Wednesday, June 16, 2010
First visit to RLRR: Lisa Jaster, photographer
Lisa Jaster, a photographer, came from the Cities and photographed Red Lake Rosie's Rescue and the clinic and helped for two and a half days. Here are her impressions and a selection of her beautiful photographs:
Working with Pet Haven has given me the opportunity to have many new experiences and feel good about the work I do to help animals. Like many volunteers I never feel like I'm doing enough.
I've heard about the Red Lake reservation and seen animals rescued from the area, and when Marilou put out a call for volunteers for the spay/neuter clinic in Red Lake I had to help. The reservation was on my mind after reading the disturbing story of a shepherd that was beaten to death on the reservation. I heard about Rosie's, but seeing it for myself was a new experience.
As a photographer, visuals are important to me. They help me internalize things and see them with a new perspective. I wanted to take this opportunity to assist with the spay/neuter clinic and help in any way that I could, but I also thought it was important to document the process through the lens of my camera. I saw it as a chance to show others what was being done, how bad things are, as well as how much good Rosie's is doing and how better things are than they were just a few years ago.
As soon as I drove onto the reservation, I saw four dogs running in the ditch on the side of the road, all with collars on. I thought this was a good sign of what was to come. On my drive to the warehouse that first night I saw a few dogs on the side of the road just sort of hanging out not really going anywhere. Then I saw a few dogs that were on the side of the road wanting to cross; I laughed when I saw them literally look both ways before crossing-they seemed to know what they had to do to be safe.
I was at the warehouse long enough that first night to get a glimpse of what was going on and was able to help a bit before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the next day. I had no idea as I fell asleep that tomorrow would be one of the hardest days of my photographic career.
I arrived at the warehouse the next morning bright and early waiting for the “lines of people” I had heard about. Again, I was pleasantly surprised when there were no lines; this too seemed like a good sign. Just a few minutes later the people started arriving; some dropping off their cats and dogs for their spay/neuter and vaccinations and a few just to surrender them.
There were a few people that even brought animals belonging to a friend, neighbor, or family member to the clinic. This showed me that the residents on the reservation were learning, the work that was being done by MNSNAP, Pet Haven, Rosie’s and many others was working. Things are improving, but there is much more work to do.
As I saw people dropping their animals off, it was amazing to me how many of the cats and dogs just wanted love; they just wanted a safe place to be. My heart ached when the owners would bring their animals in and the animals would run to the kennels to be in a safe environment. The amount of neglect was astonishing; I never thought people had to be told to feed their dogs more food than what they were getting because they were underweight. The things we know about animals we take for granted, but many people have no idea how to keep a dog or cat healthy and happy.
It broke my heart to see the chains sitting on top of the kennel. I had no idea what type of person would keep their dogs chained up outside. I wanted to steal so many dogs that day. What was I supposed to do? I wanted to grab the dogs and take them home with me. At least these dogs were brought to the clinic. Not everyone did.
As more dogs were brought in I saw the care that each and every volunteer was giving to the dogs and cats. It was as if this was their only opportunity to show the animals some of the love and caring they don't get at home. Some dogs came in terribly underfed and infested with ticks.
The sheer number of ticks on some of the dogs was amazing; enough to fill up coffee cups as we picked them off. I can’t imagine how terribly uncomfortable that would have been for the dog and how great it must feel to have them removed.
How great it must have felt to the cats and dogs there to have such soft, caring hands of the volunteers on them, petting them and holding them. It's not just about spaying and neutering a few animals, it's a chance to check up on them, give them some good food and the human touch they might not get at home.
The photos from my two days in Red Lake tell the story better than any words ever could. The pictures document the MN SPAN work, the volunteers, the people of Red Lake. Most importantly, they document the animals and the lives they lead.
I am forever changed by the experience and will use my photos to tell the story of what the animals’ lives are really like up there. I hope to educate more people and encourage them to help in any way possible.
Also, if people want to see all of the images they can view them here: