Desert Animal Companions of the Navajo Nation


RUFF, Reservations Unwanted Four-Footed Friends

What is RUFF?

R.U.F.F. is a not-for-profit coalition of teachers, students, volunteers, and pets... (as distinguished from animals), organized for establishing homes for the Reservations Unwanted Four-footed Friends. ( R.U.F.F.).

Other goals for the group include (but not exclusive to):

  1. Teaching responsibility to students and parents alike.
  2. Extracting positive behavior from students as motivation and incentive where conventional methods have failed.
  3. Teaching and incorporating self-esteem where all else have failed.
  4. Ridding the reservation of stray dogs and cats (hypothetically-long range).
  5. Using a natural catalyst... (puppies and kittens!) to extrapolate the expression of feelings and emotions which would otherwise be harbored or unexpressed by the child. (obvious psychological benefits)
  6. Rallying the class (as a cohesive group) to work for a common goal they value.
  7. Writing daily journal entries about their pets (journal notes are used to write a report to be submitted for prizes, which enhance program).

This is all neat stuff... but expensive when you figure that these pets all receive shots, proper food and care etc., (T.L.C.!) before they are ever placed.

The kids receive a healthy pet... not a stray!

The good is apparent.

RUFF Curriculum

RUFF has developed 36 units of curriculum. Some of the units are available here, and more will be added as they become available. These are in Adobe Acrobat format. (Download Acrobat Reader here). You can open them in the browser, or download them to your computer.

Article about RUFF

Following is an excerpt from an article in the Indian Health Service Primary Care Provider, November, 1995, about the RUFF program, by Ted Fadler.

Humane Education

Chinle, Arizona.    When the author came to the Chinle Primary School on the Navajo Reservation to become its principal, one of the things he and his wife, Susan Fadler, noticed was the number of stray dogs and cats in the community, many of them unhealthy and malnourished. Within two years the author and his wife had developed a program called RUFF (Reservation's Unwanted Four-footed Friends), a nonprofit coalition of teachers, students, veterinarians, and volunteers. They encouraged the community to become involved. A place was found to shelter homeless animals deemed adoptable. Funding and donations were obtained to provide low or no cost spaying and neutering and medications.
      The purpose of this program has broadened from finding homes for unwanted animals into a comprehensive teaching and learning experience. Moving from the original focus of sheltering unwanted animals, the author and his wife took the opportunity to educate children about the care of animals, and introduced the program into the classroom. They saw students become motivated to write when they focused on something they cared about: animals. The children in the special education classes were included as well. Mrs. Fadler states, "Taking care of abandoned animals creates a point of identification for the children in special education, some of whom come from difficult home situations. One young boy asked, 'Do dogs suffer child abuse?' For children who are withdrawn or lacking in self-esteem, the RUFF program brings them a weekly dose of healing love."
      Susan Thomas, a counselor at Chinle Elementary School, says, "The students are receiving many benefits emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. They are learning to appreciate all living creatures." Lori Hillman, who was a fifth grade teacher at the school, adds that as well as teaching kindness to animals, the RUFF program benefits children academically.
      Thirty-six thematic units have been written that integrate animals and the Navajo culture and language into the school curriculum; this has been done by creating stories about a fictional Navajo child, Willie Chee, one story for each of the 36 units. Marjorie Thomas, who serves as associate superintendent for Diné Studies for the Chinle School District through the Dean C. Jackson Cultural Center, provided the correct Navajo language for the RUFF curriculum. When in doubt about a cultural translation, Marjorie has had a wealth of traditional experts to call upon, including traditional medicine men and women.
      One such elder is Mike Mitchell who has provided the traditional narrative to the Willie Chee stories that accompany the teacher lesson plans. In the RUFF program, the children are encouraged to keep journals of their experiences with the animals. They write letters to their local newspaper and to their congressional representative to express opinions on issues that affect animals, and their creative writing often has an animal theme.
      Reading, a skill that correlates highly with future success in school, is more interesting when students are excited about the subject. The students' enthusiasm for the RUFF project leads them to borrow and read books from the school library about how to take care of animals. Not only are these students reading more, their comprehension has improved, as evident in their conversations.
      The RUFF program has also been successful in getting parents and other community members involved. Community members with specialized knowledge volunteer their expertise both in and out of the classrooms. In addition, adoption activities in the RUFF program have resulted in over 750 pets finding new homes in the Chinle area from 1991 through 1994. Adoption of pets by children requires a parent to sign an agreement. Animal care information is provided for the parent and child. Activities, such as dog shows, are held for families to share their acquired knowledge with others in the community. Kim Draper, DVM, Chinle Veterinary Clinic, says, "All life is sacred. Many of our Indian prayers include animals, are about animals, or are to animals. Programs like the RUFF program are good because they teach children our ways. Because of the RUFF program, I have seen children walk to the clinic with their animals to get vaccinations because 'Ms. Fadler said so.'"

While every effort has been made to insure reliable and accurate information, any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of the webmaster, Rose Z. Moonwater.