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This article was published 27/12/2010 (2426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Maybe it was the body of a frozen puppy, with a living, breathing pup standing less than a metre away, oblivious to the carcass. Maybe it was the dogs with wagging tails that bobbed their heads for a friendly pat from the stranger in the RCMP uniform. Or the kids who'd tell the constable where one pup or another was holed up, homeless and hungry.
Before Christmas, RCMP Const. Gennifer Furkalo sent a letter to the editor of her local paper in Neepawa in an effort to save the feral packs of neglected dogs roaming wild in Shamattawa.
She said her letter sparked responses that overwhelmed her as much for the negative stereotypes they reflected as for positive offers of help.
"I'm trying to do a good deed. I didn't know it would be as controversial as it was," Furkalo said from the remote northern outpost. "I've gotten a lot of reactions. There are lots of people willing to help."
Seven people have offered to adopt dogs. "I've had responses from all over Manitoba, from across Canada."
Furkalo said the Winnipeg Humane Society has offered to fly in a spay-and-neuter clinic if she can raise $1,000 to pay for airfare for the vets and $25 per dog to be fixed.
She figures she's spent upwards of $2,000 feeding animals and deworming some of them. She's shipped seven dogs south since October at $80 per dog. "Max, a husky cross, went to Brandon. He was about four months old. Remi went to Portage. She was about three months."
Shamattawa is a fly-in Cree community 750 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The population of 1,400 people has an average income of $15,000 a year, and less than 200 people have a high school diploma, according to Indian Affairs.
Furkalo said she's doing her best to ignore stereotypes that fill feedback comments on media websites related to her appeal for help.
"There is a lot of negative light shed on northern communities," she said, adding it is true attitudes towards pets are vastly different on First Nations communities compared with southern suburbs. "I can understand the community's point of view. The dogs are seen as a nuisance."
The 23-year-old was transferred to Shamattawa at the end of September, her second posting with the RCMP. Her first was Gillam.
"The first thing I saw was the amount of animals. It was saddening," she said. Dogs occasionally attack kids, but not often, she said. For the most part, the dogs are not vicious.
"These are dogs that are hungry. You see them sitting beside houses. They want to be part of a family and they're all over town. There's no doubt, definitely, there are hundreds," Furkalo said.
The First Nation keeps conducts routine culls every three months. It's not a practice Furkalo supports. "I have a soft side for animals. I hope this is a positive project for them."