GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - "This could happen to any of us." Among the cheerful crowd of dog owners waiting, leashes in hand, for their $15 bath and pedicure, this was the most frequent comment.
Many tossed an extra $5 or $10 into the pot, glad to be able to help another animal get needed medical care, and save another family from having to make difficult decisions on cost issues alone.
High Tails hosted the first Dog Wash Benefit for Dundee, the 9-year-old companion of Jenna Mitchell, who suffered from intractable and debilitating symptoms. Mitchell exhausted her savings before Dundee's tests produced a conclusive diagnosis, let alone a treatment plan.
On that Sunday in August, many volunteers took over the High Tails grooming room, making the fur (and water and suds!) fly in the three tub stations with their automatic shampoo mixers and forced air dryers.
In a little more than four hours, 63 dogs were cleaned up and manicured, and, with the extra donations that generous pet owners made beyond the $15 charge, nearly $1,500 was raised to cover Dundee's outstanding bills and further testing.
The huge outpouring of support and the enthusiasm of the dog owners who came for the spa treatment has astonished everyone.
Sadly, Dundee died before a firm diagnosis was established - most probably from an unusual form of cancer. But Mitchell and her husband, James, wanted to "pay it forward," and made the commitment to undertake the organizing of a permanent fund, in collaboration with High Tails.
The idea of setting aside the first Sunday of each month for a benefit dog wash for pets in need became a reality.
Since that first event in August, the fund has:
• Paid down the cancer surgery bill and follow-up care for Eco, a dog whose owner has been unemployed.
• Purchased a wheelchair for Rosie, a little beagle who became suddenly paraplegic from a hereditary disk disease.
• Covered essential diagnostic work for Ty, establishing his lymphoma diagnosis.
On Jan. 6, we will raise funds for Moon, a dog with multiple allergies and a severe reaction to some of her treatments.
Since the first event we've been growing in support. Volunteers include the pet parents of the dogs benefiting, as well as local vet techs, shelter workers, groomers and others.
Photographer Mike Bauer has donated half the proceeds from his holiday pet portraits to the fund. An account has been set up at Alpine Bank to which folks can donate directly, any time.
Others plan to present fun and interesting activities for the dogs and owners while they await their baths - the wait can be 45 to 60 minutes - and local businesses and individuals are thinking up other ideas to increase donations.
Organizers say that the bath is not appropriate for dogs who need professional grooming due to matted coats, so some local groomers have agreed that if someone has paid $15 to the fund for a dog that can't be accommodated due to the limitations of the event, they will subtract $15 from the cost of grooming at their salons. After all, the needs are large and the number of dogs that can be washed in four hours in three tubs may be impressive but is still finite.
The $15 Dog Wash Benefit is now a fixture at High Tails on the first Sunday of every month, from noon to 4 pm.
It's a simple idea: Dog owners get a bargain bath and nail trim for their pets, a chance to help an animal in need, and the reassurance of knowing other pet lovers would have their back if a medical dilemma should ever happen to them.
For more information, contact High Tails at 947-0014.