“That one right there – that’s my favorite,” said Rudy, a St. Joseph’s student, pointing to one of eight puppies in a photo on a mobile phone.
“Well, then you have to get your grades up if you want to go on the trip with me,” responded Maija, St. Joseph’s residential support, as she put the phone back into her pocket.
The trip Maija was referring to was a rescue mission for
Almost Home Canine Rescue, run by Emily Ruth Penning, where Maija volunteers in her free time. The organization contacted Maija for assistance in moving a group of unwanted puppies from the Lake Andes area to their new home.
A chance to rescue puppies was all the motivation Rudy and a few of his classmates needed to get their work done. Within just a few days, the high school boys turned in all of their missing assignments and raised their grades.
“They put in the work, so they reaped the reward of going on the trip!” said Maija.
The crew hit the road on a Thursday after school to rescue the puppies. On the drive, Maija educated the boys about caring for animals, dogs in particular. In the reservation neighborhoods where many St. Joseph’s students live, dogs aren’t always seen as loving members of the family. Sometimes the strays are viewed as nuisances that run amuck, causing trouble. The dogs get into trash in search of food, fight with other dogs, or attempt to enter businesses and homes for warmth during the cold months.
They revert to wild animals, because they don’t all have homes.
But, the fate of these puppies would be different. The group arrived at the scene and the boys immediately bonded with the puppies that slathered their faces with kisses.
“It was so fun to see the boys light up like that,” said Maija. “You don’t always see the boys open up like that to people, but with animals they are able to come out of their shells.”
The group hit the road again – this time with the puppies. Upon arriving at the delivery location, the boys were sad to see the little canines go, even if it was to a family who would care for them.
Rudy picked up the puppy he had seen in the photo a week earlier and took him over to his new owner. He told the owner he had named the dog Rudy because, just like the white spot of hair Rudy has on his head, the dog Rudy also has on its back.
“They were the perfect pair!” laughed Maija.
The experience was so positive that the boys quickly asked when they could go on another rescue mission. Maija discovered these trips could be a good incentive for high school boys and girls to keep their grades up and finish their homework on time.
In that moment, the St. Joseph’s Pet Rescue group was born.
The group has since gone on three trips and plans to make more rescues in the future as the need arises. But, to make these trips more effective, they need supplies. They need things like a dog crate, leashes, collars and dog food because the dogs are usually placed into their care with nothing.
The students have created a list of things they need and you can view the Pet Rescue Wish List on Amazon. If you would like to support this group and their efforts to rescue and transport unwanted animals, please consider purchasing an item from the list.
“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to educate our students about animals. They are already brainstorming how they could take these lessons back to their reservation communities to attempt to make them better,” said Maija. “And really, that’s the whole idea behind the St. Joseph’s HAPI Homes program and now this new rescue group – give students tools to use now and in the future to better their communities.”
Pilamaya – thank you – for supporting the Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph’s Indian School.