We've now been back from Sandy Lake for just over a month. Aimee and I have commented to each other since, that the four months we spent there seemed an eternity, and for all the wrong reasons. The Sandy Lake part of our adventure had been less adventurous and more tedious. Navigation had been of personalities not back roads. In fact, we travelled less than two or three kilometers from our home while being there. Each new place we visit, each community we spend time in, have been and will be places of learning, or in the least, experience.
In Sandy Lake though, few lessons were learned, mostly it was harsh realities realized.
Learning of those harsh realities seemed to have become the purpose for our visit there. But towhat purpose?
Let's visit one of those harsh realities. Sometimes prejudicial biases are based in truth. Sometimes the truth is worse than the prejudice. And sometimes that actual truth is even ignored by those that preach those prejudices.
Many people in communities in the remote north hold very differing ethical attitudes to those of us from the densely populated areas of this country. It is one of those differing attitudes that has led us to what we believe has been our purpose being there.
Aimee's job actually forced her to confront these realities in a way I did not have to. But the reality that gave us our purpose is a reality that permeates both our lives. On December the ninth Aimee worked later than I. When she arrived home that evening she did not arrive empty handed. Aimee came home with a dog. Had Aimee not come home with that little dog, that little dog would now be dead.
In most communities in the far north there are too many dogs. Most breed uncontrolled, increasing the population. Some residents fly new ones up there only to be set free to run wild when the novelty stales. So some of them starve to death. Some freeze to death. Some get eaten by the wolves, or by the other dogs they run wild with. And when those harsh realities of that unforgiving landscape fail to control the canine population the locals start shooting them.
In some northern communities there is a bounty on dogs. There is no licencing though. No leash laws. There isn't even much of a move to neuter or spay the existing population. There is simply a complete disrespect and ill regard for dogs.
We named the little dog "Alfie". She came into our home emaciated and stinking of garbage, inside and out. She was timid, frost-bitten and starved. She ate nonstop for three days. And the most amazing thing was that Lyndy seemed to understand her plight as much as we did. She let Alfie eat her food, drink her water and sleep beside us in our bed as she does. Lyndy and Alfie have become the best of friends.
Alfie also became best friends with "White Dog". The only thing we miss from Sandy Lake is"White Dog". Living beneath our house, finding a small source of heat from the warmed pipes there, "White Dog" was one of the other stray dogs on the reserve. We started feeding her after finding she chose to stay within our compound. It was difficult for me to walk in the bush, whether with Lyndy or on my own, without the company of "White Dog". She would even follow us
onto the lake for an afternoon of ice fishing.
Leaving Sandy Lake was not difficult. Leaving "White Dog" was. But we had saved one little dog from a miserable life with an inevitable, and quite possibly brutal end to it.
Lyndy is a traveller just as Aimee and I are. From the day we got her she came with us everywhere. By the time we had reached Sandy Lake, Lyndy had traveled with us over many miles. She's been in cars, over frozen lakes in snow machines, thousands of miles by rail and on several planes. But Alfie had barely travelled a mile from where Aimee had snatched her up, from behind the store, to our house.
All four of us flew out of Sandy Lake the evening of Valentine's Day. We arrived in Thunder Bay five hours and three planes later. And that night Alfie not only flew in a plane, but walked on pavement, on carpet and climbed stairs for the first time!
Alfie now lives in Whitby, with Lyndy, and Aimee and I of course. Also Lucy the Shih-poo. And cats! She still doesn't understand cats! Do you play with them? Do you chase them? You can't simply leave them alone. And if you chase them and catch them, what do you do? Georgie, the brown tabby says if you catch a cat, you scratch its tummy. Alfie and Lyndy don't agree.
With almost a half-acre of fenced yard, uncountable squirrels, and gardens to dig in, Alfie has a great life now. Unfortunately most reservation dogs don't. Life for a dog on a remote First Nations reserve in northern Canada is inhumane and cheep for most, precarious at best, and quite often short-lived.
Dogs on Native reserves are frequently disposed of in the most heinous of ways. Even when a bounty is not in effect. Throughout the north, thousands of husky-crosses, amongst other breeds, are slaughtered yearly. Some are strays, some even discarded family pets. But all are "Res Dogs". If you ever find the time or resources to help one of these beautiful creatures do so. Not all need to exist like "White Dog", some can live like Alfie.