, and the general poor health that the dogs came to us in, we know that where there is a will there is a way.
Having all the puppies in our facility has not only been wonderful for staff morale, but it has helped our exposure immensely. Who doesn’t love puppies!? Our social media is blowing up with interested parties, and we have had a steady stream through our doors of folks wanting to visit, volunteer, or adopt one of our little nuggets. In fact, in less than 24 hours we got almost all of the puppies claimed! We are hoping that the extra exposure in our community will also mean more funding and volunteers who are able to help keep the cost of sheltering these dogs to a manageable minimum.
We’ve also discussed the dire situations that lie outside of our own country, and as we get larger and find more donors and funding, our ultimate dream is to participate in disaster relief in places like Puerto Rico. Again, big dreams require big donations, and as always, in the nonprofit world, that is our biggest hurdle. Until that day, we will keep chipping away at the homeless pet population the best we know how, and with your help keep spreading the word. The more people know about these issues, the more allies we will get in our corner, and we appreciate each and everyone of you for everything you do to help us minimize this constant threat.