Puppies and poop: That’s life for the manager of the Rifle Animal Shelter
RIFLE – When Heather Mullen of New Castle goes to work, everyone is so glad to see her they practically jump out of their skins.They wiggle, waggle and whine when she walks through the door.But that’s the kind of greeting you get when you’re the manager of the Rifle Animal Shelter.Mullen, 24, has worked at the shelter since February. Her job is to feed, water, play with and care for the animals, along with assessing their health conditions, maintaining their records, ensuring they are spayed or neutered and handling adoptions.A certified veterinary technician, Mullen has loved animals since she was a little girl.”I’ve always loved pets,” Mullen said. “We had little dogs when I was a kid, but I always wanted a black Lab, and I finally got one.”
It’s a job she relishes and no doubt her four-legged friends appreciate. The animals at the shelter have either been abandoned or picked up running at large around the city.Hoover is a 9-month-old purebred male Cocker Spaniel who looks like he just stepped out of the Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp.” With big brown eyes, he looks out longingly from his cage and sticks his paw through the opening underneath as if begging for someone to let him out and take him home.”He hasn’t been here very long,” Mullen said.Becky is a 2-year-old flat coat black Labrador retriever who has been in the shelter for the past five months. She seems more resigned than some of the others to her life in the small cell.”She’s my favorite,” said Mullen, who has three dogs of her own. “I take her home with me sometimes.”There are 11 more dogs and puppies as well as four cats that are all desperately in need of good homes.”I let them outside as much as I can, and if they get along, I let them play together,” Mullen said, as she went from kennel to kennel, changing water dishes and cleaning up any messes.
And the downside to taking care of the animals?”The worst part of my job is that there’s still so many,” Mullen said. “It’s not easy to get people to realize that they really need to spay and neuter their pets.”Of course, stepping in a little doggie-doo or having a poopy paw jump up on you is a hazard of the job.”Oh well,” Mullen said with a shrug and a smile. “The day is never complete if you haven’t gotten dog poop on you.”Born and raised in Glenwood Springs and a graduate of Glenwood Springs High School, Mullen received her CVT certificate from Colorado Mountain College’s vet tech program at the Spring Valley campus in Glenwood Springs.She worked for a time at the Divide Creek Animal Hospital in Silt before taking the full-time position at the Rifle Animal Shelter, which is operated through the city of Rifle.”I’d worked at a shelter before, and I really liked it,” Mullen said. “I think more than anything, I like finding them some place to live.”
The average stay for an animal at the Rifle Animal Shelter is about five months. So far, since she started the job, none of the animals have had to be euthanized. And while the small cells may not be the best accommodations compared to a loving home, it’s better than nothing.”At least they’re not on the streets starving to death,” Mullen said.Mullen is the one who puts the Pet of the Week ads in the newspaper trying to get the animals adopted and also oversees the foster care program in which people can take an animal in for a short time or until a permanent home is found.And as much as she loves her job, Mullen said she wouldn’t be disappointed if it wasn’t available if that meant there were no stray or abandoned animals around.”This is a job you can’t wait not to be able to have,” she said honestly.Hours of the Rifle Animal Shelter are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday or by appointment. The shelter is located at 0569 County Road 265 off Prefontaine Avenue across from Rifle High School. For more information on how to foster, adopt or make a donation to the shelter, call 625-8808.
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