Because You Can SPWP Winner: 10 Reasons to Save Rez Dogs

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Written by Janelle “ecoaborijanelle” Pewapsconias (bio at the end )


Rez dogs remind us

In days long before the rez

The reservation, the patchwork

Before residential schools

Placement of invisible borders

Between our actions and our words

Rez dogs were our helpers


The role of a dog remind us of our ways of knowing

See, dogs were born of the wolf

Pack beasts following the lead

Their sacred setting the pace

Of elders and children

Their protectors to follow behind them


Traditions following kinship

Chose to be our little brother

Carrying our travois

Gentle reminders

Bundles of teachings

And reflections of ourselves


Be kind to our little brother

Compassionate to our kin

Dogs are our reminders







Rez dogs are a mystery

They are mixed in breeds of dog and resilience

Adorable, even when they’re ugly

Like a “box of chocolates”

You truly never know what rez dog you will get





Once a rez dog claims you, you are theirs now

If they like you, they decide if they want to stay

It was a process to train you

Beady little eyes, mean “you human, feed me”

Human listens

Rez dog claims them

Forgets the lifetimes before

Like it all happened for a reason

You were their reason

You are theirs now

Once a rez dog claims you





Rez dogs will always return

After they claim you

They claim your yard

Your car

The bush

The trash now strewn across the lawn

Everything, claimed

Until the end



They claimed you





Rez dogs are indestructible beasts


Billy Jack Terriers

With 9 lives

And true grit

Like, they will take this right paw

And put it across that left cheek

Like, they shaved last night

Woke up to a full beard

With fist instead of a chin

Rez dogs are terminators

Sent from the Ancestors

To save us from ourselves

Rez dogs say, “âstam with me if you want to live”

In languages of love, loyalty, and survivance

Rez dogs are almost indestructible





A rez dog is truly sovereign

One of a collective

Dog nation

Belonging only to each other

They say “fuck borders”

Honouring territories

Still living on the land

Showing us how to live

Truly living in both worlds

That matter

With Land

With Language

With Culture

A rez dog is sovereignty

Follow their lead






Our relationship to rez dogs is a reflection

Between ourselves

And our ways of being


Our relationship to our dogs

Speak to our pedagogies



Who we are is what we do

Not what we say


Cultural enthusiasm

Is easier

Than living the teachings

After the speech has ended

After the mic turns off

After the post stops trending





Rez dogs understand Indigenous languages

Hearing our ancestors

Better than we can

Rez dogs

Bark into cold nights

Stories and songs

In howls

And yips


Sending messages

Across multiple dimensions

And in multiple languages





All the dialects of Cree


Rez dogs perk their ears

Witness your energy


Reading between the lines

Knowing differences between saying “awas”

And meaning it


Rez dogs



A rez dog will be your medicine

When you are sick

Your comfort in your pain

Your laughter in the quiet

And the sweet in the sour

A rez dog is there for you

Thick and thin

A rez dog is medicine



A rez dog is our protector

The hero the rez deserves

Our silent guardian

Our watchful protector

Our bark knight




About the writer of 10 Reasons to Save Rez Dogs:


Janelle “ecoaborijanelle” Pewapsconias is a nehīyaw iskwew (she/her), single mother and Indigenous artist continuing the oral tradition and storytelling practice through poetry. Based in Little Pine First Nation, she is a mother to one brilliant, resilient, and hilarious 9 year old kid, and is a fur momma to one rez dog and 5 rez kitties. You can follow and support her artistic journey @ecoaborijanelle, @NeechimooseNovelties, and @NeechedUpGames on social media!

ecoaborijanelle’s poem, “10 Reasons Save Rez Dogs” highlights nehiyaw kinship teachings on rez dogs. She wants to draw attention to the Save Rez Dogs initiative, an Indigenous based grassroots call-to-action on ways we can help rez dogs. You can get more resource information to support their work, visit


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