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Day in the Life: State Director Darci Adams

Adams rescues near-death dog

  • Cante was rescued from near-death last winter. Darci Adams

  • Cante was rescued from near-death last winter. Darci Adams

  • Cante was rescued from near-death last winter. Darci Adams

  • Cante was rescued from near-death last winter. Darci Adams

Most days HSUS state directors are juggling efforts to pass local and state laws to protect animals, promoting emergency and disaster preparedness, and representing The HSUS in local media. But our state directors are notorious for their big hearts, and when they see an opportunity to help an animal or animals in a tight spot—even when that's outside their job description—they usually can't pass it up. Here's one of their stories.

by Julie Hauserman

It took three months of patient work, but the rescued pup who is staying at Darci Adam’s place in South Dakota recently reached a milestone: For the first time, he was brave enough to take a treat from Adams’ hand.

This dog beat long odds to get where he is now, and without Adams and other compassionate volunteers at South Dakota’s remote Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, he would be dead.

“He’s a little miracle,” says Adams, South Dakota state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Socially, it’s taking him a little while to come around. We’re fairly certain he was abused. He does not like to be touched.”

In addition to her busy job at The HSUS, Adams has been volunteering for years to help animals at Pine Ridge Reservation, an impoverished place where packs of skinny dogs run loose and breed at will.  In winter, too many dogs on the two-million acre reservation freeze to death. Preventable health problems like distemper, parvo and mange are rampant.

Adams was on official duty for The HSUS in November 2010, driving after a meeting about five hours from her home. As she traveled through the remote countryside, she got a call from the Oglala Pet Project, a rescue organization at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The volunteer on the phone told Adams that they had found a young dog who was near death. To escape freezing wind and pelting snow, he had collapsed inside an un-baited live trap that volunteers had set out to catch another stray.

“He couldn't open his eyes and could barely walk, he was covered in mange, had almost no fur, and was skin and bones,” says Adams.

Volunteers at the reservation got him inside a trailer and put him on a heating blanket. Gradually, he was able to eat and drink a little, but then he’d collapse again. This dog needed treatment. But sadly, there isn’t a single veterinarian available on the sprawling reservation.

In the summers, The HSUS’ affiliate, the non profit Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association Field Services,  provides a week-long spay/neuter and wellness clinic for dogs, cats and horses at Pine Ridge. But this was winter, and the options for this pup were few.

“The local rescue group had no place to house such a sick dog because they have no facility, and most dogs on the reservation live outside,” Adams said.

Adams—who ran a pit bull rescue operation for a decade—knew she had to help.

“I ultimately decided I would foster him for the group, and get him to a vet,” Adams said. “I didn't believe he would survive, but I promised to try.”

“Because of his will to live, his name is Cante (pronounced chun-tay), which means ‘heart’ in the Lakota language,” Adams said. “The Oglala Pet Project volunteers often see dogs in this condition, but they have not seen one so determined to live. They believe it was fate I was driving through their reservation that day. I am quite honored to have had the opportunity to witness this amazing recovery.”

These days, Cante is physically healed but socially nervous, Adams said. He cautiously watches when Adams’ old yellow lab, Marli, gets petting and attention.

“It’s neat to see Cante watch and learn how to trust people,” she said. “Cante watches me pet Marli and watches her tail wag.”

“I hope he will be available for adoption soon,” she says. “He will need a very special home, preferably a home with a very social dog who can help put him at ease around people.”