Archive | January, 2014

Critter Events for January 30th – February 7th


Welcome to the weekend! There are a couple critter events that might tempt you to go out in the snow, in addition to some cool “Save the Date” events shared in the post. This week’s featured adoptable is Spunky, a blackish/brown 1 year old male guinea pig. He would make a lovely addition to any family! You can adopt him at the Larimer Humane Society.

February 1st

Bird Festival and Avian Appreciation Days at Bath Garden Center with the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. Fort Collins Audubon Society, Environmental Learning Center and more.

Come by and see beautiful exotic birds of prey and talk with experts from local birding organizations to learn more about the amazing creatures we have right here in Colorado. There will also be a performance by the Thunderbirds at 11, 1 and 3.

When: 10 a.m. 4 p.m.

Where: Bath Garden Center at Prospect and Timberline, or 484-5022 for more information.

Cost: $1

February 2nd

Groundhog Day! I wonder if he will see his shadow this year – it has been snowing a lot lately!

The Puppy Bowl X!

The Puppy Bowl X will air during the Super Bowl, but is also replayed for those who miss the original airing at 3 p.m. EST. It’s two hours long of pure critter joy. You can check it out on Animal Planet, but I have yet to find a live streaming option.

During the WHOLE month of February…

Beat the Heat! Special Deal in February ONLY! Offered by Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic in collaboration with Pet Smart Charities. Get your female cat fixed for only $20. Call 970-484-1861 to book your appointment, as space is limited.

It’s also National Pet Dental Health Month, focused on the addressing the significance of oral health care for your pets.

Looks like as we move into February, critter events are starting to pick up again. Here are a few upcoming events to get on the calendar now. As always, if you have events that you want to share, please add me to your email list so I can get them out to my readers. My email is

Save the Date: 

Saturday January 11th 

Animal House Rescue and Grooming Adoption and Informational Event

When: 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Where: Petco at 2211 S College Ave #200, Fort Collins, CO 80525

There will be dogs available for adoption and a binder available to check out all adoptable dogs at the shelter. Volunteers will be on-site to talk about volunteering and fostering.

February 15th

Complete Equestrian Vaulters Presents the Heart Beats Gala

When: Saturday February 15th, 2014 at 5 p.m.

Where: Colorado State University (CSU), Adams Atkinson Arena 735 Overland Trail Drive, Fort Collins

Cost: Tickets: $10 for children 4-17 years, children 0-3 free, and $15 for adults; $15/child and $20/adult at the door and a silent auction will benefit the 501C3 nonprofit Complete Equestrian Vaulters.

Surprise the horse lover in your life with a night of fine equestrian vaulting entertainment! The evening will be packed with love themed performances from our vaulters. The perfect way for families and couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Enjoy a pasta and salad from Garlic Knots, Wine Tasting, Hot Drinks from Everyday Joes and dessert from ButterCream Cupcakery.



Search and Rescue Missions with Dogs in Larimer County

snow skid_small

Colorado is filled with beautiful terrain that’s so enticing to explore, but it can be a bit dangerous – especially when the weather changes on a dime. In Larimer county we have a great search and rescue team staffed by dedicated volunteers ready to help in times of emergency and get people home safely. Some volunteers also have amazing, wonderful relationships with a trained search and rescue dog, and the pair act as a powerful symbiotic team.

This week I chatted with Jill Reynolds, an extremely knowledgeable canine massage therapist and owner of Canine Massage of the Rockies who’s been volunteering as a member of the Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) for the last five years. She is rated as a search leader with Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (SARDOC) and is a certified wilderness air scent handler, not to mention a wealth of information!

Types of Search and Rescue Dogs

Not only does Reynolds regularly go out on search and rescue missions, but she’s personally trained her rescue dog Skid, a red Australian shepherd, as a trail and air scent search and rescue dog. Wind scents are Skid’s specialty. He puts his nose in the air, searching for scent in the wind to detect clues about where a person is now.

“The trick is to walk in grid patterns perpendicular to the the direction of the wind, nose into the wind, to get the latest scent because the wind direction changes so frequently in the mountains,” says Reynolds. Skid is trained to track the scent from an article of personal significance, or if there is no scent article, he alerts Reynolds to any fresh human scent he may notice.

Search and rescue dogs can also be trail dogs that track where a person has been based on their last known location. Trail dogs have their nose to the ground to establish the direction of travel which is really important in a search, but it can be hard when there are no scent articles from the missing parties to lead the search, according to Reynolds.

Lastly, the dogs can be trained for Human Remains Detection or (HRD), which is often a necessity once the search is two to three days in, says Reynolds. They practice with CPR dummies and a source of human tissue to get the dogs used to the experience.

zimmerman trail mission 1_small

How Search and Rescue Missions Work

Reynolds says the busiest times of year for search and rescue missions is between Memorial and Labor Day when Colorado has a lot of tourists. Fall is also another really busy time, with hunters and mushroom vetters that might get caught in some unexpected weather or get lost.

“We dont always know if we will be deployed, says Reynolds, “so we keep all our stuff in the car, including snowshoes, avalanche beacons, gear for the dogs, etc.” The Larimer County Sheriff’s Department alerts volunteers if they are needed on a rescue mission.

The search manager talks to the reporting party, gathers maps and develops a plan and search strategy, giving an assigned area to each volunteer. Teams go out in pairs; a navigator always travels with a dog handler. Each team copies their assigned areas onto a GPS and the navigator makes sure they stay inside the boundaries of the search (that are usually off trail), while the handler “reads” their dog.

“The whole time the dog is giving you information, “ says Reynolds. “Where are they going? When do their ears perk up? What is their body language? When are they showing and losing interest? The team marks places on the map that reflect these pieces of information and once a search area is clear, they report the details back to the search manager.” Then, all the clues from all the dogs are compiled and cross-referenced to put together the “story” of the missing party. “Areas where there were no hits are just as important as ones with detailed information, as they help refine the search area,” adds Reynolds.

In order for the dogs to be in tip top shape, volunteers dedicate a lot of time to train the dogs, in addition to going out on search party missions. “Dog trainers do this every weekend. I admire their willingness to be of service to help others,” says Reynolds. “All volunteers have to pay their own expenses, and do this out of pure passion.”

“This kind of work with your dog enables you to build a relationship and rapport this is just so amazing; so symbiotic. You become attuned to each other on a very deep level, with every nuance of the dog’s expression a very clear communication. Skid and I have come to know each other in a way I’ve never experienced. What he can do is beautiful, and I’m constantly amazed by him,” says Reynolds.


Why Skid is Such a Special Dog

Reynolds got Skid at a time in her life when she had just lost her previous Australian shepherd, her favorite breed of dog, very suddenly. She was a teacher for special needs kids, taking them out on adventure programs (skiing, bicycle tours, climbing, outside learning) for over 25 years, and her last dog was a big part of teaching all her students.

Reynolds wasn’t sure if she would ever find another dog to fill that special space, but got a lead on some Australian shepherd puppies through a contact on the search and rescue team she’d met while volunteering to do canine massage for rescue dogs.

After spending a few afternoons with this new litter of puppies, it was obvious Skid and Reynolds were a perfect match. The breeder was more than happy to connect them, especially after learning Reynolds wanted to train her next puppy as a search and rescue dog.

Reynolds started training Skid at eight weeks, and she had the kids in her class help pick a his name. Skid was an amazingly fast learner and was certified by the time he was a year and a half, when it normally takes three to four years.

“It’s what he’s always wanted to do. When the vest is on he’s down to business and he knows it’s time to work. Skid is friendly and outgoing and loves being around kids. We do lots of public education programs with local kid’s organizations, and he is a fantastic therapy dog for special ed and emotionally challenged kids. On a recent trip to a kindergarten class, he greeted each child separately as they walked in the door, just like he was already making sure he counting them so he could take care of them,” says Reynolds.

If you know of any schools or kids organizations that would love to have Reynolds and Skid stop by for an educational session, or if you want to help train the search and rescue dogs by hiding so they can practice finding you (they learn best through repetition) you can contact Reynolds.

Pet Pro Tip: Cat Training


This week’s Pet Pro Tip is about training your cat. Yes…it can be done!

Find a type of treat or toy that your cat really likes, then choose one specific type of behavior you desire to change. For example, if you want your cat to stop getting on the kitchen counter, chairs or a desk in the home, focus the training on that one task.

Start by approaching your pet and showing them the treat to get their attention. Lead them off the surface with the treat, then give them the treat. Keep repeating the behavior, but never give them the treat until they have completed what you have asked. If they don’t do as expected, they don’t receive anything.

You can also integrate clicker training to support the training process. Clicker training is a system of communication that allows people and animals to get as close to talking as possible. According to Amelia Wieber, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Animal Behavior Consultant, “animals are not very interested in the tone of your voice, so the clicker acts as the bridge.”

The trick with clicker training is to lead your pet in the same way with a treat, get them to perform the desired behavior, then click the clicker before you hand over the treat. Repeat click, treat, click, treat until they figure it out. Over time they know exactly what the clicker means and they shift the behavior.

Cats can be taught to jump on and off of things, to sit and lay down and other “tricks” more associated with dogs. If you are interested in learning more, you can check out the Feline Charm School classes with Wieber through Advanced Animal Care of Colorado. There are also videos available on YouTube if you want to give it a try for yourself — just use the search term “cat clicker training.”

Photo courtesy of Erin Nekervis 

Want a Pet Horse? Four Things to Think About First


Horses are big, beautiful animals with so much soul. They are great companions and healers, and the wild ones are one of the few remaining “wild west” icons. But… are they a good pet for you? There are some really important things to think about first.

With the National Western Stock Show coming to a close this weekend, it got me thinking about horse ownership basics. This post covers the important things “first-time horse buyers” need to consider to make educated decisions when choosing a horse as a family pet.

I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Carey Beacom, third year vet student at Colorado State University (CSU). She works at the CSU Vet Teaching Hospital in Equine Emergency and Critical Care, is a  horse owner and boards her six horses, as well as client horses, on her eight acres in Ault, Colorado.

Where to Get A Horse

When you are looking for a horse it’s best to start by asking yourself what kind of horse you want — a performance horse, an occasional rider or a “pasture pal”, which Beacom explains is a companion animal for another horse or overall pasture grazer you can pet.

“People can get horses at the stock show, through private ads, at barns, breeders or rescue centers like Colorado Horse Rescue  or the Harmony Equine Center.  It all depends on how you want to use the horse and the amount of training and care you want to devote to them,” says Beacom.

“It’s important for people to keep in mind that horses at rescue centers are not broken. They work daily with trainers and the rescue makes sure they are people-friendly before adopting them out,” Beacom adds.

What to Look for and Ask the Seller

Quarter horses are a common breed and a good bet for a first-timer, but the horse you choose should be based on very personal criteria.

  • How does the horse feel to you?
  • Is it friendly, skittish or difficult to handle?
  • Is it hard to get the horse to come back in from the pasture?
  • How old is the horse?
  • Does the animal have a clear health history?

Beacom pointed out that if you are a first-timer, be honest and tell the seller or rescue center that up front. Then you can visit with specific horses you like to get a better feel for a good connection. Spending time brushing and cleaning them, riding them and taking them around an arena or pasture a handful of times will help you get a better sense if a horse is someone you are ready to add to your family.

“If you are thinking of buying a pony for your child, remember that they will outgrow the pony in size and maybe skill. Kids can ride regular horses safely, and it’s a better long-term investment.”

Also take time to consider your own needs and how you want to connect with your horse. “It’s important to exercise and interact with your horse regularly, which can range from every day to 1 – 2 times a week, depending on the relationship you want to build with them. If you just trot them once and a while and groom them, or turn them out to pasture for 6 months, you can’t and expect them to behave perfectly, says Beacom.

Costs Related to Maintaining a Horse

Some of the most basic costs related to caring for a horse start with it’s feed. Hay fluctuates in price by region and can be more expensive in drought years. “You can buy hay from a private dealer, feed store or at a hay auction,” says Beacom. “There is an auction on the last Saturday of every month at Centennial Livesock, and Greeley and Brush have their own as well.”

If you have a performance horse or a breeding horse, there is an added expense for special feed and grain. A feed specifically formulated for the life stage can be pretty pricey at $15-30 bucks for a 50 lb bag, and a horse eats 5 lbs. a day.

Add to that the boarding costs which can range from $200 on the super low end where you basically rent a horse stall and do all the horse care yourself, to $1200 a month where you can have someone feed, brush, care for, turn out or exercise your horse. These are the two extremes — there are many places that provide a range of partial care options, which is a combination of services. It just depends on the horse boarder you choose, so it’s a good idea to do your research and be clear on your budget.


Horse Health Care

“Colic is one of the most common challenges with horses because of their very delicate “one-way” digestive system”, says Beacom. “Colic is a syndrome, which means it’s more of a collection of symptoms, similar to a headache in humans. There can be many causes for the headache and a few different successful treatments, but there is no one defined way to prevent them.”

Horses can develop colic if they did not drink enough water when eating and are unable to digest the hay, or if they develop tumors that twist off blood supply (which is common in older horses).

“Due to the fact horses are unable to vomit, it’s critical to call a vet immediately to assess the situation. “Sometimes we can treat colic with a tube up the nose, through the throat to the stomach so that the contents can drain. If not, the stomach ruptures and the horse does not recover. That’s why calling a vet is so important; it’s hard to tell how serious the colic is and the best course of action,” says Beacom.

Other common health problems with horses are lacerations on the body or eyes from fencing as well as obesity, which is becoming more common because horses stand in a pen or the pasture and eat all day with little exercise.

“There are plenty of resources for potential horse owners to educate themselves on all the details  involved in their care, as well as choosing a vet you really trust to care for your horse regularly. Don’t take the decision lightly; they are big expensive animals, and we already have a bit of a problem with unwanted horses, so of course, spay and neuter!” adds Beacom.

Photos courtesy of Colorado Horse Rescue 

Pet Pro Tip

Larimer Humane Society

This week is pretty light on events other than the ones I’ve already mentioned last week, so…. I thought I would throw something new into the mix called Pet Pro Tip. This will feature one important tip from a pet trainer, veterinarian, animal or wildlife expert or everyday Joe that can help teach us all a thing or two about being a better pet owner.

This week I’m featuring a story from Reddit that shares a very handy trick for finding a dog that’s been lost in an area outside of your regular stomping grounds. I’ve edited it down to share the quick highlights:

The dog owner in this story had been searching for their missing dog for over 12 days in a heavily wooded area. They had returned to same spot several times, searching for and calling the dog’s name repeatedly. They were about to give up, when they ran into a couple of hunters on the trail. The hunters mentioned that they occasionally lost their hunting dogs, but were always able to get them back.  Here’s how:

  • The dog owner(s) should take an article of clothing that has been worn at least all day, the longer the better, so the lost dog can pick up the scent.
  • Bring the article of clothing to the location where the dog was last seen and leave it there.
  • If the search area can accommodate a crate safely, leave the crate there as well as a favorite toy. Also leave a short note requesting the item(s) not be moved and why.
  • Leave a bowl of water there too, as the dog probably hasn’t had access to any. Do not bring food as this could attract other animals that the dog might avoid.
  • Come back the next day, or check intermittently if possible, to see if the dog is waiting there.

The dog owner from this story followed these tips, thenwent back to check the next day to check. Sure enough, his dog was there waiting! Yay!

Thanks to a-little-pixie on reddit for the helpful tip!

Where to adopt the sweetheart at the top of this post…

This face is so ridiculously cute, I couldn’t resist featuring her in this week’s post. Savy is a female, 1 year 7 month old white and gray Great Pyreness / Akbash. She is loving, goofy and ready to find a forever home. If you want to connect with her to see if she is a fit for your family, stop by the Larimer Humane Society for a visit.

Want to submit a Pet Pro Tip or have an idea for one? Email me at