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 beloved shelter mutts on a Sunday morning walk to explore the riparian zone and look at birds. One of those mutts – a sweet border collie named Cupcake - had been rescued from a bad situation in Deer Lodge several months earlier and nursed back to health. On that fateful morning, Cupcake, only feet from his owner, was killed by a beaver trap. The trauma of trying to rescue his dog and having him expire in his arms set our founder on a path, which would ultimately, many years later, lead to ARC.
Instead of letting anger consume him, our founder consciously 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 lovers to attribute the plight of these very special canines to people who ostensibly “don’t care.” He didn’t quite feel things the same way, and he 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 therapy 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, which left him unemployed and searching for something new, our founder suddenly found a job announcement for an Executive Director position at the Mission Valley Animal Shelter (MVAS) on the Flathead Reservation. The thought of his project never crossed his mind at the time, but the opportunity seemed ideal. Never would he have imagined the amazing stories and relationships that 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 befriended a lady who was in a desperate situation, needing help with her dog, who limped around the streets dodging traffic. Rehoming him was not a good option, because her young son was very bonded with the pooch. Our founder helped the family for some time only to learn shortly thereafter that the boy had committed suicide. This event was a real shock. Not only did it reaffirm a commitment to help people and 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 possibilities of ARC. Pieces have begun to fall into place. ARC was incorporated in early August 2019. A project proposal has taken shape. A logo and website were conceived. A work plan has been drafted and the early steps implemented. Fiscal sponsorship and grant development are imminent. Nonprofit status application on the horizon. Board member recruitment is in full swing. Initial discussions with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have inspired interest and potential for working together. Many friends, past beneficiaries, coworkers and supporters, wonderful people from the Flathead Reservation’s Tribal community, and many newly inspired by ARC’s vision have gotten excited about the opportunity to be involved in something that can make a powerful difference for both people and animals where needs are real and pressing. Getting started with a brand-new project is always a challenge, but given ARC’s mission, the path forward is clear and promising.
ARC’s plans and projects have been very much inspired by listening to people’s stories, experiences and pleas. The specific goals correspond to immediate and pressing needs and are not only embraced by but also shaped by the people who call the Flathead Reservation their home. Reservation community leaders and members have expressed that their needs are NOW! Urgent issues with animals – many concerning basic safety - are confronting the community on a daily basis. The 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. Adopt Bylaws and submit Form 1023 for 501c3 status – by September 30
2. Launch internships at Salish Kootenai College and the University of Montana - fall 2019
3. Secure first grant funding by the end of August
4. Land lease negotiations – Fall 2019
4. Outreach with CSKT and Lake County law enforcement about potential collaboration – winter 2019
5. Technology systems development
5. Secure commitments for $50K by end of 2019
Winter 2019/Spring 2020 - Foundations for Spay/Neuter Taskforce: negotiations and outreach with veterinary providers, regional taskforces, etc.
2020 - Program development phase for POG and RCHE, Negotiations for barn structure for initial animal/services facility, grant development (end-of-year goal: $500,000 in grant commitments), early site development, inaugural banquet and Bow-Wow, hire PT Development Assistant, social media intern, PT Admin Assistant, PT S/N program coordinator
2021 - recruit & train interns for clinical psych and canine behaviorist, site preparation, launch pilot programs for POG and RCHE, first mobile S/N clinics, barn structure installation and adaptation, hire PT RCHE Coordinator, 2nd annual events, first steps toward a future permanent facility, end-of-year dev. goal $2 mil.
2022 – launch full RCHE program (including SEL curriculum), transition PT RCHE Coordinator to FT Dir, hire clinical psych, canine behaviorist/trainer, PT vet, first on-site S/N clinics, first summer camp for kids, end-of-year dev. goal $3mil.