The last days I spent in Shamattawa were busy. Aside from spending many, many hours helping to fly the dogs out, I still taught some painting classes. I wanted to leave a positive mark on the community by helping the dogs that I was able to, and allowing kids to paint something bright and beautiful as a contradiction to a lot of the life in Shamattawa. With the loss of culture and confusion, suicides and deaths, sickness from unclean water, gangs and violence, many of the students there and young adults are trying to figure out who they are and to find a sense of belonging.
I am Cree?
What does that mean?
With the struggle of discovering who they are within a difficult and 'lost' place to live, when I encouraged kids to paint it gave them a chance to create for themselves. They got to choose colours and I would guide them. They could create something bright and cheerful, they could day dream and learn what colours can teach us - to show emotion! They hadn't had an art teacher in such a long time that they craved a creative outlet. Some of the kids that I taught were also the ones who were interested in the dogs. They were able to feel a sense of belonging and love with different activities, and in return began to learn to give that back to the dogs. I can only hope that they have continued that giving of love even though we are no longer up there. Maybe whenever they look at the paintings they created they will be reminded of that creative and positive discovery and will bring that energy forward.
I think about it often.
Below, a couple of the students I guided to paint a waterfall scene. They loved painting and it was an emotional release for them. One of the girls in the class said, "I will show my mom and put this in my room to cover up a hole. We don't have anything colourful. It will make me happy to look at every day. Maybe I can paint more to cover up the holes! Can I paint the northern lights one you have?! "
I felt a great sense of relief when all of the puppies and Princess were off the Reserve and would be on their way to loving foster families and forever homes. Helping the dogs while up north made me happy because I was making a difference...However, I felt a sense of loss at the same time. Here I was super pumped about having been the link needed to get those puppies out of Shamattawa when no one had paid attention, yet I wanted to keep doing so much more! I grew up with animals...My parents and sisters have always adopted cats and dogs, taken in strays that have made their way to our farm, adopted horses and even ducks, so I have always had such a fondness for giving animals loving homes. I feel it is SO important to give homes to those who are already lost and forgotten. I was going to be leaving Shamattawa in a very short amount of time and it was so strange to feel that my work was now done there when so much is needed.
Like I mentioned in my last post, Saeed had been talking to me about getting a few others of the Pack out as well before he left Shamattawa. I would still be in touch with Save a Dog Network and Infinite WOOFS to make sure that things would run smoothly with those other moves while I was back in Ontario. I was hoping that Joy and Spotty would get out, and I also hoped that Aurora and Pirate would make it out, but it seemed less likely. The Pack was no longer "truly wild" and I felt responsible for them. I would do all that I could to help get them out if possible.
A couple days before leaving Manitoba I made sure to spend as much time with the rest of the Pack as I was able to - along with exploring a little bit near God's River with Spencer and our friend, Jack. The Pack would never go with us all the way to the river because of other dogs in the area (some chained and very aggressive and unfriendly), but they always enjoyed the attention and being around us anyway.
Below are pictures of Aurora and Pirate sharing a box to sleep in, hundreds of goose feathers from when they were hunted, and Spencer, Jack, and I along God's River finally enjoying a sunny and warm-ish day out in June!
Here are some of the last photos of the Pack I took.
Joy and 626 sleeping (looking very comfortable) beside some garbage. I always told the kids to not litter!
Pirate and Aurora looking for food. The weather was getting warmer and the dogs were able to eat left over goose and caribou meat found outside, however, that meant worms...the dogs were still joyful but not as perky. They still enjoyed eating left over rice with egg and chicken as seen in the tin dish.
Even in a desolate and often depressing area, riddled with worms, other parasites from contaminated water, fighting for their lives (literally), the Pack soaked in the warm sun upon the dirt. They stayed close together at all times right near our Unit...Also to get their daily belly rubs!