My very own Rez Dog

Do you ever wonder if domestic dogs would be happier if they weren’t confined by our homes? I keep my dogs inside when we’re not home because I’m afraid of them escaping or getting kidnapped or digging under the fence or annoying the neighbors by barking. They’re safer inside. When we’re home, we let them play outside as long as they want, which winds up being only as long as we’re outside playing with them.

Leo’s never known a life other than this, but Mia was “cage free” for at least part of her life before she came to us. She shows no sign of missing her freedom.

I almost retweeted an article I read the other day about stray/feral dogs on Indian reservations. I almost wrote, “If it weren’t for us, Mia would have ended up like these poor reservation dogs with a life expectancy of only two years.”

But that didn’t quite ring true. Mia had a home before she found us. Two, actually. So we’ve been told. For some reason I cannot begin to understand, her most recent owners reportedly left her behind when they moved away. Mia was being informally fostered at a home on an Indian reservation. Not the same as running in a pack, biting people, and having to fend for her own food and shelter. The family brought her inside at night, where she slept under a little girl’s bed. Terrible life we rescued her from, right?

Mia on the day we got her.
Mia on the day we got her.

I remember wondering why Mia’s foster family even bothered to find another home for her. Don’t dogs just roam freely on the rez?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks rez dogs are leading the life. This article in Indian Country Today declares that rez dogs will rule the world one day.

I always like seeing off-leash dogs on the reservations I frequent, but then, they never strike me as stray, homeless or feral. Surely these aren’t the dogs with a lifespan of two years. None has threatened to bite me. For the most part, they seem less reactive than the dogs I raised from puppies. Mia is less reactive than the dogs I raised from puppies.

So there’s something to be said for letting dogs roam free: no barrier frustration. And two excellent reasons to keep them confined: their safety and the safety of people. Roaming dogs can get hit by cars or abused, and people could get bitten.

Whether there is a rez dog “problem” or not, I can’t say. At least one reservation around here requires dogs to be fenced or tied up, and according to part two of the above article, a rescue group is finding homes for strays on the Crow reservation.

Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

5 thoughts on “My very own Rez Dog

  1. I’d been following a series of articles about Reservation dogs and it didn’t sound like a very peachy life for them. There was a person driving there with bags of food for them so they didn’t starve. At the beginning of tourist season, someone went around and shot almost all the dogs so it wouldn’t look bad when people came to visit. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of it myself, but I didn’t feel like the person writing about them was making things up.

    I do often wonder, though, if our dogs would be happy if they were free to roam about as they please! Not necessarily as a pack, but able to set their own rules and do what they chose. I think the Greyhounds would choose the couch over roaming, but I don’t know about Morgan and Kuster! lol

    1. I think the difference must be between dogs living unfettered on reservations, but who have owners who love them and feed them, and stray or feral dogs left to their own devices. I don’t tend to see stray/ferals on the reservations around here.

  2. After reading Merle’s Door and his ideas about letting your dog experience being a dog, it makes me long to let my dog roam free. But how can that be better when you live in an urban or even suburban area – so many dangers out there and no guarantees that they won’t get hit by a car, lost, trapped by a pack of coyotes or some other terrible fate. I haven’t read the pieces on the rez dogs, but will go take a look. We’ve rescued four dogs now and I have to believe they are happier with the creature comforts of a home than outside and on their own. But, you are right – unfettered is different than untended. Food for thought.

  3. Mia looks like a beautiful sweetheart. She will be a loyal dog to you and don’t worry about her missing anything. Dogs are very adaptable and they understand change when they’re in a good home. When I moved from CA to NYC my dog became confined in an apartment. I noticed and felt sorry for him more than he noticed…He never really even blinked an eye 🙂

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