You know who you are. Your animals are your children. You abhor any kind of cruelty or abuse of animals. Some think animals have rights, some do not. But all believe that animals have intelligence and feelings.
I fit in there somewhere. I have a cat who is 16 years old and just now has started to “act old.” It has made me suddenly aware of his mortality – he has always been such a healthy, strong little guy. It also has given me a reawakened awareness of what big part of my life he is. No, I can’t say I will spend thousands of dollars to keep him alive should he fall ill. Nor can I say I would spend more to keep him alive than I would to help humans in need. But I do love him and will mourn if he dies. And I would never let anyone harm him.
I can see you now, either nodding in agreement or rolling your eyes. If you’re rolling your eyes, it might be because you think I fall short of deserving to be called an “animal lover.” You might be right. You might also be rolling your eyes because you’re thinking I’ve been self-serving, inviting all of you animal lovers to me melancholy musings. You would be wrong.
I doubt any of you who have read my posts regularly would think to call me self-serving – at least I hope not.
I was recently told about a 66 year old elder on the Pine Ridge Reservation who is an animal lover. I was speaking to her daughter, who told me about her mother. The daughter was concerned because her mother takes in strays and cares for them, providing a kind of shelter in a place where no shelter exists. Her mother is often given pregnant animals, so she ends up taking care of the mother and babies until homes are found for the puppies or kittens. I use the word “given” very loosely here because sometimes people do actually give her mother the animals directly but more often the pregnant animals are just dropped off in front of her house because of her reputation.
I understand that very well. My parents lived out in the country and people would often drop off pregnant cats near their land. During one time period, my mother had 22 cats/kittens that she was caring for and feeding because of other people’s irresponsibility and “generosity.” I have never understood why some people think it is okay to drop what they perceive as their problem on someone else’s doorstep.
My mother had the means to care for the animals that came her way. The woman on Pine Ridge Reservation does not. She receives her Social Security benefits. With that money, she feeds and attempts to provide health care for the cats and dogs that come her way. Her daughter is concerned because her mother often does not have enough left to get the things she needs for herself.
This is where you come in. I’m hoping for 2 things as a result of this post. I would like to find a sponsor for this elder who will supply animal needs so she can use her fixed, small income to get what she needs for herself. I’m talking pet food and items like that.
The other thing I’m hoping for is bigger – I am hoping that an animal aid group of some sort, perhaps right in South Dakota, would be interested in working with the tribe to establish a humane shelter and a way for those who own pets on the rez to have their animals neutered and vaccinated at little or no cost. The best thing would be a “roving” clinic – an RV set up for veterinary care. The distances are so great on the reservation and many people do not have transportation, so even if there was a veterinarian on the rez, it would be difficult for people to get there.
There are many pet owners on the reservation. And just like anywhere else, some are more responsible than others. Some keep their pets indoors, take good care of them and enjoy their company. Others, however, allow their pets to roam – there are packs of dogs as well as individual strays. The tribe does not have the money to “police” that problem. Some people realize they cannot afford to feed and care for the animal, so they set the animal “free” to fend for itself. Many do not make it.
In the whole scheme of the problems faced on the reservation, the plight of stray animals may not seem like it is high on the priority list. But I know that, to a certain group of you who are reading this post (and hopefully passing it on to kindred spirits), that means that the kind of thing you find very important is being given no attention or funds.
If you care about these animals that no one else cares about or if you care about the woman who, like you, hates to see animals treated like worn-out shoes, you can help!
There are several ways to help.
–Sponsor the woman for pet needs. To do this, contact ONE Spirit’s Sponsor Coordinator Regina Hay at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be connected with the Area Service Coordinator for the Pine Ridge settlement.
–Sponsor the woman for her own needs (food, clothing, cleaning products). You can do this in the same manner as above.
–Make one time donations of pet food through the OKINI program of ONE Spirit. To do this, go to the ONE Spirit website http://nativeprogress.org and contact the OKINI program director.
–Find an organization that would like to take on the challenges of the bigger problems regarding the animal population on the reservation. There are surely people with more expertise in this area than I claim to have.
Whatever you do, let other people know. You may not be the one with a solution, but the next connection . . . or the next . . . or . . . you know what I mean.