Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Mother Theresa of Animals at Red Lake
This past weekend a fellow Pet Haven volunteer, Laura, and myself headed up north to Red Lake - a trip both of us have dreamed about for over a year. Immersed in animal rescue with Pet Haven we have taken in dogs from Red Lake Rosie's Rescue and have communicated with the founder of Red Lake, Karen Good, by email. Many describe Karen as the Mother Theresa of animals -- i know i have felt that and believed that. My trip up north has confirmed what an incredible spirit Karen is, and what a visionary she is -- other words that come to mind ... compassionate, gentle, humble, determined, selfless...and the list goes on.
I feel honored and blessed to have had the chance to meet and spend the weekend in Karen's home. Despite the constant rain and cold weather, it truly was a weekend that touched the core of my soul. We woke up early Saturday morning and helped Karen with shelter morning chores. The dogs were waiting for us as we pulled up in our vehicles. Clover, a feral dog, would greet us .. not far behind would be Cheyenne (husky mix), Miguel, (rottie mix), Little Ann (black lab/shepherd mix), Rufus (shepherd mix) and Yeller (yellow lab). The sun barely rising over the horizon.
Karen gave us a tour of the shelter when we arrived on Friday night -- we had our first introductions to the dogs, puppies, cats and kittens currently in her care. Those who have made it to her rescue are the lucky ones .... some were caught as strays, many are dumpster dogs and cats, and many rescued from abusive situations.
The night we arrived they had recently found a young pup, Nika (a white fluffy pup who looks like a bear) on the side of a highway. She survived, however, she had to have her back leg amputated. That night, a volunteer picked her up and Nika spent the night with us at Karen's. Another brave, resilient spirit. I am constantly in awe at how animals are able to recover and bounce back... let go, and live in the moment. Nika cried a very high pitch cry - we don't think it was pain because as long as she had some contact with a human she settled down.
Nika was adopted by the vet who performed her amputation. A happy ending. This past weekend Karen's phone rings off the hook as she gets pleas for help - a litter of kittens found by a dumpster - "bring them to the rescue. I'll be here," she says. She never turns an animal in need down. She rescued a dog who had been trapped under a house for a week. The dog was taken to a vet .. unfortunately, this story may not have a happy ending. Karen says to the vet "if his spine has been damaged and he is paralyzed, we must let him go."
I am in awe as i witness a woman who gives so much of herself and possesses limitless love. It's as if she draws love from a well that never goes dry and with gentle and kind reassurance, she lets go of animals she has cared for and loved for over a year - with a hug and kiss (as she did with Little Ann who came back with us and into Pet Haven's foster program) she says goodbye and whispers "now go have a good life." I think of myself, and how my heart would feel like it had been tossed into a paper shredder, yet am reminded of how the deepest love is when I can love with all my soul, and let go.
On Sunday, we returned to the cities transporting 8 dogs and meeting volunteers from other rescues who, like Pet Haven, will find homes for these precious beings. For Pet Haven we took in Little Ann and Sadie. For Karen it is a good day, a happy day.
Her ability to let go, shows me an even deeper love ... her belief that she wants each and every one of these animals that make it to her shelter to have the wonderful, pampered life they deserve .. and for her to continue helping the many abandoned, abused and neglected animals on the reservation she must make room for the next needy animal.
Immersed in such beautiful serene landscape, surrounded by animals who have truly been given a second chance, and witnessing the love and compassion of a woman who selflessly gives her life to the rescuing and re-homing of Red Lake reservation dogs ... i find myself with my soul exposed and feeling raw, my head spinning with ideas on how to help Karen, and my heart ready to burst.
I met Ahnung (ojibway word for "star"), a black and white boxer/pit mix, who had a litter of 8 puppies. She captured my heart. Laura and I both feel there is something extra special about this girl. Karen tells us, "she reminds me of Spice Girl" - a boxer mix who also had a litter of pups and was taken into Pet Haven's foster program [you can read Spice Girl's story in the Pet Haven August 2008 issue]. I have committed to Karen that when Ahnung is ready to be transferred to a rescue, that I will return for her. Somehow, we will find a foster for this gentle soul.
I left Red Lake Rosie's Sunday morning, re-energized and re-committed to continue the work we are doing to be a voice and an advocate for these innocent creatures. And as i sit at home tonight, in St. Paul, with Missy and Mister sprawled on our red couch, I hope that a small piece of Karen's spirit has been infused into my being, so i may continue to work alongside of her to make her vision, and my vision, a reality. I am grateful our paths have converged.
To view more photos from the weekend visit my flickr site.