by Joan Dewey
For me, the K-300 race start is always a must attend special event. No matter what the temp and wind chill, for 20 years past I would be there at the race start for sure. However, for the past few years, I’ve missed the start putting canine rescue needs first. The medical emergencies, the dogs overdue/unclaimed at the Bethel pound, the sick or homeless dog coming in from villages, these needs were my commitment unless another volunteer was available which frequently, after the newness of BFK9 wore off, was not the case as the volunteers too had other plans!
Although the organization’s name was growing the volunteer base would fluctuate, a common challenge for most volunteer service organizations all over the U.S. and in Bethel most certainly. I have many fond memories of valiant, animal loving volunteers in the years past who have since moved on leaving Bethel mostly.
Over the years, working two full time jobs, one in behavioral health as a clinician providing care to those who have frequently experienced significant cumulative trauma (to the extent it has become “normalized”), and the second as co-founder of Bethel Friends of Canines, Inc., (BFK9) a federally recognized 501-C-3 under the category of “Preventing Cruelty to Animals” has taken its toll on my heart and soul.
I accepted the responsibilities of both jobs. I welcomed the challenges, perhaps much more ignorant to what the term “daunting” truly meant. But, I persisted. I turned to my daily meditations and to my faith in God, a higher power and prayed for guidance. The physical challenges of the work, the sleep deprivation, the early morning and late evening work load to care for these animals, many in my home was exhausting.
I have met so many people, men, women and child, all races and cultures, and all walks of life that love canines (and felines) and were healed in some way by the work of helping an injured, homeless or very vulnerable animal and these types of human spirit connections kept me going.
It was an honor to meet and continue to this day to have relationships with many of these people who in fact, live in the outlying YK Delta villages.
HERE ARE THE RESCUE SERVICE STATS to help understand what a mighty few have been able to do in the past 6 1/2 years:
Since the start of Bethel Friends of Canine in July, 2011 a total of 1755 dogs and cats (1657 dogs and 98 cats) have come through the homeless/unwanted/abandoned rescue program.
There have been approximately 312 dogs and cats of low income families spayed or neutered and vaccinated too! This is largely due to Dr. Robert Sept of Bering Sea Animal Clinic and his willingness to offer a reduced medical cost to BFK9 to help reduce the overpopulation problem in Bethel.
Something truly amazing happened in the years 2016 and 2017. BFK9 began to receive many more calls for help from the YK Delta villages. 2016 and 2017 were record years for BFK9 in number of animals helped. 351 dogs and cat came into care in 2016 and 396 in 2017. And what about the villages – the 40 plus villages asking for better options for their dogs (including the need for routine spay/neuter and vaccination clinic services)?
In 2016, 223 of the dogs and cats were from villages. In 2017, 211 of the dogs and cats were from villages. That means between 2016 & 2017 434 of the 747 homeless/surrendered dogs/cats were from VILLAGES ! ! ! ! ! !
And, the hope is the desire to help the homeless, disposable dogs and pups will continue in coordination with increased spay/neuter/vaccination availability, education and training for a future that holds new positions in animal health and safety in every village! The future can be brighter thanks to many organizations involved in animal care practices including the UAF, veterinary training program, Alaska Native Rural Vets; Alaska Rural Veterinary Outreach; and the friends to the rural villages such as AARF Alaskan Animal Rescue Friends; Everts Air Cargo, RAVN Alaska and others.
If you’ve lived in Bethel for a long time you realize there are some good changes since BFK9. The Bethel pound no longer destroys adoptable dogs after 4 days (which was the practice prior to July, 2011). Instead there is an MOU with BFK9 and any unclaimed dog or cat is transferred to BFK9 for vaccinations, spay/neutering and adoption.
The loose dog public safety issue is not nearly the problem it used to be. The number of stray and homeless animals left to fend for themselves or destroyed without attempts to find homes has lessened. Many citizens of Bethel contact BFK9 routinely for assistance with finding homes. Many community members get involved when there are animal neglect and safety issues.
I am praying that the volunteer base will grow and sustain this wonderful and important community service. There, too is a need for securing renewable funding. Many volunteers of all skill levels are needed. For more information, refer to Bethelfriendsofcanines.com; or Bethel Friends of Canines FB page, or contact Edie Barbour, President BFK9 907 545 3506.
As for me, my role with BFK9 has changed. I look forward to new energy moving ahead with the BFK9 5-part mission and values to bring improved quality of life and good health to our communities.
Thank You, God
Thank you, God for all You have given me.
Thank you for all You have taken from me.
But, most of all, I thank YOU, God for what
You’ve left me:
Recovery, along with peace of mind, faith, hope,
And love. (Anonymous author)
Joan Dewey is a 26 year resident of Alaska, a clinical social worker employed at the Bethel Family Clinic and a co-founder and former President of Bethel Friends of Canines, Inc. a non-profit service organization in Alaska.