By Cathi Basler
Special to The Sopris Sun
A couple of weeks ago, Colorado Animal Rescue (C.A.R.E)’s Strategic Planning Committee met.
We did what all committees like us do. We talked about and, frankly, worried about the future of our communities and, of course, animal welfare.
Collaboration and partnerships floated to the top of our discussions as we explored 2021 challenges and successes. How can we, as one animal shelter, better serve our animal communities and their people?
The definition of a partnership is: a collaborative relationship between organizations or individuals. The purpose of a partnership is to work toward shared goals through a division of labor that all parties believe in. Partnerships can provide practical solutions to societal and community needs.
As we pondered this definition, one of our committee members described a recent collaboration with an organization known as Underdog Animal Rescue and Rehab (Underdog).
Underdog is among a group of collaborators made up of dedicated people in the Four Corners region, where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. Underdog serves the Navajo Nation and surrounding Native American reservations including the Hopi, Zuni and Ute.
By partnering with Underdog for a spay and neuter clinic, animal lovers work together cleaning dog crates, walking dogs and helping owners get their pets checked in and discharged for vaccines and spaying or neutering procedures.
Originally, the Navajo Nation vet clinics could only be provided by Underdog six times per year.
With more partners joining, these clinics are now held monthly. At a three-day clinic in November, C.A.R.E.’s contributions helped 214 dogs and cats get spayed or neutered, and 381 animals receive vaccinations.
To help create space and further support these animals, C.A.R.E. transferred 68 dogs from the Underdog shelter to Colorado for adoption in 2021.
It is estimated by animal organizations there are at least 250,000 stray dogs within the Navajo Nation borders. T
here are no counts for the other reservations in the Four Corners area, but estimates go as high as 400,000.
The life expectancy of a reservation dog is about two years due to lack of food and water, the harsh elements, predators and life-threatening injuries.
The four animal shelters that serve the Navajo Nation have a euthanasia rate of 93%.
The remaining 7% survival rate is due to organizations and rescues collaborating in other parts of Colorado to find homes for the lucky dogs.
Life for a “rez dog” is harsh, but as the definition says, partnerships can provide practical solutions to societal and community needs. It is happening now, one shared goal at a time.
Betty and Neo rescued
Over Thanksgiving, Steve and Kathy Underwood were en route to visit family in Tucson when they took a pit stop just south of Show Low, Arizona, on the White Mountain Apache reservation.
While letting their four dogs out to pee, they heard some unusual barking. There, in the dark and moonless night, miles from anywhere, a young female dog and her puppy approached them.
The momma dog was friendly and sweet and the young pup was friendly but very shy. As heartbroken as they were, Steve and Kathy were unable to take the dogs in their car.
They left food and water and vowed to find help. In the coming days, they contacted animal shelters and rescue groups in the area to go pick up the dogs.
Four days later, on their way home to Colorado, the dogs were still there, living on the side of the road.
In the same predicament as a few days prior, the Underwoods still couldn’t take the dogs in their car and were forced to drive home. They spent another week contacting every animal agency in the area, but none could help, saying that even if they did — the dogs would be euthanized.
With options exhausted, Steve then drove back to Show Low and was relieved to find the dogs, over a week later, still alive and waiting for help. He took them home.
Thanks to the Underwoods and a four corners rescue group called For Pet’s Sake, these two dogs arrived at C.A.R.E. Now named Betty and Neo, they are happy, healthy and looking for a loving home.