Rez Dog: A love story

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

What started off as just any other day, on July 20, another stray dog was being posted on the Tulalip tribal members Facebook group. I’ve learned that I’ve grown accustom to seeing the frequently posted ‘found’ pets on the reservation. Whether it be someone’s family dog getting out of their possession, a cat traveling just a little too far, or the unfortunate situations of pets being dumped on the reservation by neglectful owners. 

The gentle giant we now call Lola, had first been posted about around 5:00 p.m., and it wasn’t until 11:00 p.m. at night, as I’m crawling into bed, that I see she had been posted about again. The time stamp between the two posts illustrated that she had been on the streets of Tulalip for at least 6 hours. With a high temperature of 82 degrees that day, it makes you wonder how long she was out wandering for, and how much longer she would made it out there on her own. 

Sweet Lola weighs almost 120 pounds, and is assumed to be a Mastiff of sorts. According to many Mastiff expert sites, Mastiffs also have a very low tolerance for hot and humid weather, and are prone to suffer from heat strokes and overheating. Even in situations of a causal stroll outside, their short snouts make it difficult for them to breathe. So in cases of increased temperatures, Mastiffs have twice the likeliness to overheat and die than a dog like a Labrador that have longer snouts.

After spending about 30-45 minutes searching for her, we found her. She unfortunately had no collar, or any leads as to who she might belong to.  She looked exhausted, and was panting heavily. She was not interested in any food, only the water that we had brought for her. She easily climbed into the kennel, already entrusting that we were there to help and were her new safe place.

The next few days consisted of us acclimating her into our home and with our other two dogs. We quickly went out to buy her a bed of her own, and a collar. We scanned her at two different shelter locations looking for a microchip, took her to the vet for a wellness check, and have posted abundantly on lost pet sites/groups/pages, and registered her as a ‘found’ pet at the Snohomish County animal shelter. In the midst of all the chaos, she quickly adjusted into our home and her personality began to unfold more and more every day. After all our efforts, no owners have come forward, making us ponder the question, was she dumped?

Unfortunately, the pandemic brought a multitude of problems for people in the world, but is also created an opportunity for all their pets. With everyone being forced to stay home, pets were receiving the most attention from their owners that they’ve ever had, and some families even took this as time to build their fur families. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), with more than 23 million American households, nearly 1 in 5 nationwide adopted a pet during the pandemic. 

But since many government restrictions have since lifted, and people have started to go back to in-person work, pet owners are facing the harsh realities of the expenses, time, and effort that it takes to take care of a pet while working a full-time job. Now having to worry about paying for dog walkers and pet sitters to watch their pets while they’re at work, or on vacation. And with many dog boarding and daycares being waitlisted months out, many people are being forced to find other options like a friend or loved one that will take the time and effort to watch their pet. 

People are also realizing the difference in costs of food from an adolescent pet to an adult pet. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, people get caught in the excitement of having a new pet, but lose sight of the many years of commitment and love that a pet requires, and because of this are left with pets they can no longer take care of. But as something to keep in mind about pets, wildlife photographer, writer, and wildlife preservationist Roger Caras said, “They might only be here a part of our lives, but to them you are their whole life”.

In any case, where there is a lost/found pet or someone is looking to forfeit their pet, the Tulalip Police Department is able to help. In these situations, Tribal members can call the Tulalip Police Department dispatch team and Animal Control will come pick up the dog and take it to the Everett Animal Shelter. The department also has a contract with the Everett Animal Shelter, so tribal members have direct access. If a tribal member can see that the dog is safe to go near, they can pick the dogs up themselves and take them to the Everett Animal Shelter and the shelter will bill the tribe and cover all the cost of turning in the pet. 

When asking Sgt. Chris Gobin from the Tulalip Police Department how often lost/found pets get reported he said, “At least half a dozen calls a week.” He continued to talk about how much of a safety issue this is, “There’s always a possible threat of dogs being vicious and biting someone who is out running, or kids who are playing. They can sometimes attack other people or other pets. But it’s also a safety issue for the dog. A lot of times dogs will run into the streets not seeing cars and get hit by them, or they risk themselves get attacked by another dog that’s running loose.”

Though there are no laws pertaining to pets consistently running loose, the tribe does have its own animal code surrounding issues like animal neglect.  Chris said, “Some cases it’s just about us helping educate someone on how much dogs should be getting fed, how much shelter they need, or how often they need to exercise. But if a tribal member has found a missing dog or a dog they feel like they can’t take care of, they can contact the police department and we can help surrender the dog to the animal shelter at no cost to them.”

When thinking about how often these situations happen out on the reservation, it makes you wonder, how can we prevent lost and found pets and any possible neglect? Some helpful resolutions include getting pets neutered/spayed, microchipped, and providing fencing for the pet. Spay and neuters are helpful because they stop the rapid reproduction of litters that are produced and people are not able to take care of. Microchips are helpful is the case of lost/found pets because its acts like an ID tag inside of a pet where the owner can be more easily found and contacted. And fencing created a physical barrier to lessen the likeliness that a pet can get outside of your property. 

Recently, in the efforts to help with these solutions, the Tribal Police Department has partnered with a non-profit called Pasado’s Safe Haven. Together, the Police Department and Pasado’s provide events for tribal members to bring their pets, receive free spay/neuters, and vaccines and microchipping for just a $10 copay. With four events already successfully held, the department plans to continue with more. 

What seems like easy solutions for such a reoccurring problem, may still be hard for some, but the Tulalip Police Department is here to help mitigate the needs of these animals. For anyone needing help with an animal, or dealing with a lost and found pet, please call the Tulalip Police Department dispatch at (360) 716 – 4608. 

And though after searching high and low for Lola’s owners and having no such luck, we are still continuing to keep her safe in our home, where she lives an active, loving, and fulfilled life.