Richard Stengel: Menodae

Richard with two buddies

Richard with two buddies

Richard met his Metis partner, Jesse, in a small First Nations fly-in community named Neskantaga (Lansdowne House), north of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“We live on 250 acres that edge the Canadian Shield near Sturgeon Falls.  On our land we plant five acres of organic produce, raised bed method, 16 feet long, 4 feet wide, 2 feet high. With open fields, thick mixed forests and a creek running through it, the property was chosen to provide a healthy environment for us humans and our canine friends. Our house is situated at the end of a road, surrounded by land locked Crown property on two sides. 

 In the hot summer of 2001, Wabi  (Aboriginal for “she sees”), our 10 year old Husky-cross’s heart gave out from heat stroke.  Her death created a big hole in our family; we were devastated.


Later that year we heard about a young black Lab-cross that had grown up in an abusive home where she had grown to fear men.  She was called Hannah, but as was our custom, we provided our new dog with a unique Aboriginal name that would set her apart.  Hannah became Menodae – Ojibway for “good or kind hearted”.  We loved her sweet heart and welcomed her into our home.  I worked hard to win her trust. 


For a time Menodae remained skittish, jumping up and fleeing a room at the sound of any loud noise and keeping a significant distance whenever a broom or shovel was picked up.  Her left ear was always cocked to attend to any distant sounds implying danger.  Over the course of the next year she gained confidence and began to trust us.  She still remained wary of strangers, particularly men, circling them and barking loudly.


Menodae wasn’t our only dog.  We also had a 19 year old Corgi cross and a 15 year old Rottweiler cross.  In the fall of 2002, we’d had to make the hard decision to euthanise our much loved, very old and frail friends Wagoosh  and Tdibka.  Including Wabi, the Husky cross, we had lost three of our best dog friends in little more than a year. 


In the Spring of 2003, we found two other dogs needing help at the Bear Creek Animal Rescue Shelter.  Lady, a young Fox Hound/Walker Hound-cross which we named Nindo (In Quest of), became Menodae’s best buddy, and added a cheerful yipping voice to our walks.   Chum, a larger Black Lab-cross yearling, desperate for a home and yet to earn his Aboriginal name, joined us late in 2003.  These youngsters became an unbeatable force.  The three musketeers were always rough housing in front yard or chasing rabbits in our back woods.  We could regularly here the sharp yips and high pitched howls of the young hound, accompanied by the short sharp barks of the Labs. After an hour of so of chasing rabbits in our woods, they would return home for rest and attention.


2003’s winter was mild.  We were into December, but with only a few centimetres of snow cover.  The days and nights were unseasonably warm.  On the afternoon of December 11th Menodae and her Lab buddies walked with Jesse and me on our wooded trails.  The three, young’uns caught scent of a fast moving rabbit, and the game was afoot. We returned home hearing their yips echoing far back through the woods.  Late in the afternoon, as the sun disappeared, first Chum, then Nindo returned home.                







But no Menodae.  Something was wrong.   Menodae, the elder Musketeer, was always the first one back from adventures.  She had become very attached to us and her home.  Darkness set in and we called for her with increasing urgency.


Unfortunately, this turned out to be the eve of the first really cold night of the winter with overnight wind chills forecast to be -27C.  We were very concerned for our gentle friend.  Midnight found us out with flashlights calling her name.  The next day was spent searching the far reaches of our land. We contacted neighbours in case she had wandered too far and been spotted on the roads of the community.  There was no sign of her.  Over the next few weeks we continued the search, calling until our voices were hoarse.  We made up posters and notified all our neighbours.  They took up the cause, passing the word around the community and helping keep an eye out for our missing friend. We posted announcements in the local radio station and the North Bay Nugget newspaper in case she’d been picked up by a stranger.                                                                 


After two weeks we could not see how our gentle friend could have survived.  We thought she must have fallen through the thin ice on our creek and been unable to get herself out.  Our Christmas was a time of sorrow.  Jesse travelled to Toronto to spend Christmas with her family as earlier planned, deeply distressed by our horrible loss and the not knowing.  I spent Christmas at home with a good friend and Menodae’s buddies, Chum and Nindo.  It felt like a part of our hearts had been torn out by this unexpected loss of our gentle spirit.  It seemed so unfair.  She’d found a safe and comfortable home with us only to be taken away within a short time. 


On December 30th, about 8 o’clock at night, Nindo and Chum and another dog we had, a Shepherd-cross, were in the back yard barking incessantly.  I thought they were barking at the coyotes, often heard howling late at night on the ridge beyond our property.  I called to them both to come in.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw that one of the dogs was moving slowly out of our implement shed.  I looked in the house, and did a head count.  I concluded that the dog emerging from the shed must be Takuk, our Shepherd  cross.  I called her name, but the dog didn’t respond although it continued moving towards the house.  The dog climbed our steps…and ran into the house. It was not a Shepherd, but a Black Lab mix….


I was shocked !  Menodae had run into the house and hopped up on the couch.  I could not believe it.  In fact, for a moment I wondered if she was a ghost.  I ran to her.  She was breathing hard and wheezing.  Her face was swollen up.  There was a 2 inch slash all around her neck with skin hanging down loosely from it and I could see her windpipe showing through the gash.  A closer look revealed a cable cinched deeply into her neck.  She’d been snared. Her throat had been opened up from the abrasion when she’d fought to escape.  The cable that had anchored the snare showed signs of having been twisted back and forth before breaking.  She had obviously worked hard to free herself for some time.  Poor Menodae, she was in a bad way now, badly infected.  She’d lost a lot of blood and body weight.

I fought to remain composed during these first unbelievable minutes and scrambled around looking for cutting pliers to cut the snare to relieve pressure from her neck. This helped, but part of the snare was still embedded in her flesh.  She needed attention for the cut and the infection.


I telephoned Jesse who was still visiting down in Toronto.  She burst into tears and that helped me to remain calm and get help. I contacted the emergency number for our local vet at the Springer Animal Hospital.  Dr. Richard Sampson agreed to meet me even though the clinic was technically closed for the holidays.  I bundled Menodae up and raced over.  Dr. Sampson was wonderful.  First he calmed me down and then worked quickly and effectively to clean out the wound and get antibiotics into Meno.  He advised me that he had seen worse and that she had a good chance of survival.  Menodae stayed at the clinic sedated and on medication while I returned home to call Jesse with the hopeful prognosis.  Jesse burst into tears again.  


The next day Menodae returned home to allow for natural healing of the wound which was what we all wanted before considering surgery.  Dr. Sampson wanted her to build up her strength.  I cleaned her wound daily and fed her the antibiotics.  She didn’t eat much for the first few days.  She didn’t seem to want to eat from her bowl at all, in fact, but would eat straight out of my hand.  I realized later that she didn’t want to put her snout into the bowl; the last time she’d put her head into a circle it had caused her a lot of aggravation.


Menodae did need several operations. While gone, she lost twenty lbs.  In due time she put thirty back on.  Her left eye, permanently damaged by the pressure of the snare and the infection, droops now.  The inner protective eyelid rolls up and covers two thirds of the eye and Dr. Sampson believes the optic nerves were damaged.  Four infected teeth had to be removed. She has a large scar all around her neck and some saggy flesh, but for the most part she looks normal.  Most importantly, she was back in her home and her spirits were great!  If anything, her confidence had increased, and she had become a stronger dog.  She loved her food, and protected her food bowl more aggressively than ever.


Menodae’s ordeal was been a miracle for us.  She was gone for 19 days.  Vets have estimated that she was probably only in the snare for 3 or 4 days because she couldn’t have survived much longer.  But where was she for the other 15 days?  We have known dogs before who’ve been caught in snares and who remained still for days before being released.  I’m thinking that Menodae kept still for many days before becoming desperate enough to struggle for freedom.

Snares and trapping are part of northern life.  Trappers are for the most part very responsible, regularly checking their traps, and considerate of animal welfare and suffering.  They have to live in harmony with nature, taking what nature provides to maintain a meagre living.  I do not believe that Menodae’s trapping was the result of cruelty or excessive negligence.  I think it was an accident.  The type of snare she was caught in is an older type and likely missed when a trapper picked up his traps in the Spring several years ago.   Snares used today are regulated to use a locking device that quickly kills the snared animal.  The snare that caught Menodae did not have this type of mechanism and that is probably what saved the dog’s life.  I’m convinced that Menodae just happened to run into it and luckily she was able to fight her way out.  


With Menodae now back in our lives we frequently have cause to re-think our life challenges.  When things get tough, and we want to give up on something, we think of Menodae’s courage.  She did not give up, she fought on and she came home.”


Written by Richard Stengel


I last spoke with Richard in 2005 when my plan for these stories was to compile a book, long before I thought of turning them into a blog.  During the process of contacting the original contributors I received a message back from Richard’s partner, Jesse, who told me the distressing news that Richard had been run over by a drunk driver in 2006.  He died instantly.

Richard worked for Environment Canada, starting out as a Weather Observer, later a Technical Inspection Manager of Aviation Weather Standards.

Menodae  mourned him deeply, searching for him for months.  Jesse continues to look after Menodae and several other dogs, old and new additions. Good Dogs Canada sends her our thoughts, condolence and admiration.


2 Responses to “Richard Stengel: Menodae”

  • Nicole Crozier says:

    The story about Menodae is incredible. I felt so many things during the short course of reading it – stressed and sad and angry and sentimental. But what really got me was the Footnote revealing Richard’s death.

    This story about a distant place, about a different kind of life – I live in the city and have a cat – really touched me and I’m glad that I read it.

    thank you Alexa.

  • Being a brand new dog owner I value all the details here. I would like my furry friend to be very well trained and have a healthful atmosphere to live in. Many thanks for the information.

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