Colorado Animal Rescue is a dangerous place, but only if you love cats and dogs. Visit the facility and you might come out with a new best friend.
Right now, 28 dogs and 80 cats live at CARE, a bright, airy, two-story building across County Road 114 from Colorado Mountain College's Spring Valley Campus. All of them are ready for adoption, and each one has a story.
Many were lost or strays. Others have been given up by their owners.
"Sometimes the animals come here because people are going through a divorce or their kids have allergies," explained Leslie Rockey, CARE director. "Or maybe they've lost their home or their job and they just don't have the money to keep an animal."
CARE has not necessarily taken in more animals since the recession hit in 2008, said Rockey, but more are coming in from people who are strapped.
Some animals have behavioral issues. Take Tamari (and CARE would love it if you did), a people-friendly pit-bull mix who has lived at CARE for about a year. She was a trade from the Longmont Humane Society, said Andrea Trombley, administrative assistant.
"Sometimes shelters trade animals if they've been in one shelter for awhile," she explained. "It gives them a chance for adoption someplace else."
Trombley doesn't know why Tamari ended up at the Longmont shelter and is mystified about why the dog is still at CARE. "Tamari is not a dog-park dog, but she's always really happy," she said.
Zoe, a brindle-colored, boxer-mastiff mix, is a divorce casualty. She has a sweet disposition but is a bit dominant with other dogs.
Uncle Fester, a 7-year-old lab mix who was found last month in front of City Market in Glenwood Springs, has separation anxiety.
"He needs to be with someone who is at home all day," Rockey explained.
Thomasina, an older, black and white "tuxedo" cat, returned to the shelter after her owner died and has been waiting for a home since March.
CARE has taken in goldfish, three of which reside swimmingly in a small aquarium on the front desk, goats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, and two pigs, including a pink piglet (think Babe), who fell from a truck and was hit by a car. CARE staff nursed him back to health and packed him off to Pigasus, a pig sanctuary in Mack.
"I was dedicated that he was not going to be bacon," said Rockey, who has been with CARE for 12 years.
Preventing animal homelessness
CARE's main mission is to provide safety and care for homeless animals and to educate pet owners. But Rockey's goal is to do what she can to prevent animal homelessness.
"We have a trainer who will come to your house to help with behavioral issues," she said. And, if you have to fix the animal to fix the problem, CARE will provide free spay and neuter services.
Rockey likes to think of CARE as an animal welfare center for the community. The staff provides spay, neuter, and microchip services, and training classes. Volunteers take care of animals on-site or foster animals at home.
Kids can also have birthday parties at CARE, complete with animals to play with and learn about. Rockey said it's critical for children to learn how to interact with companion animals.
"Some kids don't know that pulling the dog's ear is not a good thing or that your 8-year-old dog might not want to be ridden like a horse, because she's got arthritis," she explained. The parties teach kids how to handle animals safely and appropriately.
Students from Colorado Mountain College's Vet Tech Program also work with CARE animals, performing spay and neuter surgery, x-rays, blood testing, and more.
"They have different [experiential courses] throughout the year," explained Rockey. Results of student tests help CARE meet the animals' needs, which leads to better placements.
Rockey teaches classes for CMC's Shelter Management Certificate Program, in which students learn everything about running an animal shelter. Students also come over just to hang out.
"Some of them are far away from home and miss their own pets," said Rockey. "Our animals give them a little comfort."
CARE is always looking for donations of time, money, and supplies, as well as loving, permanent homes for their cats and dogs (and those three goldfish).
If you want a cat, now is the time to come up and choose one. Until Sunday, Nov. 18, any cat over nine months old can be yours for $9. All animals have been spayed or neutered and have their shots.
But be careful. The animals, with their wagging tails, soft eyes, and gentle purrs, are tempting. A reporter signed up to be a foster parent and will take Thomasina home this week.