Andrea Goodman strives for balance—balance as a full-time rancher, a mom to four children, and as founder of Oglala Pet Project (OPP)—a nonprofit dedicated to improving the well-being of animals on the reservation. She lives on a ranch in Kyle, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where she has been for almost 13 years with her family—Clancy (11), Callum (8), Cort (4), Claire (3), and husband Rob Goodman, who is the head biologist for the Oglala Tribe.
“Sometimes it’s hard to balance everything with the ranch, the kids, and Oglala Pet Project,” says Andrea. “I try to get what’s most important done that day and sometimes little things get put off—but as long as everyone is fed, dressed, and alive at the end of the day, it’s always good!”
Andrea grew up as a “city kid,” but now appreciates the wide-open spaces on her ranch. She can let her kids play outside, running around freely and giddily, with her only care being how much mud they will track in the house.
“I love the adventures the kids find outside, either with their animals or their sense of imagination,” says Andrea. “Living on the ranch, I love getting up every day knowing someone or something needs me. I love watching new life born in the spring. I also love the community that surrounds us, knowing that each of us has an impact on each other and whenever we need help, a neighbor or family member is close by.”
Andrea has always adored animals, dragging home strays as a child and volunteering as an adolescent at the Humane Society of the Black Hills in Rapid City.
“One of my first dogs with my husband was a feral one I caught in a live trap during a blizzard at our local grocery store,” explains Andrea. “He was almost hairless from mange, his body was a skeleton, and he couldn’t see because his eyes were matted shut.” That incident reminded Andrea that many other animals were also suffering, and she felt compelled to create Oglala Pet Project.
The official mission of OPP is to help community members care for their animals and improve the quality of life for pets through education, spay/neuter support, pet wellness assistance, and the re-homing or networking of abandoned, abused, or unwanted pets on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“We have no vets on the 2.2 million-acre reservation, and a lot of folks want to do good by their animals,” she says. “Combine that with no access to vehicles, funds being tight, and nowhere to take unwanted animals—the reservation needed something and someone to help make a difference.”
Andrea explained that a rural area vet clinic would come for one week during the summer to assist with wellness and spaying/neutering, but there weren’t resources available throughout the rest of the year. Her vision has been to make assistance more available on a consistent basis, and she has accomplished that goal with the support of her team of volunteers.
“We love when people or businesses run supply drives for food, blankets, treats, toys, collars, and kitty litter,” Andrea says. “Volunteers are always needed for our fall fundraiser, Sit, Stay, Sip – and at Christmastime we need businesses that will set up wish list trees. We host spay/neuter clinics here on the reservation, and we use volunteers for that. Sharing our posts on Facebook to try to help locate homes for these animals is also helpful!”
Andrea’s main goals for the future include continuing to provide humane education, a pet food bank, resources for spaying and neutering pets, pet wellness clinics to make basic pet care supplies available, and assistance with finding new homes for unwanted pets.
“I am still amazed at the support we have and the friendships I have made,” she says. “The sky is the limit as to what will develop in years to come.”
WORDS BY MOLLY BARARI
For more information about OPP and how you can get involved, visit oglalapetproject.org.