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Orphan pups find homes thanks to fostering program

By Lynn Zahorik; photos courtesy of Katie Abner and Lindsay Matthews

Who would have thought entering a pet photo contest could lead to adding a new member to the family? Last December, the Abner family’s 10-year-old son, Andrew, entered his guinea pig Cosmo into The Connection’s Cutest Pet in the Pines photo contest. To their surprise, Cosmo was the winner of the “cutest noncanine” category. When Andrew and family finally went in April to pick up his prize at The Pet Stuff Place they met store associate Lindsay Matthews. The Abners told her that though their pet entry was their guinea pig, their love for dogs ran deep, and they hoped to get another one in the future.

Matthews spoke to them about her volunteer work fostering dogs for nonprofit animal rescue organizations Blackhat Humane Society, Soul Dog Rescue and RezDawg Rescue. All of the organizations rescue from the Navajo reservation, which is approximately 27,000 square miles in the four corners region of the United States. The estimates are that 100,000 to 200,000 unwanted dogs, cats, puppies and kittens roam free and most are not spayed or neutered. The organizations operate strictly on donations and rely on foster homes to house the animals while awaiting adoption.

The Abners left their phone number with Lindsay thinking that sometime over the summer she might contact them as a possible family for one of her fosters. Within a few weeks, Matthews called to invite the Abners to the store to see two puppies she was fostering through Soul Dog Rescue. The Abners made a good mistake and brought all three of their boys to the store to “just see” the pups. The experience of visiting with the adorable puppies, who had a rough start in life warmed the Abner’s hearts, and they left the store with smiles feeling pretty certain they would adopt one of the pups. A few days later, they chose a puppy and named it “Colo.” Nine-year-old son Liam suggested the name after he saw the Colorado Springs sign on the I-25 off ramp as they were driving home from the store. The family agreed it was a cool name and added “Rado” as a middle name.

“We are so thankful that Colo was rescued and brought here to Castle Pines,” said Katie Abner. “Lindsay at The Pet Stuff Place has such a huge heart for these rescue dogs. We are very grateful for Lindsay’s phone call and to The Castle Pines Connection for connecting us to our new puppy love.”

Matthews and her husband Gary discovered the overwhelming issue when they adopted a pup named Piper two years ago from Blackhat Humane. They thought she was a border collie mix, but when they did a DNA test, they discovered she was actually Alaskan malamute, samoyed, German shepherd and long-haired dachshund. The test revealed how many different breeds are represented in reservation dogs. “These animals really need our help, and most people have no idea there is such a problem,” declared Matthews. Piper has been a wonderful addition to our family, and I am passionate about trying to help as many as I can.” Her initial fostering experience included caring for three dogs through Blackhat Humane out of Durango and found each of them a forever home. She then started supporting Soul Dog Rescue out of Littleton for whom she has fostered nine dogs. They have a mobile spay and neuter clinic that travels to the area once a month for clinics and also a transport vehicle that goes to the area as often as every week to pick up animals that have been found, relinquished, injured or saved from death row at local animal shelters. Matthews has also proudly volunteered for RezDog Rescue, and she has helped find homes for several of the dogs she has fostered in Denver, Castle Rock, Parker, Elizabeth, Boston and Tacoma.

The Pet Stuff Place has been extremely supportive in helping Matthews and the rescues. She brings almost all of the puppies into the store while working. This helps socialize them, gets them used to new situations and exposure to find new homes. The store also donates food, treats and toys. A donation box is also on site so customers can help as well.

The Matthews live on a small ranch east of Parker, which they enjoy with their five dogs, five cats, five horses and several chickens and ducks.

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