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Couple Celebrates 100th Foster Dog By Taking Rescue From Cheyenne Hoarder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A western Nebraska couple recently celebrated taking in their 100th foster dog from a Cheyenne dog rescue — taking in one of the large dogs rescued from a hoarding situation in the city.

Amy Nelson told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that Bashful, a large mastiff, is hers and her husband’s 100th foster dog they have taken in from Black Dog Animal Rescue, a shelter in Cheyenne.

“The first night, he hid in his kennel,” she said. “Now, he’s really starting to come out and be playful. He’s crazy silly. It’s just the transformation you see, going from this scared dog to an actual, happy dog.”

Bashful was one of the 58 dogs discovered in what was described as a “hoarding” situation in a house in south Cheyenne in April. All of the dogs were surrendered to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, which works with BDAR to help foster and adopt out animals.

The Nelsons, who live in Kimball, Nebraska, have been working with BDAR since 2014 and take in around 12 to 15 dogs per year. They usually foster two dogs at a time, BDAR’s limit.

Dozer, one of the Nelsons’ former foster dogs

“It all started because I wanted to keep adopting dogs and my husband wouldn’t let me,” Nelson said. “Before we started fostering with Black Dog, I’d adopted a chocolate lab from another rescue and he was scared of his own shadow. If it wasn’t for us giving him a chance, he wouldn’t have made it out of the shelter he was in.”

The lab, Naz, inspired Amy and Steve Nelson to begin fostering dogs, gravitating toward the more “difficult” ones that need more time, patience and attention before they are adopted into a forever home.

They currently have three dogs of their own, all of whom are “foster fails,” meaning the foster situation worked out so well, the couple adopted the dogs. They also have Bashful and another foster dog, Rocky, who has been with the couple since September.

Nelson said BDAR was initially hesitant to work with the couple since they live in Nebraska, but the staffers let them go ahead with the training, just to see how things went.

Smalls, one of the Nelsons’ former foster dogs

“Now, we’re on our 100th foster,” Nelson said. “Sometimes, it can be really heartbreaking when they leave. Other times, you’re ready for them to get adopted. We have great relationships with the people that adopt our dogs and I get updates all the time from them.”

The couple will take in any dog, but Nelson did note she had a particular fondness for pitbulls.

Being involved in the adoption process from beginning to end helps ease some of the heartache when the dog leaves. By looking over adoption applications and interviewing potential pet parents, the Nelsons can ensure their foster dogs go to the best homes possible.

“I want to take these dogs that people don’t give a second look to and give them a chance, because we’ve had really good success with these dogs,” Nelson said.

Sherman, one of the Nelsons’ former foster dogs

She encouraged anyone considering fostering to do so, noting that by bringing an animal into a home even for a short time, a major difference can be made in their personalities.

“We treat them like they’re our own dogs,” she said. “That’s why we take the ones that are at the back of the kennel or the one that charges at people when they walk by. Can you imagine being in that kennel and watching people go by, day after day? What would that do to you as a person?”

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UPDATE: Adoption Begins At Cheyenne Animal Shelter Following 58 Large Dog Rescue

in News/Good news

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Some of the large dogs who came to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter from a “hoarder” house in Cheyenne are being adopted, a shelter spokeswoman told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

At least five of the dogs from the group of 58 that the shelter took in around 10 days ago have now been adopted, CAS branding director Niki Harrison said.

“We still have more than 200 animals in the building, so it’s definitely still a little crazy,” she said. “But at least it’s all productive.”

More than 30 dogs were available for adoption from the shelter as of Tuesday afternoon and Harrison noted that most of the larger breed dogs available were from the hoarding case. Harrison said all of the dogs have been getting more and more used to being walked on leashes and, while timid and shy, they are friendly and lovable.

In attempt to increase interest in adoptions, adoption fees for adult dogs have been slashed to $50 this week.

Those interested in adopting are also welcome to visit the shelter at any time during its business hours to meet a dog, but Harrison urged patience when coming in to adopt a furry friend.

“We are doing more adoption counsels in a day than we have in a while, so the wait time could be up to an hour, if not a bit more,” she said. “People have been pretty gracious about it, though.”

All of the dogs that were available for foster care have been placed in homes and Harrison noted that even some “foster fails” have occurred, in which a family decides to keep its foster pet rather than return it.

Shelter CEO Britney Tenant told Cowboy State Daily last week that this is the most significant hoarding event the shelter has seen in quite some time.

“I think typically, we would be under a lot more stress when it comes to a hoarding situation of this size,” she said. “But the community’s support, the media’s support, the support from our volunteers and staff, it’s made things much lighter than what it possibly could have been.”

Tenant said last week that the hoarding situation was discovered after the wind blew over a fence at the property south of Cheyenne where the dogs lived, which allowed a number of them, around 15 or 16, to escape.

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Green River Fire Department Rescues Rottweiler From Freezing Green River

in News/dogs/Crazy animal stories

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Five firefighters from the Green River Fire Department responded to a call at Electrocutioner Falls on Tuesday to help a female Rottweiler dog that was unable to get out of the water.

“Upon arrival the dog was pretty well spent and did not have much longer before she would have been overcome by exhaustion and hypothermia,” one firefighter said.

The department said Lt. Brandon Brady crawled out to the dog, grabbed the dog from the water, and then was pulled to shore by other firefighters.

Once they were able to safely get the dog out of the water she was transported to a vet by Green River Animal Control.

The incident was reported by operators at the power plant intake facility.

Other local agencies involved with this call were; Castle Rock Ambulance, Green River Police Department, Green River Animal Control, and Green River Fire Department.

According to Asst. Chief Larry Erdmann, the dog has been picked up by her owners and is doing very well.

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Elderly Dog Rejected By Families Became Beloved Mascot at Animal Shelter

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Every organization needs a face – that special someone who embodies the spirit and mission of the people who work toward a brighter future. For the Park County Animal Shelter, that face was an elderly white pit bull named Skillet.

Skillet, who passed away last weekend at the age of 13, had been rejected by families twice before becoming a permanent resident of the Park County Animal Shelter in 2017 – the same year he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

Executive Director Megan McLean said the shelter decided to keep him as its mascot in order to give him the best life possible.

“Instead of trying to adopt him out for the rest of his life and have him face rejection, because he had been failed so many times before by previous adopters – we didn’t want that for him,” she explained.

Skillet was so popular at the shelter that the staff there decided to put together a “bucket list” for the dog – experiences such as a ride in a fire truck, a trip to Yellowstone National Park, and an appearance in the Cody’s Fourth of July parade.

“It was hard to not fall in love with Skillet,” McLean said. “And so, once people started interacting with him, and they developed that rapport with him, they wanted to follow his story and they wanted to contribute to our project and to our work here.” 

About the time that Skillet became a permanent resident, shelter officials had begun a major fundraising campaign to replace their dangerously dilapidated building. 

McLean observed that media attention to Skillet’s bucket list helped to raise the profile of the animal shelter during the fundraising for the new building, which was necessary because the existing building has mold in the walls and not enough space to safely quarantine sick animals, among other problems. 

“Skillet became a permanent resident of the shelter right around the time that our fundraising campaign really picked up speed,” McLean noted, “and so he really drove that home for us.”

But mostly, Megan saw Skillet as a unifying force in a tumultuous year.

“It was more like Skillet was everybody’s dog – everybody sort of felt a connection to him,” she said. “He really brought the community together.

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Thanksgiving Lefovers: Be Careful What You Feed Your Dog

in News/dogs

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Now that Thanksgiving is over, if you are like many (like Dave Simpson), you have a lot of leftovers.

As dog-lovers (we like cats too), we wanted to remind you that — although it’s tempting to share your Thanksgiving feast with your doggo — it can also be dangerous for them.

To that end, we went to our friends at the American Kennel Club and the ASPCA to see what dogs can and cannot handle over the Thanksgiving holiday.

My veterinarian advises not giving them any special food at all. Her regular dog food is enough and she’ll be happy.

But if you can’t resist sharing your bounty, consider the following:

Do NOT let your dog have any of these foods:

Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
Mashed potatoes
Creamed peas
Chocolate, cookies, pies, and sweets (especially anything containing xylitol)
Alcoholic beverages
Raisins and grapes
Onions, scallions, and garlic
Yeast dough
Fatty foods
Foods containing spices

And it’s not because they are being a Scrooge (to mix holidays), it’s because there are unsafe and unhealthy ingredients in these food items.

What is safe to eat? The American Kennel Club lists the following:

Sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Just remember not to give your pet sweet potatoes containing any added ingredients.

Potatoes. You get to enjoy both kinds of potatoes, and your dog can have that option, too. However, give only boiled or baked potatoes with no butter, sour cream, salt, or pepper, and serve in moderation.

Apples. Full of vitamins A and C and contain lots of great fiber, making them a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your pet. But be sure to cut around the core, as large amounts of apple seeds can be toxic.

Turkey meat (no bones, no skin). For those that wonder if dogs can eat turkey at Thanksgiving, the answer is yes. The main dish is okay to offer up as long as it has not been prepared with any seasoning. However, do not feed your dog any skin. The outer layer is likely to have been prepared with butter, spices, or other fatty ingredients that may cause pancreatitis or other issues for your dog.

Green beans. But the bean dish should be plain — without any added ingredients like butter or spices.

Plain peas are a fine choice, but creamed peas should be avoided. Fattier food items like this that may upset your dog’s stomach.

Pumpkin. Pumpkin helps with digestive health and it’s great for a dog’s skin and coat. Also, if feeding canned pumpkin, make sure it’s just pumpkin and not the pre-spiced pie mix.

Enjoy the weekend!

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My Dog Is Not A Fur Baby

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Agriculture
Livestock guardian dogs

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Americans are animal lovers, so much that 95 percent of pet owners view their pets as family members. According to a survey from the American Pet Products Association, less than 15 percent of dogs in America sleep outside at night, and more than 70 percent of dogs are allowed to sleep in a person’s bed, according to another survey. In American society, dogs have become “fur babies” and humans now identify as “pet parents” – which is either a wonderful thing, or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. Animals are no longer simply our companions; they’ve become children in “interspecies families.” 

Although some people dress their dogs up in clothes, or bake cakes on dog birthdays, I don’t. These human-dependent dogs provide a great service to their humans, helping them to stay active while providing health benefits, social opportunities, and companionship. I also believe that dogs can help humans in creating a moral character, and in having relationships outside of self. Even though some dog breeds are not meant to survive on their own, there are dogs throughout the world that can survive in the wild, with or without human assistance. I live with a close relative of these dogs: our livestock guardians.

Personally, to consider myself a pet parent would be a disservice to my dogs. I refuse to anthromorphize the dog out of its noble fundamental existence as a dog. We love dogs for what they are; for their character, their enduring loyalty, their unconditional love, their ability to live in the moment, and for their keen instincts – for their basic doggedness. There is a special connection when gazing into the eyes of a dog that is looking directly at you, when you understand that you are looking into the depths to a remarkable soul. That connection rises to higher plane when you and dog then join together to complete a task, with the human doing human things, and the dog doing dog things, all toward the same end, and both KNOWING that we are engaged in an active partnership. This is the reason humankind has had a dog at its side for at least 20,000 years.

I have great love and affection for our dogs, but more importantly, I also have great respect for them – for their work ethic, bravery, intelligence, independence, (all characteristics for which I also curse at times) – and their willingness to demonstrate their affection to a lowly, unworthy beast like me. 

Every day I greet sunrise with a check on the guardian dogs, and having a 100-pound canine rush at me with wagging-tail enthusiasm is always a pleasure, no matter how many times its repeated. But usually within about three minutes, the excitement at the sight of me fades and the dogs return to their true calling: watching over their sheep, a lesser species that the dogs devote their lives to protecting. I, the mere mortal, am cast aside – unless and until I join the dogs with the sheep. Then the dogs walk alongside me, slowing to rub their bodies against my legs as they pass, allowing my fingers to caress their toplines from the top of the head to the end of the tail. They move back and forth, from me to the sheep, as we all move forward as one living mass.

These dogs are my working partners. I don’t believe I live in an interspecies family, but I do live and work in an interspecies world – a world that involves daily interactions among a mixture of wild and domestic animals and humans. We aren’t apart from nature; we are all components of one nature. We are all animals.

So don’t call my dog a fur baby. It’s a dog, and I don’t want to reform the dog into a human construct. If we’re evolving closer together, I’d much prefer that humans become more dog-like rather than the reverse.

When our dogs die, they don’t go to a rainbow bridge purgatory to wait for us, their beloved humans. These faithful creatures need not wait for anyone before taking their rightful place in a divine kingdom.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

The World’s Gone Crazy Cotillion

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Range Writing/wildlife
Range Pack livestock guardian dogs
Some legislative proposals ignore the reality of working dogs like these livestock guardian dogs on the range in western Wyoming. (Photo credit: Cat Urbigkit)

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Every now and then, my brain hits playback on the Waylon Jennings’ song “The World’s Gone Crazy (Cotillion)” written by Jennings and Shel Silverstein. Last week the song was stuck in my head, as the lyrics are apropos to much current news.

“The villains have turned into heroes
The heroes have turned into heels.”
Outdoor Dogs

For those of us who use dogs for outdoor work, pleasure, or sport, a bill making its way through the Massachusetts legislature is viewed as the next troubling trend in animal ownership, as our canine friends become “fur babies” instead of respected beings with unique ecological histories.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (an animal rights organization) named Massachusetts Senator Mark Montigny as one of America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders of 2019 for his work to protect animals, including his successful effort to allow civilians to break into vehicles to rescue animals, as well as enacting a state prohibition on leaving a dog outside at night or during extreme weather.

Now Montigny proposes to outlaw outdoor dogs. Although his new proposal, Senate File No. 990, claims to be “improving enforcement for tethering violations,” in reality the bill states: “No person owning or keeping a dog shall chain, confine, or tether a dog outside and unattended for longer than five hours, or outside from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

According to the bill, “outside and unattended” means “any dog who is exposed to the elements for a duration of longer than 15 minutes and not in visual range and physical presence of the owner. This expressly includes, but is not limited to, a dog in a securely fenced-in yard, a dog in a kennel, or a dog tethered. For purposes of this section a dog shall be considered ‘outside’ regardless of access to an outdoor doghouse or similar structure.”

Yup, that would be a ban on outdoor dogs. 

As others have pointed out, Montigny’s bill provides more stringent requirements of dog owners than it does on parents of children. Massachusetts doesn’t have a prohibition on leaving children outside for more than 15 minutes without an adult present and in visual range.

“The meek they ain’t inheriting nothing
The leaders are falling behind”
Spotted Owls, Again

Earlier this month, WildEarth Guardians celebrated its successful lawsuit to shut down all timber management on 12 million acres of six national forests to protect the Mexican spotted owl, a threatened species.

Although federal officials have determined that range-wide population monitoring of this elusive little raptor is “logistically and financially impossible,” the court ruled that “claims that the range-wide monitoring is not feasible because of budgetary concerns do not relieve Defendants from finding a solution” and “Budget complications are no excuse.”

So federal agencies are not allowed to issue biological opinions that determine that specific timber management actions will not jeopardize the species, and without those “no jeopardy” opinions, no timber activity is allowed – effectively halting all timber management in six national forests in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Last week the U.S. Forest Service issued a public notice that in light of the Sept. 11 court ruling, all “timber management actions in Region 3 national forests must cease pending formal consultation,” and that it had immediately “suspended issuance of active and new commercial and personal-use forest product permits.”

It’s not just commercial timber sales that are impacted. Residents of New Mexico and Arizona are no longer able to get fuel wood permits, and agency use of prescribed burning to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires is banned. Restoration-focused activities including thinning operations and hazardous-fuels reduction projects designed to benefit wildlife and protect communities from fire danger are also prohibited by the court order, as is the elimination of diseased trees. The order includes all national forests in New Mexico and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona (the fifth largest forest in the nation).

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Forest Service has asked the federal court to clarify if the order includes activities such as the cutting of already dead or downed trees, and is awaiting court direction on that issue. 

After the huge public backlash caused by the order, WildEarth Guardians has also asked the court to allow firewood permits for personal use, but it is not known when the court will rule on the group’s motion. The Albuquerque Journal reports that there are about 9,000 active fuel wood permits that can no longer be used by people who traditionally visit the national forests to collect firewood for winter heating of their residences.

WildEarth Guardians got exactly what it had requested from the court, and human beings are set to suffer from the court order. This is the group that made news earlier this year when one of its staffers and an outside contractor were reportedly caught embezzling from federal and state grants for restoration work. In May, WildEarth Guardians turned in one of its staffers in the felony fraud kickback scheme. 

“The dealers all want to be lovers
And the lovers all want to make deals”

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Retired At One: The Story of Boo

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Range Writing/Agriculture
Boo a Wyoming livestock guardian dog

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

I could hear the livestock guardian dogs raising hell that morning a little over a year ago when I stepped outside to begin to check how all the animals had faired during the night. The sheep had fled their bedground, and most of the dogs were half-crazed in their aggression directed toward the rocky ridge that rises just behind our house, so I knew that wolves had paid a nocturnal visit. I spotted six-month old Boo flat on her side in the sand along the ditch, just below the rocks. I called out to her, but she didn’t lift her head. I hurried over to her wounded, bleeding body, but Boo remained unmoving except for her naturally stubbed tail, which she wagged gently when I said her name. In the wee hours that summer morning, the wolves had caught young Boo and taken her down. 

I screamed for help, and within minutes Cass had scooped the limp dog up into his arms, cradling her in the back of the truck as we hurried toward the house. As we’ve done before, I called the vet clinic an hour away so they would be ready for our arrival.

We had high hopes for Boo’s survival. As the vet shaved her bloody mane, he noted that much of the blood in that section of her body wasn’t Boo’s: she had inflicted some bites on her attacker during the battle. But she had deep bite wounds to her neck, the top of both hips, and nasty scrapes on her underside. She was hypothermic, going into shock, so the team administered antibiotics and painkillers before placing her in warming blankets. They would clean out her wounds once she rested a little, giving the painkillers time to work.

Boo recovering on the living room couch after being wounded in a wolf attack in Sublette County. (Photo courtesy of Cat Urbigkit)
Boo recovering on the living room couch after being wounded in a wolf attack in Sublette County. (Photo by Cat Urbigkit.)

None of us believed her wounds were life-threatening that morning. But after I left, and the vet went to clean the wounds, he found just how severely the wolf had injured our brave Boo. It grabbed her neck in its powerful jaws, clamped down and shook her. The other dogs must have intervened, or else Boo wouldn’t have survived.

It would be a long 24 hours of waiting to learn if the damage was simply too much for Boo’s young body to bear. But while the vet clinic crew worked on her, Boo continued to wag that silly tail. When I went to see her late that afternoon, she woke up long enough to wag while I kissed her velvety nose. Sweet, sweet girl.

I went up the mountain that evening and sobbed, as only a mountain could cope with such sorrow. Later that night as I slept fitfully, the wolves returned to our pastures, but the remaining guardian dogs kept them from inflicting further damage. The wolves moved on, into the neighbor’s cattle herd, killing two calves.

Armed with wound-care instructions and medications from the vet, we brought Boo home the next afternoon, as her best chance for recovery would be in familiar surroundings. Jim and Cass took turns carrying Boo outside so she could relieve herself, and would then carry her back to the security of the house, gently placing her in a favored spot on the couch. We brought lambs into the yard so she could spend a few minutes each day interacting with those she loves best. The next week was a blur, filled with rough days for the young dog, and for us as the wolves made repeated night-time visits, trying to get into the sheep flock. We killed a few wolves but others remain, and I suppose there will always be wolves here.

Boo’s body eventually recovered from the attack, and she tried venturing back out with the range sheep, but she no longer had the heart for it. The attack had changed her, and she was afraid. 

Boo now spends her nights locked in the safety of a kennel, and ventures out during the day to the relative safety of the ranch yard where there are always a few sheep and guardian dog retirees. She plays joyfully in the ditch in the summer, and naps on the hay feedline set out for the sheep in the winter. She hunts gophers in the sagebrush and seems content enough with her new life, but I wonder if she’d be better off as a couch dog in a house full of children. Every now and then, we’ll see a flash of her old spunk, and it saddens me that such a young dog has chosen to retire from a life she loved. The wolves changed her.

Boo wasn’t the only dog injured by the wolves last year in our area of the southern Wind River Mountains. Two dogs were killed at a nearby shepherd’s camp, another had to be put down, and huge Bear-Bear fought nearly to death but survived. Two other dogs, our top two guardians, simply disappeared. But the pain is still too fresh for me to tell their story.

Livestock guardian dogs are noble beasts: gentle to weaker animals, yet fierce in their defense of others. Through the repeated wolf chaos of last year, the guardian dogs kept our sheep and cattle safe, even as our neighbors suffered losses. But it wasn’t easy, and it came at a cost.

There are increasing calls for ranchers to use non-lethal means such as livestock guardians to keep livestock safe from large carnivores, as if guardian animals are merely tools to be used. While our guardians are an excellent deterrent to predators, the coexistent relationship with wolves is not non-lethal. Sometimes protection comes at great cost: the death of a beloved working dog, the loss of a working partner.

Some may love the thought of wolves, but we loved Beyza, and Mos, and other dogs we’ve lost to the crushing jaws of wolves.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

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