On the surface, the Great Recession seems to have eased in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, but Basalt-area resident Ollie Bode is proof positive that economic chaos is still tormenting people.
If architects and construction workers were among the first to feel the recession's sting, then Bode and other providers of discretionary services are fighting it out in the trenches now. Bode has operated Alpine Meadow Kennel, an overnight boarding the daycare for dogs, for nearly 20 years. She survived the first three years of the recession by belt tightening but finally was hit with a "nosedive" in 2012.
Her vast roll of customers suddenly dried up. "A lot of people couldn't afford to board and travel," Bode said. More dog owners turned to friends and neighbors to watch after Fido while they were gone. More hotels are taking pets. Some of her clients replaced their big dogs with smaller breeds and didn't need help looking after them.
For a variety of reasons, her revenues crashed, her bills mounted and she fell behind in her mortgage. It appeared her lender was prepared to restructure her loan when she was informed at the end of 2012 that she was in foreclosure.
"The first reaction is fear and panic," Bode said. She couldn't help but feel a sense of failure - that everything she had worked so hard for was crumbling. For single woman in her 60s - attached to her property with a greenhouse, gardens, a pasture, a substantial chicken coop and a kennel - it was a bleak prospect. Suddenly, a woman who has spent her lifetime rallying to help others - both the two- and four-legged variety - needs help.
Bode has been someone who always made the best of any situation, regardless of circumstances, said Lisa Johnson, Bode's friend of the last 10 years.
"She's got that cowboy attitude - no bitching, no complaining, no whining," Johnson said.
Bode had her ranch up for sale one year ago. She planned to move to Paonia and spend her time gardening and sharpening her water color painting skills. She decided against a sale, realizing her heart was at Alpine Meadow.
But she's going to lose the land if she doesn't pay her lender $45,000 by May 1.
"I couldn't think of anything to do but put it out to the community," Bode said. She, Johnson and others have organized a benefit fundraiser on Sunday, April 14 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Gathering Center at The Orchard in Carbondale. They are selling $20 tickets to a raffle that will include prizes such as one year's supply of dog food from RJ Paddywacks pet store in El Jebel; a canvas photo by professional photographer Jackie Daly; a frozen turkey raised on Bode's ranch; dog training lessons by Johnson; a Tiffany reproduction lamp; and one of Bode's signature cheese cakes, a frequent winner at Carbondale Mountain Fair. Raffle tickets are available at RJ Paddywacks.
Donations can be made to the Alpine Meadow Kennel Fund at Bank of Colorado. Credit cards donations can also be made at RJ Paddywacks and Basalt Thrift Store.
Raising the funds in 30 days sounds like a daunting challenge until pondering how many lives Bode has touched. She's provided affordable, reliable dog care for hundreds if not thousands of customers over 20 years. She's boarded and adopted out at least 500 dogs for Animal Rescue Foundation and other rescue groups. She's always had a room to rent in her house for people who were caught in tough circumstances. Any animal is welcome. (Cher, a duck, has waddled on the ranch for 18 years.)
Johnson said the goal of Bode's friends is to reach out to those hundreds of people Bode has helped and alert them to her dire situation. "I'm hoping all the kindness comes back around," Johnson said.
If the funds can be raised, Bode said it will bring her current on payments, cease the foreclosure and buy time to work on a restructured loan.
As word gets around about her circumstances, it's amazing how many people confide that they, too, are facing tough financial times, she said. For Bode, it's a humbling experience.
"I've never been one to ask people for help," she said. "I always went out and found a solution. But now, I need help."