Program Stories

Keeping pets with their families in Leech Lake

Rick Haaland, the Pets for Life community outreach manager for the Leech Lake Tribal Police in northern Minnesota, answered a call to help a large dog named Winston, who was covered in 150 quills after an altercation with a porcupine. It would take multiple surgeries to remove them, as some were embedded in the dog’s joints. Winston’s family was overjoyed he would survive but made the difficult decision to relinquish him because of the prohibitive cost of the surgeries.

This didn’t sit well with Haaland, who learned from the clinic that the Veterinary Technology Program at Ridgewater College had offered to care for Winston free of charge. Prior to Winston’s return, Haaland helped the family prepare the yard and dog houses for Winston and their other dog. After four months in care, Winston squealed with excitement in Haaland’s car as they approached the family’s home. Winston is just one of hundreds of pets Haaland has helped since late 2019, when the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, through the Tribal Police department, joined the mentorship program of Pets for Life, a Humane Society of the United States program focused on community outreach and addressing inequities in access to pet resources in underserved regions.

A longer version of this story was published by the Humane Society of the United States in
All Animals magazine. This condensed version is shared with HSUS’s permission.