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A Miracle at Home for Life®! The story of Makwa

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Makwa cartoonWe remember miracles and take courage from them. Miracles often mark a turning point where things start to get better. That is because miracles disrupt defeatism—they help us believe that obstacles can be overcome and that our loftiest goals are can be realized.

How do miracles happen? Through prayers? Luck?Serendipity? The truth is that we can initiate a miracle just by caring. A single miracle inspires hope and helps us be alert to the moments when we can help shape patterns of change in a positive direction.

In the Fall of 2018, a Collie/Newfoundland Mix dragged himself  by his front paws along a road on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota. His obvious suffering moved one of the residents to ask for help from the Minnesota State Humane Agent, Gail Anderson. The dog was one of many that roamed free in the impoverished community-a familiar, friendly dog called Makwa, or "Bear" in Ojibwe.

Makwa's family didn't have the means to investigate or treat the sudden paralysis the dog seemed to be suffering. They loved him though, and they agreed to surrender him to Gail in the hope that she could get help for him. Gail took him to live on her porch until she could find a permanent situation for him, but with cold weather on its way, she knew there was no time to lose to find help for him.

 

Makwa as he was found by the State Humane  Agent, in pain and unable to walkLeft: Makwa as he was found by the State Humane Agent, in pain and unable to walk.

While Makwa didn't technically "belong" to anyone anymore, his radiant spirit inspired anyone who met him or heard his story to try to help as Gail reached out to the wider community and shared Makwa's story. For Makwa's sake, they all joined Gail in an urgent effort to find help for him, networking him far and wide on social media, securing a used dog wheelchair so he could get around, and raising money for his medical assessment.

Though he was just 1 year old, poor Makwa was in rough shape: he had terrible trouble standing on his hind legs and poor circulation in the right hind leg. His vets warned he might never again walk on his own, and he would likely need close daily care to stay exercised, healthy, and clean.

Makwa's supporters grew increasingly disheartened by his bleak prospects as they reached out to rescues and shelters across the state, only to be turned away. Many of the supporters had never before advocated for an animal; they'd never even thought about what can happen to a desperate dog or cat. Now that they had joined Makwa on his journey, they understood how precarious the lives of homeless animals can be. They also understood the difference their help could make, and they were determined to see him through to the future he deserved.

Isn't it true that the most powerful thing we can do is care?

Ashley Judd with Makwa

Left: Makwa running and playing again!
Right: It’s not everyone who gets to give beautiful Ashley Judd a kiss! Makwa and Ashley meet at Home for Life’s 2019 Fall Gala!

That's where each of us, individually, has the power to influence what happens. Because we can have an effect and influence the outcome when the fate of a cat or dog like Makwa hangs in the balance, each one of us can make a difference, to set a new direction in motion. Even though his outlook was bleak -- a large black disabled dog-those who learned about him had opened a doorway to hope and the possibility for Makwa to find his home for life.

After calling and being turned down by dozens of organizations around Minnesota, Gail called Home for Life.® She explained Makwa's situation, and we realized he had no chance in his condition, living in an unheated area, unable to walk and with no offers of help from shelters or rescues.

We didn't know what the future held for Makwa when we agreed to help, if he would ever walk again. Projecting the future, and the burden it would be to care for him, was daunting. It takes more than mercy and goodwill to restore the health of special animals like Makwa -- it takes a commitment of time, labor and funding for the lifetime of the animals, which can be 10 years, or more. Most importantly, it requires a renewed view of what is possible for an animal who has been turned away from other rescues or shelters for help, and to see them not as a problem to be solved but as an untapped treasure.

So we focused on restoring Makwa's health and all he could do and not his deficits. The great care he received at Home for Life®, from veterinary attention to high-quality nutrition to rehabilitation, which included medicine, water and laser therapy soon helped restore his vitality and strength. This loving and individual care that is integral to Home for Life® resulted in a miracle when Makwa regained the ability to walk again! Although he will always need attentive care to maintain his mobility and hygiene, he is able to enjoy playing and even running in his fashion with his new dog family.

News of Makwa's amazing recovery has also uplifted the community that first helped him. They can now see their own compassion and kindness, not just as concepts but as visible and practical facts in the world, embodied in one dog, Makwa, standing and even running! On his own four paws!

Animal Nation: Each animal's individual happiness and well-being is a victory for all animal welfare.

Thinking about millions of animals who lose their lives each year is overwhelming. The estimate is that between 2-4 million cats and dogs are killed annually because no one wants them. Even people who care are challenged to understand how they can make a difference with a problem of this scale.

When we look at animal homelessness and the vast numbers being killed each year through a wide scope, it's difficult to see the individuals. They become numbers and abstractions. If we operate only from this frame, we begin to lose the sense of our original mission and that's when dogs and cats like Makwa fail to find the help they so desperately need. Because they are only one animal, it is easy to turn away and ignore them or justify their death as if they are collateral damage.

But the truth is, we're only able to understand the depth of a problem through an individual who is experiencing the problem firsthand and through their story.

Gail AndersonI'm just overwhelmingly thankful that Makwa ended up with Home for Life.® He is a sincerely beautiful soul, as everyone he was/is in contact with will agree. Your organization does amazing work and doesn't shy away from disabilities as others do -- it's just not their mission, and I understand. However, there is a huge need to help these animals, and I will continue to support organizations strongly who do the very hard and costly work that you do. Sanctuaries are heaven on earth for the neediest
souls. Makwa and all of your special residents are achieving real meaning to their lives, that they may never have known otherwise. I also believe you are setting standards of care for how animals with challenges can be redefined to achieve quality of life opportunities. Home for Life®, I hope others emulate your work. How fortunate our animals would be!"
      -- Gail Anderson, Minnesota Federated Humane Societies Agent

 

The millions of suffering, lonely and unwanted animals are made up of individuals like Makwa. Whenever we disregard or devalue one of them, we place all animals in jeopardy, since any dog or cat can lose their home, become old, injured or ill and unwanted. What keeps animals safe and cherished is our attitude towards them, and our capacity to care. For animals who are vulnerable, everywhere, we can't turn away from tough cases like Makwa or consider their fate of negligible consequence. Saving an animal is more than a metaphor. It is meaningful because preserving the chance for one animal takes a stand for all animals in similar situations and makes visible and practical what is possible. In a system designed to handle problems on a mass scale, individuals can be overlooked. Yet behind every data point and every number is an individual, with a story and the need for someone to recognize all that makes them special.

Home for Life's® focus on overlooked individuals has enabled us to spot gaps in the animal welfare system where cats or dogs are underserved and vulnerable, to identify where change needs to happen, and where there is opportunity for widespread improvement.

An internationally recognized care for life sanctuary, Home for Life®, offers a service to animals in need like no comparative organization. Many shelters and rescue organizations aspire to find a home for every animal and dream of the day when there will be no homeless animals. At Home for Life®, that's what we want too -- and that's what we provide -- for cats and dogs like Makwa who are overlooked for placement. Home for Life® has created a new idea, the care for life sanctuary -- a life-saving and life-affirming alternative for dogs and cats who have not been able to find a home or keep the home they had and for animals who have lifelong special care needs that most adopters cannot provide. We call our idea the "Third Door" in animal welfare, which gives at risk dogs and cats, animals who might have been passed over for adoption, a third chance and an alternative to an undeserved death.

The dream of a home should be an opportunity that is available for all dogs and cats, and now with Home for Life®, and the innovative model we have created at our prototype sanctuary in Star Prairie, WI, it can be!

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