ARC’s story begins on Sunday March 4, 2007 at the Valley of the Moon Recreation Area along Rock Creek near Missoula. On that day, ARC’s founder took his two shelter mutts on a Sunday morning walk. On that fateful morning, Cupcake was killed by a beaver trap. The trauma of trying to rescue his dog set our founder on a path, which would ultimately, many years later, lead to ARC.
ARC's founder sought healing through employment at the Humane Society of Western Montana, where he strived to help other animals and people. It was there that he had his first encounters with what others around him were calling “Rez Dogs.” He noticed the occasional tendency of some animal advocates to attribute the plight of these very special canines to indifference and cruelty in Tribal communities. He didn’t quite feel the same way, recognizing there was more to the story. He also recognized that these dogs held a special, gentle power. His experiences were already inspiring thoughts about the links between helping people and animals.
Shortly thereafter, our founder was recruited to be the Executive Director for a fledgling nonprofit working to reform trapping regulations in Montana. During this time, while thinking about the confluence of funding, strategic planning, and mission-driven marketing, he spontaneously jotted down a project idea of creating a sanctuary on a Native American Reservation that would rescue dogs while providing healing to people. He had no idea where, how, when, or whether this idea would ever come to life, but it seemed like a good idea.
Some years later, having just finished a short stint as an Animal Control Officer, our founder found a job ad for an ED position with the Mission Valley Animal Shelter (MVAS) on the Flathead Reservation. He never imagined the amazing stories and relationships that would grew out of his time on the Reservation. And he certainly could not have predicted that, upon finishing his time with MVAS, the project that he had long since filed away in the dustbin would suddenly find a place, a time, a purpose, and an amazing community of support.
Our founder witnessed much while doing grassroots rescue work on the streets of hard-hit reservation neighborhoods. In one of these neighborhoods he met Gunner (a Reservation mutt with an endearing underbite and deformed leg) and his human family. Gunner’s owner was a single mother living in poverty who faced a difficult situation and sought help for her dog, who limped around the streets dodging traffic. Rehoming was not a good option, because the mother's ten-year-old son had a strong bond with Gunner and relied on his companionship. Help was arranged, but, tragically, shortly thereafter the ten-year-old boy took his own life. This event was a real shock. Not only did it reaffirm a commitment to confront the inevitable links behind animal and human trauma on the Reservation, but it also spurred a realization that it was time to dig that old project out of the dustbin.
Since October 2018, many discussions have taken place with amazing people about the extraordinary potential of ARC. Pieces began to fall into place. ARC was incorporated in early August 2019. Bylaws drawn up. A project proposal took shape. A logo and website were conceived. A work plan was drafted and the early steps implemented. ARC initially served as a fiscally sponsored subsidiary program of the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center (now known as the All Nations Health Center), but gained its own 501(c)3 status in November 2019 and launched independent operations in January 2020. A fabulous, Tribal-majority Board of Directors was recruited. Initial discussions with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) inspired interest in collaboration. In early 2020 ARC applied for and was awarded two year-long Americorps VISTA positions who have since worked hard to develop the young organization's capacity. Plans for launching ARC's pilot programs and fundraising events in 2020 were postponed due to Covid-19, but those plans are front-and-center in 2021.
ARC’s plans and projects have been inspired by listening to people’s stories. Our specific goals correspond to immediate and pressing needs. The S&K Tribes have contemplated a new Animal Ordinance, but they’ve been stifled by the absence of a facility or readily available enforcement mechanisms. Communities are facing challenges including substance abuse and child suicide. These problems have inspired heroic efforts from amazing community members, examples including The Warrior Movement, the Lake County Drug Court, Safe Harbor, and MVAS’s Advisory Councils on Community Canines. But more help is needed.
1. Launch ARC Critter Camp for disadvantaged Reservation youth (August 2021)
2. Hold our inaugural Spay/Neuter clinic on the Reservation (September 2021)
3. Launch a Digital Story Telling Internship at Salish Kootenai College (Summer 2021)
4. Reach our Missoula Gives 2021 fundraising goal of $10,000 (May 2021)
5. Set up institutional HR systems and hire PT ED
6. Launch land lease negotiations with CSKT (May 2021)
7. Secure at least $50K in grant funding by end of 2021
8. Hold our inaugural fundraising ARC Banquet (November 2021)
9. SEL Curriculum Adaptation
2022 - Program development phase for POG and RCHE, offer three S/N clinics, expand summer Critter Camp to two offerings, early site development (animal holding areas and therapy village), grant development, inaugural Bow-Wow, 2nd annual banquet, hire PT Development Assistant, recruit & train POG community liaisons, RCHE interns for clinical psych and PT canine behaviorist, launch pilot programs for POG and RCHE, secure funding for PT positions to lead pilot programs in all three areas, develop partnerships with schools in three communities (St Ignatius, Arlee, and Ronan)
2023 – hire necessary personnel, launch rest of RCHE program (including full SEL curriculum), offer six S/N clinics, work with CSKT to develop POG capacity for potential Tribal Animal Ordinance, launch Capital Campaign for ARC facility