By the end of April and into May there were some things on my mind, knowing that I would be leaving Shamattawa in June. I was thinking about Spotty Nibbles and Princess' puppies that were due end of April. I wanted to do everything possible to help get them out of Shamattawa, and the rest of the pack. I would also walk to the school to see Spencer and teach art after school (painting classes), I'd sit outside with the dogs, give them the love and affection they had never experienced before from most people, and taught kids how to act with dogs. A large amount of the community is afraid of the dogs, and like many people who get scared of barking or growling, they run in fear or use a form of protection - in this case large pointed sticks or branches.
When students would stop by to see me I would spend a lot of time with them outside to explain why the dogs would chase them or even pull them to the ground at times. I had also done this during the winter months, but now with the warmer weather it was easier to do with everyone outside.
* Don't run!
* Put down the stick! That stick is a weapon and they are scared. They have been abused before and they will bite out of fear. You are in their territory and they want to protect us in the Teacher Units.
* Talk to them - say nice things to the dogs! They are very sweet.
* Kneel down and slowly put your hand out for them to smell you. Slowly pet them. If they trust you, they will be loyal to you and others. Respect them - they are beautiful living creatures with feelings like us.
There was one group of kids in particular who would visit and talk to me almost every day (even when they skipped class and I explained that school is important!). At the beginning they would run from the dogs and carry sticks, throw sticks or rocks, and would be pulled to the ground by Aurora and Pirate. I would hear them yell at the dogs and every day I would say what I listed above, among other things. By mid-April none of those kids were afraid anymore. They would ask me to sit in the sun with them, surrounded by the dogs where they would pet them, rub their bellies, give them hugs and kisses, and they even asked me questions about the pack:
"What kinds of dogs are they?"
"Why were they abandoned? Why did you start taking care of them? You fed them in the cold?"
"Why is she scared?"
"What happened to Pirate's eye and back? It's not nice that he was so hurt. He is cute."
"Pirate looks like a scary dog but he is really friendly. He's my favourite. It's not good to judge someone by how they look because he looks scary, but is nice. He is happy to be taken care of."
"Why do they protect you?"
"Why do you love them? They're only dogs."
"Why do you want to have the puppies leave on a plane? Will they go to Winnipeg?"
"You're trying to rescue the dogs? Will they be in better homes?"
"Will you save all of the pack?"
"It's good to be nice to the dogs because they like me now."
"People here don't take care of the dogs. You will help them? I would take care of them. I had dogs before but they were shot. I liked them."
"Why do people here shoot them? They're not nice. Is it because they're scared?"
"I want to see them every day. Joy gives me hugs!"
It made my heart fill with happiness once a connection and love between the kids and the pack was witnessed. This became more apparent when another group of kids came by and started to yell at the dogs, had a branch and tried to whip Aurora with it and threw a large rock at Pirate and Joy. One of the young girls, Brandy, paused petting Princess and 626, stood up and told them what I had told her weeks before: "PUT DOWN THE STICK! DON'T HURT THEM! THIS IS THEIR HOME! WALK AND TALK TO THEM!" It made me so happy (and still does) that she and other young kids started to teach what they had been taught, not only to other students but also to adults. They began to understand and believe that the dogs are living beings who feel and show love and fear. There is still so much that they have to learn in terms of taking care of a dog properly, but treating the dogs with respect and compassion is a good start. Education truly is key.