FROM SARAHBETH'S PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG; LINK TO SEE HER EXTRAORDINARY PHOTOS:
*Please note: everything written here is from what I witnessed, heard at the clinic, and found online. If any of my facts are incorrect, please let me know and I’ll correct it immediately. This is a long post, so hang onto your pants.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity earlier this month to travel up to Red Lake, MN. Animal Ark and Akin Hills Pet Hospital are putting on multiple spay/neuter/vaccination clinics throughout the year for the reservation, and I tagged along on this one to do a photo project. The more I’d hear about Red Lake and the work that Karen is doing up there, the more I wanted to see for myself, and document it for myself and others.
SARAH AND A NEW FRIENDI grew up just an hour and a half from Red Lake, and knew nothing about it. Our schools never taught us about the Native people around us, or their current way of life. The reservation is roughly the size of Rhode Island, and is home to only about 11,000 people. Over 40% of the population lives at or below the poverty line, and there is reportedly a 70% unemployment rate. They are the most impoverished nation in Minnesota and have a high crime rate. Chemical dependence and mental illness are very common, as is animal abuse and neglect. Most dogs are left outdoors to fend for themselves, scavenging, breeding, forming packs. Many who come to RLRR suffer from starvation, disease or injury.
In 2005, national news covered a high school shooting in Red Lake, the teen killing 9 people and them himself. A teacher at the school, Karen Good, had had enough of the violence that she saw toward both people and animals amongst her nation, and shortly after that, Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue was born. Since then, they have rescued over 2,000 animals with help from volunteers, Twin Cities shelters and vets, grants and donations.
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. It was a very foggy late afternoon, giving the already run-down community a palpable sense of sadness and foreboding. We saw many dogs along the side of the road, looking for food or standing sentinel at the edge of their driveways. It was hard not to stop and pick them all up. There were a dozen or more dead ones in the ditches.
The clinic was held in a warehouse that is used to manufacture homes. They were very gracious to allow the clinic the use of their building. The clinic was well put-together, with each volunteer having a specific job. All the animals got a kennel and a number, with their paperwork on top to keep track of everyone. There is a limit to how many animals they can take in one day; about 50 neuters, 25 spays, plus some additional just there for vaccinations. The spays were performed inside the Animal Ark’s Neuter Commuter, a mobile surgical station. The neuters were performed on a table in the warehouse. I’m pretty squeamish about anything bloody or medically related, but was surprised at how simple and tidy everything is. I saw a uterus and some testicles being removed, and it’s really not that gross. Not something I’d want to do myself, but not hard to watch either.
Some of the animals came in with injuries, which the vets took care of as best they could. Some had to come back to the cities for x-rays or additional care. Owners need to agree to surrender their animals before any are taken off the reservation, which can sometimes be a hard sell. I’m happy to say that most people do the right thing and let their dog or cat go to get the care it needs. Many dogs had mange, were malnourished, and two puppies had parvo. It’s not to say that *all* the dogs were in such rough shape, many came in that were clearly loved and well cared-for, and that was wonderful to see. The cats seemed well-cared for, as I’m sure most of them live indoors.
Many of the dogs up there are some mixture of Lab, Shepherd, Rottweiler, Chow and Pitbull. It was interesting to see some different breeds come through…. there were a couple of Pugs, some little Yorkie-looking mixes, and Poodle mixes.
One thing I was really looking forward to, was going out to Karen’s facility and seeing for myself what it’s all about. It’s quite a ways from the town, very isolated in the woods and marsh. Driving out there, it feels so wild, like civilization hasn’t touched the land. There’s a point where the electrical lines stop. There’s no cell service, and miles between houses. It’s definitely an eerie feeling.
For as foggy and dreary it had been the past couple days, I was happy to see the sun come out at Karen’s. It was symbolic, really. What she’s doing really is a light in the darkness. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Again, I didn’t know what to expect at her facility, and was impressed with what they have and what they’re doing. There’s a cat house that used to be Karen’s actual house, and some great shelters built for the dogs. They are built up on cement slabs to get them off the ground, with both and indoor and outdoor enclosure for each. For dogs who are lucky enough to find Karen in the dead of winter, this must be heaven.
There are a few resident dogs that live at the rescue, with no intention of leaving. They live outside, and would be miserable indoors. This is what they know, and they have a place to keep warm, someone to give them food and water, and they are definitely very happy. And they’re no dummies…. one of the girls likes to set up camp right next to the dryer vent at the cat house :)
KAREN AND THE TEDDY BEAR PUPI heard from some volunteers that they’ve seen an amazing improvement in the past couple of years from doing these clinics. More people are becoming aware of the need for spaying/neutering, and getting their pets vaccinated. They’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of dead dogs found along the roads. One volunteer said this was the first time he’s heard people say “Thank you” and remark on the great job the vets and volunteers are doing. It gives me hope that things can change, that with education and awareness, that the good will spread. Karen is a remarkable woman, and I hope she can continue to grow and support her rescue for years to come.
LINK TO http://sarahbethphotography.com/blog/archives/362 TO READ THE REMAINDER OF HER BLOG POST AND TO SEE A SELECTION OF HER PHOTOS.