We have all been there. We are driving around and we may see a dog or cat running loose. Or maybe we even visit or move to an area and realize that there is a great need for helping the animals there. But what do we do about it?
That is the situation that Krystyn Bleda and Raymond Sandor, co-founders of Desert Paws Animal Rescue Of New Mexico encountered when they moved to an area here in New Mexico called Cochiti.
Raymond had lived in Hungary, and both Krystyn and Raymond had also lived in New York. They were involved in animal rescue, but had not operated a rescue themselves. When they moved to New Mexico, they saw the many homeless animals in the area, and those needing help. Krystyn remarked, “why isn’t someone doing something about this?”. And then she said, “ I realized that someone was us.”
New Mexico is called the Land Of Enchantment. And for the Cochiti Indians that call this area of New Mexico their home, they hold its breathtaking beauty in high esteem.
On a bright, sunny and windy day, we were privileged to meet with Krystyn and Raymond of Desert Paws along with their neighbors and animal loving volunteers, Pat and Bob Rock.
Kody and Pathes were surrendered when their owners moved and are about six years old. We were camping at Cochiti Lake and this is where we filmed the latest New Mexico edition of “Stop Hounding Me”. And we are sure you will agree…it is out of this world.
According to the Desert Paws website, “Desert Paws Animal Rescue of New Mexico is a foster-based, 501(c)3 non-profit, volunteer rescue organization that has an open door admission for abandoned, homeless, unwanted and injured dogs and cats from the Cochiti Pueblo. We have a very successful working relationship with the Pueblo de Cochiti government and over the years have made many friends of tribal members we have worked with in helping tribal animals. We also continue to offer help to tribal members’ pets of the San Felipe and Santo Domingo reservations and admit unwanted dogs and puppies from these tribes also. We are a place of hope and transition for homeless tribal animals in need of help and refuge who otherwise would perish: The abandoned, the abused, the sick, the old and the suffering. The organization is founded and directed by Raymond Sandor and Krystyn Bleda who reside in the town of Cochiti Lake, NM on the Cochiti Indian reservation.”
If you have never heard of this beautiful area and people, The Pueblo de Cochiti, (Cochiti), is located 55 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico and 22 miles from Santa Fe. It is contained within 53,779 acres of reservation land that sustains around 1,500 Pueblo members. The Cochiti Pueblo people are a federally recognized tribe of Native Americans.
When Krystyn and Raymond moved here from New York in 2003, the situation for animals here was apparent. Homeless and hurt animals roaming the street, hungry animals, animals that needed medical help and an overpopulation problem of puppies and kittens was just the start. If you are an animal advocate, the challenges of making changes in a rural area are often difficult. But then add to that the challenges of animal advocacy in these rural, sovereign tribal communities. It is a unique challenge to say the least. Even with these issues, many individuals here truly care deeply about their pets.
But there is a lack here of resources including veterinary care which is more than an hour away. Also, New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country, and this area is included. To say that Desert Paws had their work cut out when they started was an understatement.
Dealing with different communities and cultures in a respectful way is key to this rescue’s success. It took time to gain the trust of the Pueblo. Eventually, Krystyn and Raymond met with the Governor of the Cochiti tribe and found solutions on how to mutually work together for the betterment not only of the animals here, but the people as well. Being in an agricultural area, having animals as a pet is sometimes a new concept. Living conditions, shelter, medical care and ways to keep your pet are just some of the situations that Desert Paws helps the tribe members here with. Often, the people here do not understand not only how to take care of their pet, but how to keep their pet. Instead of teaching by way of direct education, Desert Paws prefers to lead by example, showing that a pet is a lifetime commitment. And isn’t that the best teacher?
One of the most impressive faucets of Desert Paws Animal Rescue Of New Mexico to us was their selfless approach to doing whatever it takes to help. Their Door2Door Spay/Neuter and Veterinary Care program is plain and simply needed here. The name implies exactly what they do. They will pick up an animal free of charge and provide care for that animal free of charge. For a pet owner to trust someone this much by letting them help says it all to us. Volunteers use their own vehicles, often driving over an hour, almost every day. How much of an impact does this make? Krystyn explained that for every dog or cat that is spayed or neutered, they are preventing dozens of reproducing and unwanted animals each time. All of the volunteers and board members receive no salary or commission. And as you can imagine, this program alone is time consuming and expensive. So what is their goal in this regard?
Krystyn and Raymond have a very important goal…to establish permanent, NO COST veterinary clinics servicing the neighboring pueblos and small rural villages! Yes. We said no cost. They feel that since their presence here, they have made great progress for the animals and people here and beyond and now they want to expand their efforts. And we think our fans can help them do this by donating and or sharing their story! They would like to open up their first clinic within a year. And we know they can do it. After they are able to raise additional funds, they would like to open up more clinics…near ALL the New Mexican Pueblos which currently number 19 total. This is the first idea like this in all of our rescue visits so far. And to say we were in awe of their goal is putting it lightly.
Their Pets4Seniors program works with seniors who are living at home and would like a pet, but cannot commit to the longterm. They have a foster agreement with them where they take care of the vet care and periodically check on both the pet and person’s well-being.
They also work in partnership with assisted living facilities and other facilities by providing resident affectionate cats to boost morale and provide comfort. How awesome is this?
It would be easy for Krystyn, Raymond and their volunteers to feel overburdened and let the weight of the many issues here get them down. But in fact, the very first thing we noticed after speaking with them was their positive attitude and resilience. They are absolutely determined to bring about huge changes here. And with help, we know that they can do it. They have seen much progress by the people here and efforts to make Cochiti a better place for the animals. They try to focus on the positive outcomes they have had such as helping dogs with mange, or providing shelter in the cold. They see firsthand what can result when groups of different backgrounds and cultures work together for a common goal. We also could see the love combined between Krystyn and Raymond for animals, and for each other.
To offer continuing support to tribal animals by way of rehoming, providing fostering, medical care, flea and tick prevention and vaccinations makes for very expensive operational expenses. And they are in constant need of funds.
To sing their praises on all that they do is impossible. From taking animals to neighboring cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque for adoption events, to things no one knows about behind the scenes, they truly are inspiring and resourceful.
Many wonder how we pick the small rescues and shelters to highlight on our Adventure Of A Lifetime. For us, Desert Paws was a rescue we hoped would accept our visit. Yes, they were off of our route, and probably not many outside of this area would be familiar with Cochiti. But that is what drew us to them. No matter what area you live in, or even somewhere you may visit, that area’s animals most likely need help. And who will be the one to do that? That someone may be you.
Thank you to Desert Paws Animal Rescue of New Mexico for showing us that change for animals can be made…no matter where you are or who you are, no matter where you came from, or where you are going. It takes every rescue…every shelter to accomplish the ultimate goal. To not have a need for their services any longer.
It is not often that we plea with our fans directly to make a donation to the rescues we visit. But for Desert Paws Of New Mexico Animal Rescue, this will be their key to continuing, their key to success, and their key to helping not only the animals here of Cochiti and neighboring pueblos, but for the people too. It is our hopes that everything they set out to accomplish is met and that they will be an example for other pueblos, shelters and rescues to follow in their sandy, desert pawsteps.
We ask you to keep checking back on their Facebook page and showing your love!
Desert Paws Inc. Animal Rescue of New Mexico (Cochiti Lake)
PO Box 1366 Pena Blanca NM 87041
Desert Paws is a 501c3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.
Brickle, Digby, Boy Person and Girl thank Desert Paws, the Cochito Pueblo and the State Of New Mexico for having us!