Rescue is where it starts but there is so much more after.
New Mexico is the land of enchantment a land rich in culture, this is Indian country.
This is a land steeped in ancient tradition a land of proud people. New Mexico has some of the most breathtaking views from the mountains to the desert. Here we can find amazing rock formations, sleeping volcanoes, prehistoric lava flows, tall pines, wild flowers, lakes, streams and rivers.
I live in the Zuni Mountains of New Mexico completely surrounded by natures wonder and beauty, but there is wound in this enchanted state. A wound that needs mending, a wound to large for a simple band aid, a wound that if left unattended will fest further out of control. This wound, is a missed place people, a people left to their own devices, poor souls that struggle each day to find enough sustenance just to survive. Lost, alone and often suffering from injuries, disease, starvation and thirst.
These misplaced people are Reservation dogs.
On any given day while driving through the reservations and surrounding areas you can see dogs of all makes and models. It’s a melting pot of mixed breeds, fighting for their life to survive. Often I will see dogs that have been hit by cars as they hunt for prairie dogs that spend their days foraging on grasses on the side of the highway while vultures and ravens feast on their bodies baking in the sun.
Many reservation dogs find their way to parking lots of grocery stores, convenience centers and gas stations, where they beg for food from kind strangers that give them handouts. Occasionally a melting ice cream cone in the hand of a small child will hit the sidewalk providing a treat for one of these hungry pooches. Trash cans in rest stops and parks are also good hunting grounds for reservation dogs. Water to drink is scarce, the occasional thunder storm might provide some cool water to drink in puddles around the reservations but unfortunately, all too often, pools of radiator coolant from over heated engines in parking lots of gas stations might be the only liquid around to drink. Heat from the summer sun beats down on these homeless orphans, sometimes the only shade is the shadow of a parked car or truck.
Thirteen years ago while fishing at the near by lake I came across a twelve week old puppy that had been set on fire and left for dead. I had no money to take her to the vet. So I just wrapped her up in a towel, took her home and nursed her wounds. Today that dog is still with me and is a great family pet.
Many people in my area, like me can’t help but stop and feed or pick up wayward reservation dogs. Today our happy household is home to 6 reservation dogs all spade, neutered and loved. My good friends Rodger and Cheryl Vaughn that live just up the road from me have been rescuing reservation dogs for a decade now. Today they are caretakers of over sixty fun and healthy pups that are in need of good homes and families of their very own.
I want to make it clear that this is not about pointing fingers at any one person, people or culture. This is about seeing a problem and creating a solution! I believe that we need to not make excuses why we can’t help these dogs but give reasons why we must help these innocent victims of poverty. My view of the problem is that the lack of financial resources and lack of education is the root of the problem.
Just rescuing and providing good food, fresh water and a warm dry place to sleep is not the whole answer to the reservation dog dilemma.
I believe we humans can create a long lasting solution to the problem. What do we need to do?
I believe that we need to acquire a permanent mobile vet vehicle that will travel our reservations and surrounding low income people and offer free spay, neuter and vaccinations, along with reduced priced veterinarian care.
That mobile vet unit should have at least two full time vets and two full time vet technicians working five days each week. We need to produce and provide free educational materials in all Native languages as well as Spanish and English. When that mobile vet is not rolling through the reservations, it needs to be parked at our facility and be open to low income people on and around our reservations that need help with their animals.