Rez Dog’s Day in Shiprock

March 20, 2023

Volunteers from Turquoise Paw Rescue in Shiprock travel the expanse of the Navajo Nation to trap loose dogs and shelter them until they’re released to shelters across the country. Volunteers for Turquoise Paw Rescue normally travel hundreds of miles with traps, blankets, and “smelly foods,” to save mostly female “rez dogs” and their plentiful offspring. By Donna K. Hewett. This story is sponsored by Distill Beer Wine Spirits and Northern Edge Casino

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The Western winds blow lonely across the desert plains. Traveling to the Navajo Reservation from Shiprock New Mexico to a nappy area suburb some 30 miles is a relatively easy trek for Turquoise Paw Rescue founder Yvonne Todacheene and her heir apparent, Chantel Wadsworth. Usually it's a couple hundred miles. They'll ride with their traps and blankets and smelly foods to rescue mostly female res dogs and their plentiful offspring. You're watching the local News Network brought to you by Distill Beer, Wine and Spirit, and Northern Edge Casino. I'm Connor Shreve. They find mamas running loose, puppies dumped in boxes and dogs that just got hit laying along the side of the road. Volunteers from Turquoise Paw Rescue trap the dogs then bring them back to the farm in Shiprock for recovery. Eventually, the dogs are relocated to shelters off the reservation. A place that is expansive and beautiful but full of hardship for people and animals.

Like most dogs that do get dumped and they have to live on their own for a while. They're very weary of humans maybe because of prior treatment in their, you know their last home that caused them to be dumped. They're just not wanted or, you know, they they continue to have puppies. So in that sense, they're not wanted anymore just because they have multiple litters. So I feel like once they do get dumped and they have to fend for themselves they do have a hard time trusting people. And, you know, sometimes if they are dumped, you know they might not get people that are so friendly to them and shush them away or, you know, chase them away.

When Todacheene moved back to the reservation 15 years ago she was horrified to see the stray dog epidemic. Somebody had to step in to help. And ever since she's been rounding up the abandoned dogs by the hundreds and sending them to shelters across the country trapping the strays is a test of faith, patience and time. It can sometimes take all day.

It depends. I mean, sometimes they're really easy and really starving. They'll like go right into the trap right away. Others, it's like hours, like two, three hours. You just have to wait until they feel comfortable enough you know, or get hungry enough to go in the trap. But we try and use like, smelly foods. We call 'em, like McDonald's chicken nuggets or rotisserie chicken is good, sardines. What else? And oh, they like breakfast burritos fried bread, and, you know, mut ribs. We'll get 'em. But yeah, it takes a while. So it's not, people think you go out there, you trap 'em and then you know, but it's a time.

But on this trip, they get lucky. The mama is weary. She has an injury known as res leg after being hit by a vehicle and is the first one to be trapped. That's good news.

Mama's in the trap. Woohoo.

The puppies quickly becoming res dogs are a little more wild.

Pretty much a res dog. The term is also generally its own breed. Like when people say, "oh, I've adopted a res dog", you know they're generally smarter, you know, just because sometimes they've lived on their own, so they have to figure out the way of life, how to survive. So they're definitely very smart and they know what's going on. You know, even when you see dogs in the towns you know, they know when to cross the road, you know so they already kind of generally find out how the way of living is

To foster res dogs or to donate to Turquoise Paw Rescue. Go to its website and for more information about this story and others, go to Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.


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