Today I was in Bosleys, buying Tierce some shampoo, when a girl brought in a puppy. The puppy looked like a German Shepherd mix. He was alert and curious, but when he trotted forward to explore the store, it was apparent that something was wrong. The puppy’s right front leg was the worst; the leg sloped straight down from the shoulder as it should, but suddenly veered inward and then out, like someone had kicked Mr. Puppy’s front legs out from under him and they had healed crooked. His tail was gray, scaly and dead two inches from the tip.
I asked where he came from and the lady with the girl said, “The rez.” We all nodded our heads. In Nanaimo, when someone says “from the rez”, we pretty much don’t have to ask why a dog looks unhealthy. Dogs from the reservation generally come with a whole host of problems stemming from neglect and sometimes outright abuse. She said that a friend of hers was jogging through the reservation when she saw a group of teenagers dragging the puppy with a shoelace. She stopped them and demanded the puppy, which they gave up with a cheery, “Here you go!”
I try to be fair. I’m not fool enough to think that race or culture invariably means that people are going to abuse their animals. There are plenty of people from all cultures who are absolute shits towards their dogs. However, when I see the condition of animals rescued from the reserve, I want to scream, “WHAT THE FUCK?! WHY DO YOU HAVE ANIMALS IF YOU CAN’T OR WON’T TAKE CARE OF THEM?!” I mean, we have the Internet, we have veterinarians. The reservation is not in butt-fuck nowhere; it’s about 5-10 minutes from Petroglyph Veterinary.
Okay, so I’m probably speaking from Caucasian lower-class privilege. No, I don’t intimately understand the many factors that contribute to the abuse and neglect of dogs on reservations. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons: different culture, lack of education, lack of resources, etc. I know all about having to decide whether you’re going to eat or if you’re going to take your dog to the vet. I still cannot comprehend this kind of attitude. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
There is some hope for Mr. Puppy. If his health problems aren’t too serious, the family who brought him in will adopt him. He is alert and friendly. He seems unaffected by his joint issues and eagerly attacked a biscuit offered by the Bosleys staff. It could come off all right for him.
But as for the rest of the dogs still on the reservations, I can only quote a lady who had worked in them rescuing dogs for years: “They are big on the totem of the Wolf and the Bear, but what about the Dog and the Cat?”
Reserve Dog Liberation – blog about dogs on First Nations reserves
BC SPCA First Nations Spay/Neuter Study 2003
Big Heart Rescue Society – Working to promote S/N and vaccination in remote First Nations Reserves in BC
Sad to hear about status of animals w/ First Nations.
Our local vet school (University of California, Davis)does vet clinics for the pets of homeless folks in our area. They partner w/one of the local charities that provides services to the homeless.
It’s the illusion of being caretakers of the earth. Or maybe it’s just those who remain on the reserve who give lie to a laudable concept. Because it’s not just dogs that get short shrift in their care but also the land they purport to protect.
As someone who was on and off of reservations my whole life, I can tell you this.
I have ‘white privilege’ – I can pass for a white person, or an Italian person, or even a French person. I’ve heard that I look like all of these, but most people don’t look at me and think ‘Injun’. This got me some ribbing on the rez, but off-rez it’s actually helped me have a better life.
I’ve lived on reservations. Have you ever lived there?
They are miserable, horrible, destitute places. There is no future for the kids who grow up there, and everyone knows it. It is human nature, that: If no one gives a f**k about you from the time you are born, you will invariably not give a f**k about anything. If children do not experience compassion and hope, they will have none to give.
Malcom X said: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
There is a reason that things are like they are on the reservations, and it has not a damn thing to do with the indigenous culture.