Archive | December, 2013

A Forever Home for Chip

Chip the rescue dog

With a day of celebration and good cheer upon us, it seemed like the perfect time to share a Happy Endings story. This handsome black lab Australian shepherd mix is named Chip and he was recently rescued by Fort Collins local multi-taskin’ entrepreneur, Jeanie Sutter.

Last week I sat down with Jeanie at The Bean Cycle  to hear more about the newest handsome man in her life and how they came to be Fort Collins’ latest high-energy duo.

Chip is a 9 month old, 65-pound bundle of high energy and fun, mixed with a little shyness. He came from La Junta Colorado and was initially fostered through Paws and Co, a “foster-based, volunteer-run rescue that rescues animals from Colorado shelters, places them in loving foster homes and works to find a quality adoptive home for each animal.”

One day Sutter was on Facebook and that’s when she saw Chip for the first time. “I had been thinking about getting a dog for a while. He has such a beautiful coat and was just such a handsome fella. At that moment, I knew he was my dog,” said Sutter. “I got in touch with Paws & Co right away.”

Chip’s Backstory

Chip was adopted by a family as a puppy. He was kenneled all day long and did not get nearly enough exercise. His adoptive family had a few kids as well as another dog taking up their time and attention, so Chip did not get a lot of one-on-one time with someone willing to train him, and he was getting to be a bit of a handful.

Here's an example of some of the behavior Sutter is trying to change.

Here’s an example of some of the slightly behavior Sutter is trying to change.

As he continued to get larger and his energy level increased, the family was concerned the arrangement was no longer working, especially with little ones in the house. So, the family decided it was best to give Chip back to Paws and Co. in order to find him a forever home. Through that organization, Chip was fostered by local families that had the time and space to take him in and love him, but the arrangement was always temporary. That is, until Jeanie spotted him online…and the rest is history.

Chip Now, in his Forever Home

Chip has now been in his forever home for two months and he’s doing so well!

Chip is great in the car, he’s learning basic commands and tricks like sleep (where he lies down and puts his paw over his eyes), and is falling in line now that he has an owner that can match his energy level and understands how to connect with him. Sutter also has a flexible schedule, which allows her to exercise her new pup frequently throughout the day.

Chip currently has a bit of separation anxiety, and Sutter feels it’s most likely because of his unstable initial home life where he was always placed in a crate or bounced around to foster homes with an uncertain future. Although he was well-cared for in foster care, the uncertainty of a permanent home can make any animal feel a bit insecure or unsure if their next stay is forever. But, Sutter is consistently working with Chip to reassure him that he’s safe and sound.

Chip making himself at home.

Chip making himself at home.

“I can’t lie, that first night was tough!” she said. Chip cried, whined and seemed completely uncomfortable, but because Sutter hadn’t lived with a dog for a long time, his behavior made her a bit anxious at first. Sutter’s biggest concern was making sure she could support him in making a smooth transition so that Chip could relax and focus on being a happy dog. So far, it’s working!

Chip is also still very much a puppy at nine months old, and his breed/heritage makes him a very high-energy dog that needs exercise, attention and ways to utilize his intelligence. HIs “puppy mind” also gives Sutter an opportunity to train Chip and show him that he is not only safe, but very loved. Right now the two are working on building a connection and level of trust so that he can be more relaxed with her and with other people.

Here's Chip, outside and ready for anything!

Here’s Chip, outside and ready for anything!

“We are working on his separation anxiety and despite some of these challenges, I know I’m his person. I’m working with Chip to be the companion dog I know he can be,” said Sutter. The pair are currently focusing on play/fight balance, some basic tricks and general dog training. Sutter has done some work with Chip through the Canine Learning Center, and is also working with local holistic veterinarian Priscilla Dressen with North Star Holistic Animal Care.

“One of the biggest pieces of advice I can share about being a recent rescue animal adopter, is that people need to be prepared for the commitment of taking on a rescue puppy or dog and be willing to work with their story”, says Sutter. “You don’t know all their baggage, and it’s so important to take the time to build trust and work together, no matter the learning curve.”

Pet and Animal Events for December 20 – 27th and Pet Dental Health Tips

Larimer Humane Society, chihuahua

This week’s adoptable little pup is Mary from the Larimer Humane Society. Once I saw her in that sweater, I knew she was perfect to feature for this holiday week. Mary is a six-year-old Chihuahua short hair that loves to snuggle on the couch.

The events list for this week is a bit light due to the upcoming holiday, but there ARE still a few things going on — especially if you haven’t yet gotten those pet holiday photos OR if you are looking to adopt an cat or kitten this weekend.  I volunteered at the Cat Caravan event last year and not only was it fun, but so many cats found great forever homes. It felt great to help out. Here’s some details for this week:

Saturday December 21st — Happy Winter Solstice! 

Cat Caravan Adoption Fair hosted by  Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m

Where: Classroom at The Farm at Lee Martinez Park, 600 N Sherwood St, Fort Collins, CO 80521

There will be lots of kittens and adult cats on site for adoption, and kitten adoption fees will be reduced 10 percent! You can also hang around and see the other animals on the farm.

Monday, December 23rd 

Holiday Pet Photos at the Foothills Mall — Last Chance!

When: 5 – 7 p.m.

Where: Santa’s Workshop

Just bring along your pet in a carrier or on a leash and the photographers at Santa’s Workshop will do the rest!

December 25th — Merry Christmas!

Am I missing any events? Please add me to the events email list for your non-profit animal organization:

Pet Dental Health Tips 

I also wanted to add in a little educational piece on dental health for pets that I can across last week. When distracted by the holidays, guests and traveling, there are some subtle dental health signs that can be easily missed. My cat broke one of his canine teeth a few years ago, so I’m vigilant about making sure I watch for these key indicators of dental problems:

  • Note any changes in an animal’s behavior, especially if they are eating less or wincing while eating
  • Chronic bad breath can be an indication of dental disease or an infection in the lip folds. Bad breath may also signal kidney disease.
  • Extra redness in the gums or inflammation of the gums
  • Swelling of the eyes or nasal cavity that may be inflamed due to the abscessed root of a tooth

There are special treats to help with dental hygiene as well as tooth brushes and toothpaste to help with dental cleanings. Talk to your vet or a local animal shelter for more details on how often to brush and the best products to use.

Tips sourced by By Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Why Pets Are Such Powerful Healers

healing pets

Being a pet owner is an adventure. How you grow along with and care for your pet can truly change you as a person and shift things within you that you never realized needed a little extra TLC. Just being around animals that aren’t actually your pets not only helps to lower your blood pressure, but enables you connect with another living thing in a very heart-opening way — all without using a word.

Yet, as we share our lives with animals and pets, we may not realize the depth of the healing that’s occurring during the course of our connection with them both physically and emotionally — whether it’s for a few moments or throughout the life of a pet.

The Science Aspects of Healing with Pets

Despite the fact that the sheer cuteness of some pets instantly lifts your heart, there are a few specific science-based ways pets have been shown to increase the quality and rate of human healing.

According to the Mayo Clinic article called Pet therapy: Man’s best friend as healer, animal assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, blood pressure, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems, including:

  • Children with dental procedures
  • People receiving cancer treatment
  • People in long-term care facilities
  • People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

Even visits as short as 15 minutes can help patients shift their focus and attention away from pain, frustration and stress and put a smile on their face. And a positive attitude goes a long way towards improving the rate of healing. Interaction with pets can provide social support, especially in institutional environments,  and the exchange between pet and human  naturally increase a person’s level of oxytocin — an important part of healing. Here’s why…

Oxytocin has some powerful effects for humans regarding the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal and also grow new cells. Increased levels of oxytocin establishes an environment within our own bodies and sets the stage for improving our health, according to a blog entry featured on NPR titled: Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other.

Pet therapy is also being used at universities and as part of community programs to help people deal with anxiety and stress. In fact, the Coloradoan got some great photos of dogs visiting campus this week to help students manage stress while studying for finals.

This photo is courtesy of CSU and their story on how dogs can help with stress during finals.

This photo is courtesy of CSU and their story on how dogs can help with stress during finals.

The Not-So-Obvious Healing Benefits and Lessons of Pets 

Pets try our patience and show us our limits, as well as our capacity for unconditional love. They also bring so much joy to the world by simply being themselves, and allowing you to do the same without judging you.

Their ability to connect despite a language barrier shows us that unconditional love is more than a concept, it’s working in real-time, all the time. Being in service in this way allows humans to know, without a doubt, they are loved and cared for by something, somewhere, even through the most challenging days and circumstances.

One of the reasons I took over the Tails of Fort Collins blog was because throughout my time in Colorado, animals have been a very big part of my own self growth. When I was a pet sitter for a local business and working at the Larimer Humane Society in WildKind (simultaneously) my personal life and career was in the midst of a huge transition. Things were anything but clear. Spending time with animals was “one of my many jobs” but once I showed up at the shelter or a client’s home, all of my confusion melted away. The animals were my focus and connecting with them was my joy. Nothing else was needed in that moment.

I’ve also had a very heart opening experience with my own cat, Monty. He was my very first “real deal” pet, as I mentioned in my last post. I adopted him during this same transitional point in my life. Having never owned a kitten or cat before, we learned together about what worked and didn’t work for us. And through the process, I learned a lot about going with the flow and unconditional love.

Monty caught the mouse that was living behind my stove for a better part of a year (after many hours of watching the stove and planning his attack), and I learned how to be OK with him barfing on my bed once and a while. I figured out his favorite ways to be pet, and he jumps on my chest every morning to say hello while giving and receiving some snuggly love. He also let’s me know when I need to slow down and take a break by distracting me with some “drive-bys”, or talking to me just because he feels like it (that’s part of his Siamese mix heritage). But this can be the case with animals of all shapes and sizes, not just dogs and cats. Horses, reptiles, rodents, birds — all each type of pet offers unique lessons and healing insights that turn into showing people how to live life a little differently.

The best part about animals and pets, is that they show up as is, faults, wounds and pure love, ready to share and help. In many ways they are always in service to others, whether they are trained that way professionally or not. It’s a selfless gift that lives on through the connections we make with them and through each other, and a great thing to also celebrate this holiday season.

Animal Events for December 13 – 20th and Raptor Open House Photos


This week’s adoptable is Dancer, a two-year old female American Fuzzy Lop bunny. She is so darn adorable in her glamour shot! Stop by the Larimer County Humane Society if you would like to adopt her.

There are a few events leading up to the holiday, but things are definitely slowing down a bit. Here you go!

Saturday, December 14th

Low-cost vaccine clinic hosted by the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic 

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: Fort Collins clinic on 2321 E. Mulberry St., Fort Collins

No appointment needed!

Monday, December 16th

Holiday Pet Photos at the Foothills Mall 

When: 5 – 7 p.m., every Monday throughout December.

Where: Santa’s Workshop

Just bring along your pet in a carrier or on a leash and the photographers at Santa’s Workshop will do the rest!

Coming up:

Saturday December 21st — Happy Winter Solstice! 

Cat Caravan Adoption Fair hosted by  Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m

Where: Classroom at The Farm at Lee Martinez Park

There will be lots of kittens and adult cats on site for adoption, and kitten adoption fees will be reduced 10 percent!

A little something special:

I also wanted to share some photos I took during the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program Open House last weekend. It was really fun, and great to see so many injured birds get a second chance. I’ve included a few photos with captions below. There are some more photos that didn’t fit in this post, so I’m adding all the pictures to the Tails Facebook page as an album.


This Rough-legged hawk is named after the fact his feathers grow down to meet his feet.



This Peregrine falcon is missing a wing, but she works around it!


This Swainson's hawk was getting a snack. I guess I had good timing!

This Swainson’s hawk was getting a snack. I guess I had good timing.


Rocky Mountain Raptor Program

This long-eared owl was just so darn cute…and tiny!





Is Giving the Gift of a Pet for the Holidays a Wise Surprise?

pets as gifts, holidays

When I was a little girl I was allergic to anything with fur. That meant no pets for me or my sister, aside from a few hamsters, which I found to be less than exciting pets in terms of their companionship capabilities. And despite endless trips to the doctor and countless allergy shots, I remained without a companion pet for my entire childhood. It always left me feeling like I was missing a little something special.

Every year when I would make my Christmas list, the first thing I wanted to scribble down was puppy or kitten — it was an involuntary reflex. I would have given anything to have my very own little furball, especially as a surprise holiday gift. But now that I’m older, and my allergies are much more manageable, I think “surprise” pets are a terrible idea at any time of year. Here’s why.

Common Sense isn’t Always Common

I recently came across this story from last year about a bunch of folks buying pet owls for their kids because of the Harry Potter movies. Once the series was done, people unloaded their captive-bred pet owls at a local sanctuary in North Wales. In most cases the owners didn’t realize that “owls smell and don’t make good pets”.

Umm…sure. Apparently none of these parents have access to the internet to do research or have the ability to apply reasonable common sense. I also came across various stories where people felt they were doing elderly family members a “favor” by giving them a pet as a companion. In reality, the animal turned into a burden to care for and it became difficult for a strong bond to form between the elderly person and the pet.

It’s situations like these that land some pets in shelters to begin with, all because no one was thinking of the long-term impact a growing pet has on a family and their lifestyle. That is THE MOST important part of adopting a pet, always, at any time of year.

Of course there are unique circumstances and happy ending stories, especially for folks who’ve helped an abandoned animal that ended up becoming a very special part of the family. I love to hear those stories too!

However, the best approach to adopting a pet during the holidays is get smart about pet “shopping”.

Time to Get Smart About Pet “Shopping”

If you are very serious about adopting a new pet for your family as a holiday gift, here are some simple ways to test the waters and see if a pet is a good fit right now. I’ve also thrown in a few alternative gift ideas to help prepare someone for pet ownership.

  • Start taking trips to the shelter with the whole family to determine a pet everyone can agree on. The shelter will also be able to educate you on diet and care needs BEFORE adopting a specific pet and bringing it home with you. Animals are as unique as people, and different breeds need different levels of attention and care. The pet may not end up being a surprise, but you will find a pet that everyone loves.
  • Visit a variety of holiday adoption events to get a sense of the types of animals available before settling on a certain type. Animal shelters in Northern Colorado have frequent adoption event opportunities throughout the year, especially during the holidays.
  • If you really want to purchase a pet as a gift, give the gift of paying for future adoption fees on a pet of that person’s choice. This way the giftee still gets to choose the animal and you still are giving the gift of a companion.
  • Give the gift of a book about a specific pet allowing someone to read up on the breed and the level of care associated with the animal. 
  • Donate to a shelter or animal-focused organization on behalf of a friend or family member or buy some toys to donate in that person’s name. Animals in shelters always need toys and food donations, so its a great holiday gift with so many benefits.
  • Research the food requirements and costs of caring for a pet before considering it as a gift for someone else. My ex-boyfriend wanted to give me a pair of tree frogs. He knew I loved frogs and someone in his office was giving them up, so his heart was in the right place. However, I was not in the position to take the frogs and properly care for them, so my ex-boyfriend kept them. The frogs didn’t live very long after we broke up.
  • Don’t Rush. There are always plenty of animals available for adoption, so don’t rush and pick one just to meet the holiday time frame. Even if the “deal” on the pet is time sensitive, it’s best to wait until you are sure the animal is a great fit for your family.


Rely on Local Animal Organizations for Education and Assistance

Fort Collins is a very animal-aware city, and our local non-profit animal organizations are great about doing background checks on potential adopters. Shelters also have very helpful, well-educated volunteers that can answer questions about a specific pet you have in mind because they are actively spending time with that animal in the shelter on a regular basis.

During my volunteer time at the Fort Collins Cat Rescue Spay and Neuter Clinic, I sat in on adoption counselor training. Anyone coming in to adopt a cat has to provide extensive details about their home environment and other animals in the home, to help create a smooth-as-possible transition into a new family. As a no-kill shelter, they also always leave open the option to return any animal, even years later, so that the cat rescue can find them another home. Every shelter has a different policy, so be sure to take that into consideration before selecting a pet and a shelter for adoption.

So…what do you think about pets as gifts? Has it worked for you? Or do you have some pet gift horror stories?

Photo credit: genesee_metcalfs and petsadvisor