From Durango to Alamosa and the communities in between, there are hundreds of rescue and shelter dogs needing a forever home, who likely won’t find it in the small towns where they live.
Those dogs often are kept in shelters without enough space, resources or people to help them.
“Rescue to me means that the dog has emerged from a situation that wasn’t so great for them and find another great situation,” Jean Alfieri said. “Often, I’ve learned that they’ve had a great upbringing, and a lot of attention, then something unfortunate has happened to put them in the position, through no fault of their own.”
Alfieri and her husband have a number of rescue dogs. She calls them, and almost all dogs, pups, even though the ones in her home are 8 years old at the youngest.
“My husband and I enjoy vintage puppies,” Alfieri said.
She jokes that if they don’t need arthritis medication, they aren’t interested, as older dogs are the ones often left in shelters, and take the longest to find a forever home.
It was Alfieri’s own experience rescuing a dog that led her to volunteer with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak region.
She was at a shelter looking for a boxer. Without one to be seen, a rather friendly pug caught her eye. After some time outside, she fell for the little dog named Wyatt.
After winning a pet-of-the-week contest in the newspaper, Alfieri said she and Wyatt’s original family came in contact.
It’s then she realized some dogs came from loving homes that didn’t have the means to make it work.
“The wife was being treated for an illness that, as it became worse, required hospitalization,” Alfieri wrote. “The bills became overwhelming, and they could no longer afford their apartment. They moved in with her parents. The parents were allergic to dogs.”
It moved her to be a volunteer matchmaker at HSPPR, and eventually, a Rescue Ranger.
“We go to other smaller shelters that don’t have the space or resources that we do,” said Larry Danforth, an experienced rescue ranger since 2014.
In that time, Danforth has helped rescue nearly 2,000 dogs on close to 100 trips. He frequents the southern Colorado trip to Durango and back.
“I don’t think there is a more rewarding job in the shelter,” Danforth said. “It’s an experience and it’s quite demanding. But, there isn’t a better feeling that off-loading 25 dogs and watching them get adopted over the next week or so.”
HSPPR’s Rescue Rover, which makes seven or eight trips each month, is nearing 200,000 miles of rescue trips made. In that time, around 17,000 dogs have been moved to their Colorado Springs facility.
This was Alfieri’s first trip in the Rover. One dog almost escaped. They also had what they call a “pancake dog” that is so scared of moving, it becomes essentially dead weight as it lies on the ground.
“They don’t know where they are,” Danforth said. “They just know they’re better off than they were this morning.”
Alfieri also noticed that the dogs calm down along the ride. The pair made five stops along their journey from Durango to Colorado Springs.
“The best part for me was not only the collection of the dogs all the way along but, I’ll tell you, it felt like royalty when we came back here,” Alfieri said.
Nineteen dogs were brought back to HSPPR. Twenty were scheduled, but one was adopted before they arrived.
With her three dogs already, two adopted in the past two years, there had to be some rules set for Alfieri before she made the trip.
“When I texted my husband on the way back and said, ‘We’re loaded up with 19’ and he goes, ‘How many are you bringing home?’ I said ‘No, we had a deal,'” she said.