Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dogs

There was a non-Native guy who started asking questions about the Native group of NMSU that was hosting a car wash. Group members gave him info and told him they were raising money for their annual American Indian Week.
He was familiar with the event and said he loved Tatonka Means’ comedy performance from last year. He especially loved the part about the “rez puppies or the rez dogs.”
“I travel a lot for work and sometimes I drive past the reservation,” he said. “We have been thinking of getting a dog. Where can I get a ‘rez dog?’”
“Just go to the rez and pick one up,” was someone’s response.
Group members were totally confused and tickled by this question and when I heard about this, I thought it was complete comedy. I don’t know whether this guy thought a ‘rez dog’ was a special breed of canine, or he felt sorry for their situation and wanted to rescue one.
'Rez dogs' in Crownpoint, N.M. Navajo reservation.

‘Rez dogs’ are mix breed dogs that are most times unfortunate enough to be born on a Native reservation. They are of the Bad and Mean Behavior Clan, born for the Starving and Skinny Clan, their maternal grandparents are the Warrior’s Friends Clan and their paternal grandparents are of the Protector Clan (not actual clans).
I wrote a story a few years ago about the ‘rez dog’ situation (unfortunately the archive is gone, but one website picked it up, here) I wrote about two women who save dogs and puppies from the reservation and take them to no-kill shelters out of the reservation and even out of state. Then I went on to say that animal control euthanizes 80 percent of the animals they catch — most of which are dogs. My original lede was cut, but it read something like, “A big black dogs lies, bloated and inanimate near a busy intersection where an outdoor flea market meets an elementary school.”
Every year someone writes a story about the ‘rez dog’ situation. A recent one that I read said that the Navajo Nation once again cut funding for animal control and now they don’t have enough money to perform euthanasia, allegedly. That means they cut animal control staff from 6 to 5 for the whole Navajo reservation, which is about 27,000 square miles.
Dogs pretty much run wild on our reservation and when they die, no one comes to claim the bodies on the side of the road because other starving dogs get to them first. Some people make their dogs really mean and have 6 or 10 of them in their yard. Strays roam about the grocery store and flea market picking up scraps.
My dog Kobie was a very good dog, and there are a lot of those and good owners on the reservation too but there are just so many dogs, we can’t take care of them all.
Kiko is our other dog. We found her when she was a stray puppy. She was muddy and stinky and we just couldn't turn the other cheek.
Kiko and Kobie are standing at the top of a mesa overlooking Crownpoint.

Kobie was a very good dog.

Kobie came from our neighbor who got rid of the other puppies. Spaying and neutering is not very common — though it certainly is very cheap and sometimes free — and there are a lot of people who ‘get rid’ of unwanted puppies and kittens.
This frustrates me too. In the Navajo way, every living and nonliving thing on Mother Earth is to be respected. Most of that was lost during assimilation. I have no idea where the dog got it’s bad rap. They are expected to protect our property but are not considered to be pets and are not allowed in the house.
I don’t see how this kind of abuse and neglect can be as big a problem as it is now and they still cut funding. What are they using now, bullets and boot heels? Or nothing at all?

That is why I always say and advise, "don't get a $500 purebred, get a 'rez dog.'"
Zoey is new to the family. She was a stray 'rez puppy' and now she's our 'rez puppy.'

Also, this is our cat Kitty.


  1. Great story Andi! I wish these people on the rez would be more responsible for their dogs. It's sad to see them roaming around our local grocery store looking for food. When I see these poor dogs it just makes me want to take them home and take care of them but I already took in two stray dogs and a kitty from a litter. We spayed them and they have become family to us.

  2. I love all our pets with all my heart!!
    Love this story and love all the pictures! :)

  3. I wanted to know if I had permission to post a couple of your reservation dog photos on my site and of course give you the credit for them. I am trying to raise awareness of the reservation dog issue (with respect to Native Folks) but hopefully bring more attention this esculating issue. Thank You! My email is if you could let me know? Much apprecited.

  4. Oh my gosh, I just read that you were the one that wrote the article concerning Luisa Alvarez and Mary Williams. I was hoping to connect with one or both for my documentary film I'm making here at UNM about their reservation dog rescues. Would you consider giving them my contact info, or allowing me theirs? Great story here Andi and hope to hear from you! My name is Kim!