The Dogs at Kayenta

A recent series of posts from Susan R. Stoltz (Marshall’s savior) chronicles her experience with throngs of abandoned dogs in rural Arizona, and raises an obvious and pressing question:  What can be done to save these forgotten souls?

Part One: Burger King To The Rescue

As I drove through Kayenta, Arizona this past week I noticed something odd. As I passed the McDonalds clustered around the front was a group of about five or six dogs. Same with Burger King and the gas station. Each location had its own group of dogs hovering in the sunshine. With three of my own in the car I didn’t have the opportunity to do anything but get gas and keep traveling. On the way back through, however, I made some inquiries.

As I went pulled up to the window of Burger King’s drive-thru to get my Whopper Jr. I asked the gal at the window the story about all the dogs.

“They get dropped here from all over,” she said. “They’re all strays with no place to go.”

“Don’t you have a local shelter or rescue?” I asked.

“Nope, they are on their own here.” She pointed to a larger brown dog just across the drive by the gas station. “That one over there was hit by a car about two months ago. Nobody took it to a vet, that’s why it drags its back leg around.”

I looked at the dog she indicated and at the others sitting or walking about. There was an Aussie that was obviously nursing pups she had hidden someplace. The other six or so looked cold and rightly so. It was below freezing at 2:00 in the afternoon.

“Where do they go when the temperatures get cold?”

“Wherever they can find to get out of the wind. They are lucky if the kids use them for target practice. At least they’re put out of their misery,” she replied.

I was shocked not only by the plight of all these dogs, but by the casual way she talked about them being used for target practice. I pulled into the lot, got out and counted the dogs then went back into Burger King and bought a hamburger for each – the largest I could buy.

I walked out with the bag and all wary eyes were on me. There was snow on the ground but I imagined a good drink of water was also hard to come by. I got out the water bowls I always keep in my vehicle and filled them from the gallon I also haul with me. The dogs all looked at me, the injured one and the mother of pups kept to the back of the group. If they were going to get any food they’d need to be fed separately from the rest.

Unwrapping the burgers brought them all in closer, but still they were wary. I quickly threw all but two burgers further across the lot and approached the other two dogs. Setting the food in front of them I stepped back and they ate. My presence kept the rest of the pack away. When they finished I looked around. The others were drinking as if they hadn’t had a drink in weeks. I took one bowl over to the other two and let them drink also. The one that was struck by a car got up and wagged its tail and came close enough to let me stroke his head. He was dragging one leg behind him. The tears came as I sat there a minute giving this poor soul a bit of kindness. I’d have taken them all home with me if I could have but that was impossible. I wished I had a truck and trailer so that I could go back for them. I’d make it my mission to find some no-kill shelters for them, but those are hard to come by as more and more pets are abandoned.

I made some calls today to the state of Arizona. There was no shelter within 100 miles that was willing to go rescue these animals. I felt helpless and hopeless thinking of them out in the sub-freezing weather. My three were safe in Sandy’s care. They are among the lucky ones.

Part Two:The Dogs at Kayenta – The Story Continues

As I drove back through Kayenta, Arizona I was anxious to see how the pack of dogs was doing. I was particularly looking for the dog, I had now Christened ‘Fuzzyhead,’ that had been hit by the car. Hopefully he was still alive but I didn’t know what I would find.

As I drove into the Burger King there was twice the amount of dogs as before. Most of these dogs are big, as the small ones suffer greatly in the weather and from the pack. I parked at the back of the lot to take some photos. Crows were pecking at something in the weeds. I got out to look. It was a dead fawn colored Chihuahua that looked as if it had been torn to shreds. No doubt from the bigger dogs. I was ill. Had I seen this little fellow I would have swooped him up and taken him to a no kill shelter where I lived.

There was one poor creature right in front of the Burger King that looked as if he were dead. There was no way to miss him as you drove into the lot. I wondered how many people had ignored the plight of this poor animal. As I cautiously approached I could tell his breathing was labored, blood seeped from his mouth. He wouldn’t be long for this world. My throat was tight as I fought back tears of anger. That people could simply live with this and do nothing was beyond my comprehension.

I had come armed with a large 50lb bag of food. How to avoid the frenzy was my concern. There was no way I wanted to be part and parcel to a pack of starving dogs in a feeding frenzy. And these dogs were big. I got the bag out and poured a quarter of it on the pavement behind my car and quickly drove to the other corner of the lot. I did the same thing at all four corners. The dogs picked up my pattern after the second drop and were soon following my vehicle. They stayed politely out of the way and didn’t approach until I was in the car. In this manner I was able to keep the fighting for dominance at a minimum and the weaker dogs had half a chance.

I drove to the gas station across the street. There was Fuzzyhead being attacked by a huge brindle colored pit-bull. I drove close and honked the horn. The pitty let go and Fuzzyhead got up. As he limped back toward the station the pitty and two others attacked him again. I went close and yelled. They backed off once again. The other twenty or so customers looked at me as if I was crazy. I didn’t care.

Try as I might I couldn’t feed Fuzzyhead. The others attacked each time I set food out for him. I tried putting food further away for them, but no go. They came back every time. I decided to let it be. The more I tried to help the more trouble came his way.

Sadly I drove away. Hopefully when I came through again I could lend this poor dog a hand. I certainly would try.

Part Three: I Couldn’t Tell If He Was Alive

I approached Kayenta for the fourth time in less than fourteen days. I hadn’t been able to feed Fuzzyhead the last time and was wondering, with all the attacks from other dogs if he was still alive.

This time I played it smart. I knew Fuzzyhead wouldn’t venture far from his gas station because of his legs. He could now stand, but he did a funny hop and drag when moving forward. He seemed to know that crossing the street would be unwise.

I pulled into the Burger King across the street and got out with two smaller bags of dog food. There were dogs everywhere in the parking lot. Lying even in the middle of traffic I soon learned why. There was a group of older boys in the field, dogs were appearing out of the weeds as if the parking lot was a safe haven. I guess the kids couldn’t shoot into a lot full of customers. The dogs seemed to…

Part three concluded here.

Life With Dogs post end paw print


  1. I’m pretty sure Dogtown goes and pulls dogs from that area. I hope that more help will soon arrive!


  2. The OP Pack says on  01/18/2011 at 7:08 am

    OMD, what a horrible situation. Like Same we hope those pups got some permanent help.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  3. Ann Y says on  01/18/2011 at 11:17 am

    Where are the decent people in this area? Police? Allowing kids to shoot the dogs? My heart is breaking …

    • Anonymous says on  01/28/2015 at 4:09 am

      You haven’t heard the old lady killed by ferrarl dogs in monument valley, utah?

  4. The mom is wonderin, has Rescue Ink also been notified? How bout Ellen DeGeneres ?

    • Budrow Wilson says on  01/18/2011 at 12:58 pm

      Jake why don’t you contact hem and see…why sit and ask? Do it….if we all sit and ask if someone else has done anything instead of just doing it nothing happens and this situation gets worse and worse.

      • Hey Budrow, we has contacted Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano and The Eleen Show via twitter, we also posted to Rescue Ink and our own board on Facebook – our next step is our own blog to further the word. Big miracles take small steps sometimes but we as a group CAN make it happen!

  5. Tough to actually get in touch with people like Ellen even with connections. I have been in touch today with the local veterinarian – the community has tried to make an effort , new blog going up this afternoon about the difficulties they have encountered. DogTown has rescued from this area in 2004 so they’re familiar with the problem. Stay tuned!

  6. Marilyn says on  01/18/2011 at 12:07 pm

    This is just awful! I agree…..Dogtown or Ellen may be able to help….I am in Connecticut so I cant help much….just share and get the word out. Stories like this just break my heart….I cannot imagine people going to the Burger King or gas station and ignoring those animals! And the kids! dont they have parents who care what they are doing? What kind of humans are they……there isn’t even ONE who would do something? especially for the mom w pups and the injured one…..Oh I can’t stand it……

    • Budrow Wilson says on  01/18/2011 at 12:56 pm

      Marilyn don’t fool yourself there is PLENTY that you can do. You and ALL of us MUST contact the local politicians and SCREAM!!! SCREAM at the top of our voice until SOMETHING human is done. Just because you are not in the state doesn’t mean you are hopeless. Post on your facebook page for everyone to see and read. There is PLENTY that you can do.

      If anyone know of anybody in the media that can do there and do a news article we need to contact Alyssa Milano she is very into saving dogs in dire straights.

      • Marilyn says on  01/24/2011 at 9:06 am

        I am sharing…..posting…..and calling!! Thanks for your response!! I was not aware I could contact anyone in the town . I did however, know about the posting ….I do that alot for the animals everywhere. Getting the word spread is so important…..will make donation this week also.

  7. Budrow Wilson says on  01/18/2011 at 12:44 pm

    OMG my two-legger is crying harder than I have ever seen her…..

    How could people simply live with this and do nothing was beyond her comprehension.

    OMG!!!! This is just horrific!!!

  8. Budrow Wilson says on  01/18/2011 at 1:06 pm

    I am disheartened by all the posts of “Oh I can’t help I wish someone would step up and be a good citizen”

    My goodness it doesn’t matter what state you live in it doesn’t matter thayou don’t have any money, there is soo much that you can do. There are contacts that you have, family/friends that may know of someone in the media or animal advocacy or in politics. Geepers just by sharing on your facebook page can help.

    Come on people!!! You are Life With Dog fans we are better than those people out there in this AZ community are. LETS DO THIS AND GET THESE DOGS HELP! I know we have the fan base to get it done so let email the article to all our our contacts in our address book and start calling the politicians and DEMAND this change.

  9. Shanna says on  01/18/2011 at 5:35 pm

    Kayenta is on the reservation. That in itself is a huge problem. Best Friends has been working to try to bring humane education and veterinary care to the reservations for a number of years but it can be quite difficult to get cooperation from the people there. I would love to say more on this but probably couldn’t without starting drama and attitude so I’ll leave it there. I am familiar with the situation for the dogs in Kayenta, its been this way for many years and still goes unchanged.
    I had my own experience with a res dog when coming through Kayenta years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. I stopped at a convenience store and there was a female pit bull lieing next to the building trying to soak up sun in the cold. She was emaciated and had recently had puppies but there were no pups in sight. My husband and I went inside to buy drinks and when we went to pay for them we asked about the dog. Talk about HOSTILE! Good heavens!! The people working in the store immediately started yelling at us, grabbed the sodas off the counter and kept yelling at us to get out. We had a cooler with us and I had a package of Bologna in it so I dug it out and gave it to the dog. She gobbled it in one gulp and I gave her some water we had. She was very appreciative. My husband and I debated on whether or not to just take her but we were afraid she might have her pups stashed nearby. She wanted to come with us and it was one of the most difficult things that I did leaving her there in the parking lot. I’ve regretted it in many ways over the years. I’ve never forgotten her.
    It is my personal opinion that Kayenta is one of the true armpits of the US.:(

  10. I’ve found some help for the dogs, hopefully. This is a reservation, and being such we must go through proper channels to get these dogs help. I have spoken with the veterinarian in Kayenta – and believe it or not, the elders of this reservation approved the funds for a shelter. This is a phenomenal step forward for the area. Please go here and read about the struggle they have had since it opened in September of 2010 and how we can help. The vet is willing to do all she can with help to feed them and relocate, they are willing to help transport also. Their new facility is rife with problems that must be resolved before they can rescue any more animals. So – we have set up a fund, that has a donation link on the blog. Even $5.00 can add up quickly so if we all donate a small amount this can be achieved. I have agreed to work closely with the local vet there to coordinate care until we can relocate. Here’s the link to the new post about how we can all help!—Good-News–Bad-News.htm

  11. The Dogs At Kayenta, AZ – Good News, Bad News

    I had success today reaching Veterinarian Charletta Begaye. Dr. Begaye works at the new shelter recently built in Kayenta. She and I spoke at length about the problems with the dogs there. The issues are complicated but it all comes down to a couple of things – public awareness and funding

    New blog just posted about how we can help this community that is taking some good strides forward to bring about awareness and needs our help to go one step further. Fund has been set up today to help raise money to feed these dogs and relocate them! Follow the URL above!

  12. This breaks my heart. I know it’s just a small thing, but I’m going to share this on my blog to bring it to other people’s attention too.

  13. This story brought tears to my eyes, especially the part about the fawn colored chihuahua.

    I will hug my dogs a little tighter today and be grateful that I can provide them a place to live, plenty of food and lots and lots of love.

  14. You can also contribute by clicking on the Kayenta Dogs ‘chipin’ link on the sidebar to your right on this page. THanks Neil for putting it up for us! You and your readers rock!


  15. Shanna says on  01/18/2011 at 11:42 pm

    That is awesome Susan! It sounds like they are at least making an effort to start dealing with the situation. I’m sure that funding is a serious problem for them.
    We all need to share the link to donate, even if it is for only $5.00.

  16. Shanna says on  01/19/2011 at 12:37 pm

    Shared this on my Facebook page and sent the info to several local rescues who are known for helping out other shelters/rescues.

  17. Budrow Wilson says on  01/19/2011 at 1:11 pm

    All we could spare today is $10.00 but we did it. Lets save these dogs folks!

  18. Kudos to Susan for making us aware of the problem and sharing such heartfelt stories. Kudos to Neil for bringing it to his large and very vocal and active audience. And, kudos to Budrow for “acting” and “doing” vs. asking where he can help. My donation is made and I’ve shared on FB. Will also tweet Alyssa Milano and Ellen.

    Let us all be sensitive to a culture that was here before ours. We may not like how the animals are being treated, but that doesn’t mean we need to demean and belittle to bring about change. Let’s influence positively and proactively while being considerate of who lives in Kayenta or we could cause more trouble for these dogs out of our good intentions.

    Again Susan, thank you for all that you are doing.

  19. Shanna says on  01/22/2011 at 12:50 am

    I agree that being respectful will be necessary or assistance could be rejected out of pride. My previous post about the experience I had in Kayenta is a good example. It was years ago but all I did was ask if the dog belonged to anyone and I nearly got thrown out of the store on my ear. Many of the Native Americans view animals a bit differently than most of us do and some of it is based on their culture and just the circumstances of their lives on the reservation.
    I am a volunteer assistant to a Best Friends staff member. I have an email in to her to ask what BF is currently doing on the reservations and if there are any resources that could be offered to Dr. Begaye. She works more with the rescues and shelters than I do, I do more of the individual cases. I’m thinking she may know what rescues/shelters might be willing to take dogs. We work the 4-corner states so the staffers have access to resources and usually know what is available.
    I know of two rescues in western Colorado that might be willing to take dogs once in awhile. I know that one of them would take dogs from the Fredonia, AZ shelter from time to time so they might be willing to help out.
    I can also help some with transport in part of eastern UT and western CO if needed.

  20. Laura Comiskey says on  01/22/2011 at 1:30 am

    Donated what we are able. Now to repost the opp. for others to know about. Praying for a good outcome for all of these dogs.

  21. Thank you all for the generous donations. What is lovely about a system like this is that even a few dollars donated by many adds up in a hurry.

    I’m going to approach Murdoch’s and Petco today about getting some food donated! Wish me luck! :-)


  22. Kim says on  01/22/2011 at 12:01 pm

    My heart is breaking. I can only imagine how you felt, Susan, being there firsthand. Bless you for your efforts!

    I ChippedIn a little – wish it could be more. But collectively, I hope we can make a difference.

    Good luck with Murdoch’s & Petco!

  23. That is truly heartbreaking. I cannot understand how any human can act like that around a dog or another living creature. So it’s on a reservation…I get that part and I don’t know that much about the way they live but they are humans so I’ll leave it at that and go and donate some money to this horrible and tragic ongoing story. Debbie

  24. Shanna says on  01/22/2011 at 9:22 pm

    Susan, It is my understanding that you have already received resource information from BF. Lezlie shared emails with me and I hope that some of the information she sent will help.
    She did a very good job of explaining reservation life and the situation with these dogs. I was struggling with how to say it without sounding negative and critical.
    The reservations and the culture of the residents is quite different. Yes, we are all human but animals have a different place in their lives than for most of us. We don’t like it but we can’t force them to change it. Change is something residents of the reservations don’t like to embrace.

    • Anonymous says on  02/02/2011 at 3:41 pm

      I understand the need to be sensitive to other cultures, but i find it hard to believe (after ten years living on the navajo reservation) that this abuse/neglect is navajo culture. it is a culture of poverty. Navajo way is Walk in Beauty. i wish someone would explain to me how using dogs as target practice is walking in beauty….

  25. Shanna says on  01/22/2011 at 9:44 pm

    You might find this link interesting (and even amusing) but it might give you a picture of the differences in the Navajo life from ours. This is a list of “taboos” in their culture. Scroll down to the very bottom for dog taboos.;)

    Lots of other information on that site about their people and culture.

    Navajos generally take good care of their animals, mainly livestock that they use for food. Dogs are not as useful unless they are for herding.

  26. To all of you lovely people who donated money, I’m sending thank-you’s out today and my computer did something funky. I’m pretty computer savvy so I’m not certain what the problem is, but if some of you get multiple thank-you’s consider it me thanking you over and over again! :-)

    For those of you who haven’t read the blogs about these dogs, please do so if you can. I’ve spoken with Best Friends at length, and the blogs spell out some interesting barriers that we must deal with in rescuing these animals. Best Friends is well aware of their issues and has been working with Kayenta for many years on the matter, but are enthusiastic that I/we can help where perhaps they cannot.

    I spoke with a shelter in CO that may have a place for Fuzzyhead however, they are NOT a No-Kill shelter so we’d have to have an understanding with them before a dog was transferred there. I have also been given resources for a family that takes in wolf hybrid dogs, as there is one in the pack at Kayenta. I’m hoping to contact them tomorrow. The Petco manager has given me a number to call for donations of dog food, I will pursue that on Monday as well!

    Cheers and thanks again for all the help and support!


  27. Kayenta Dogs update:

    Dr. Begaye is locating Fuzzyhead now to pull in for an evaluation. She will call me as soon as she has him in the kennel. He wasn’t anywhere to be found yesterday and we’re hoping for the best. :-(

    The wolf-hybrid seen in the photo on the blog “I Couldn’t Tell If He Was Alive” has a home if we can round him up. A woman in Colorado runs a wolf sanctuary and she has said that she wants to take the animal even if it shows aggression. But like most wolves, he/she is elusive and isn’t always there when I drive by. So they’re going to keep their eyes out in the next few days and see if he’s spotted and make an attempt to capture. This is great news as that particular dog would have been the most difficult to place.

    When these two are finally captured and evaluated for relocation I’m going to begin looking for a home for the cattle dog shown on the right in the blog ‘Thanks So Much For Helping!’

    Going to pick up food at Petco before I leave for AZ myself on the 3rd.

    I’ll keep you updated! :-) Thanks again to all of you for making this possible.


  28. Darrell says on  02/11/2011 at 12:10 pm

    I often have to go to Kayenta for a week and work. I stay at the hotels and my heart always breaks for the dogs. I too get funny looks as i will give some food and water to the dogs. I recognize many of the dogs from your photos posted. A very sad situation in Kayenta.

  29. This surely makes perfect sense.

  30. Lisa says on  01/03/2013 at 11:19 pm

    I have been to Kayenta. It is heartbreaking. There is a group working there doing s/n. Have you contacted Shelby of Soul Dog Rescue? Maybe you two can work together to do more. Good luck and thank you for helping these poor dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.