There are no veterinary services in these isolated communities so the dogs cannot be spayed or neutered. Not all dogs are taken indoors so they are either chained outside or left free to roam. Over-breeding occurs and many puppies are born under houses, in the bush or amongst debris. For many years the only solution to the overpopulation problem was the dog cull where stray dogs were rounded up and shot. Since rescue organizations are more than willing to remove dogs from the communities and host spay/neuter clinics there is now a hopeful alternative to the past way of doing things.
One female and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in just six years.
The dogs that do live can face hardship, abandonment and neglect. The elements alone can put dogs at risk and some puppies are born outside in minus fifty-degree weather. Many freeze to death before they can be found and cared for. Others suffer from frostbite, starvation, mange due to a compromised immune system and malnutrition. Some pups, as young as three weeks of age, can become orphans if their mothers have been shot during a round up when they were out scrounging for food. This may not be intentional but it happens. The sheer number of unwanted dogs puts a burden on these communities and their limited veterinary resources makes the situation impossible to deal with. Even the many families who love and care for their dogs face the hardest of decisions if their dog is injured or becomes ill. They must give up the dog and send it south if it is to survive.
People move and for many reasons are unable to take their dogs so they get left behind. These abandoned dogs get added to the packs of community dogs that don’t actually belong to anyone but roam from house to house and are fed randomly by various people who watch over them.
We rely on people within the northern communities to help rescue the dogs in need. In Attawapiskat people are finding dogs who are injured or unwanted and taking them to our rescue worker who then cares for them until they can be sent down to us. He is truly the hero of the story because he will house moms with their new born litters amongst young dogs and orphan puppies. The adult dogs remain outside but do not stray far because they are well fed and housed. There is no end to his goodness and the many people working with him.
The dogs are either flown out or put on a train depending on where they originate. Rescue workers then meet them and care for them until they can be sent down to us in Muskoka.
During our sixteen years of rescue we have learned many things through the 1,600 dogs we have saved. The first is that protocols must be in place to protect the dogs and the environments in which they will live until they are adopted. We send many medications north so the communities can begin treating the dogs as soon as possible. They receive their first vaccination if they are old enough and are treated for parasites before coming south. The dogs then remain in rescue care in Timmins until we are sure they are not carrying any contagious ailments. The pups and dogs can then also be assessed as to their temperaments and individual needs.
The medications that we send north are made available to dogs that remain in the community as well. If a dog is injured or ill he or she is able to receive antibiotics and pain meds immediately whether they are being sent south to us or not.
We had always known that the real way to get to the root of the overpopulation problem was to host spay and neuter clinics but the cost was prohibitive until 2013. After much work our supporters and volunteers helped us to raise enough money for three clinics in Attawapiskat – one in November 2013, another in August 2014 and the most recent was in June 2015. We will now evaluate the results overall to determine if a fourth or fifth is required. Much of this is possible because of the way the community works with us and because we now have pilots who volunteer their services and vets who do the same. We are in the process of purchasing portable equipment so we can create a mobile spay/neuter clinic that will benefit all northern communities and other Rescue Organizations. At these clinics dogs are spayed and neutered, vaccinated, given their rabies shot and treated with Revolution for parasites. At our second clinic eye surgery was even performed.
All we accomplish is due to the number of volunteers who help make things happen. We have several people who foster for us and even though they know their hearts will be broken each time they let a pup go to its forever home they continue to take in another who needs them, risking the same hurt all over again.
We have drivers who transport the dogs south to us, people who help with fundraisers and others who donate food, time and resources. We are proud to work with so many good people and we are always willing to work with other rescues or shelters that may need assistance. We do not limit ourselves and will work with any community than needs what we can offer. Dogs from Manitoba, New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) and the Yukon have been sent to us and we are proud to have known them all. The dogs come first and they have led us to many wonderful opportunities. We are most proud that our decisions are not based on cost or convenience but on the needs of the dogs. We are a registered not-for-profit organization but have not yet received our charitable status so we do not receive large corporate donations or assistance. All monies raised come from individuals and our own fundraisers. Still, we find whatever funds are needed to provide for the dogs and their care.
A humble account from Attawapiskat, a prime example of what we hear about on an ongoing basis of the dog cull...
I just got the sad news that my walking buddy, Toes, didn’t make it through the latest dog cull shootings in Attawapiskat. A teacher friend let me know, and she is nursing another walking dog buddy, Neepin, with a gun shot wound to the hip. It went straight through. Apparently there is public outcry on the reserve about the shootings and that things need to change.
It is my friend’s last year teaching up there. Others would have cared for him.
Toes is the dog I wanted to bring down, but couldn’t really manage my situation to do so. He was a neighborhood dog, teachers and locals fed him and he walked with my friend. And, Atta (Attawapiskat) was his home, around our neighborhood, he was happy there. It saddens me to hear this news. I wish things could be different.
His mother was a great mom dog, but she too lost her life 2 years ago, one day she was no longer around. Such is life for dogs unlucky enough to not get out or missed by shots fired.
I wanted to share my sorrow and happy memories really...of dear Toes. His melted ice circle at our back door will be forever remembered, and never replaced.