I have been trying to get into the holiday spirit lately. The weather is finally getting colder and nighttime is mesmerizing with all the Christmas lights that are up already. It was obvious what the content of this week’s blog should be – the holidays of course! But then I got an email from our good friends at LightShine Canine Rescue. They are hosting an event this weekend in Longmont and asked me to help spread the word. The evening includes Hors D’oeurves, Silent Auction/Prize Drawings and a presentation with KC Willis. Sounds fun, I thought but “who is KC Willis?” I asked. Their email response I received left me in awe.
KC is the founder of LightShine Canine. She was working with the grandmothers on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Before we get to what KC and LightShine Canine Rescue does, I want to paint a picture of Pine Ridge Reservation. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Lakota Native American Indian reservation. It is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Pine Ridge is also the poorest zip code in the United States. It is more similar to the third world than it is to what we typically experience living in United States. Homes are often overcrowded and without running water or sewer. The un-employment rate is 80-90%. Per capita income is $4,000. 1 in 4 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or the effects of it. The suicide rate is more than twice the national rate. Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate. Yes, you read that right…Haiti.* Yet, even amongst the poverty, the Lakota people are positive, kind and compassionate. This is where our story continues…
The Lakota grandmothers kept asking KC if she could help with the dogs that they kept seeing who were looking sicker and sicker. KC started working with Nebraska rancher, Jean Parker, who had been rescuing dogs off the reservation for 27 years. Together they started rescuing many, many pups. In 2014, Amy Simms, of Erie, CO, adopted a dog from KC. In November of that same year, an eight year old girl on the reservation was attacked and killed by a pack of feral dogs. It was then that KC decided that she had to expend all her energy on rescuing as many dogs as possible, most of them going to Minnesota (where they have about 26 rescues that take these fabulous rez dogs). With so many dogs to rescue, Amy stepped in to help with fostering and adoption, bringing LightShine Canine Rescue to our community.
LightShine Canine Rescue is ALL about the strength and compassion of the people on the reservation. They are the ones calling LightShine and letting them know where the dogs are, taking them in until they can get there, and doing the pick up and transport of the pups. There are school teachers at the reservation schools who take care of the starved dogs who come looking for food until LightShine can get there. They are the ones scaling down ravines and jumping in dumpsters to rescue the dogs so that they can have a better life. They are the ones feeding them what little food they have.
I often feel torn when it comes to the white man’s involvement with indigenous Americans. Let’s be honest, our involvement has typically ended up in betrayal and sorrow for the original people of this country. On the surface, this works seems like the right thing to do. But that’s from my perspective – as a white woman. How do the indigenous Americans feel? Are we helping? There is a quote from one of the grandmother’s that makes me realize just how important the work that LightShine Canine Rescue does. She said, “Don’t ever let people tell you that helping the dogs isn’t helping us, because it is. When you take this puppy out of my front yard that’s starving, that I can’t take care of, you are relieving my heart. You are removing a visible sign of helplessness, because all of these puppies represent the chaos that my community is in, that this is okay.”
This holiday season has been a time of reflection for me -a time to stand up for my convictions. And if you’re reading this, you too are probably pretty convicted about at least one of two convictions – the plight of indigenous Americans and the welfare of animals. Either way it comes down to compassion, and isn’t that what this time of year is all about? We hope to see you at Saturday night’s event!