By Alyssa Marchese, Volunteer Writer

Two years ago, after absorbing a small animal shelter in Alamosa, the Dumb Friends League established the San Luis Valley Animal Center with the goal of supporting stray, homeless, and otherwise vulnerable animal populations in south-central Colorado. This establishment was significant, as rural communities in southern Colorado have limited animal care facilities. Along with providing a safe place to bring animals, the League connects people and pets in the Alamosa community with accessible and supportive resources to meet their needs. The relationship between the San Luis Valley Animal Center and the League’s two Front Range shelters is strong and can be seen in the story of a dog named Phoenix. I recently spoke with Phoenix’s foster parent and the League’s Director of Shelter Behavior and Veterinary Services, Jes Cytron, to hear about Phoenix’s story and the way the League’s three statewide shelters work together.

Phoenix, a 10-year-old chihuahua mix, is aptly named after her mythical namesake since she was rescued from a fire in Alamosa. Upon realizing she was a stray, the firefighters took the sweet senior pup to the League’s San Luis Valley Animal Center to be evaluated and cared for. Luckily, aside from being covered in soot, ash, and dirt, Phoenix was unharmed by the fire. And although she was very shy and nervous when she first arrived at our center, staff adored her and made sure she was comfortable and warm.

Phoenix relaxing in her foster home

During Phoenix’s initial examination, the team discovered she needed a full dental extraction, a surgery that would benefit from the League’s more extensive veterinary resources in the Denver metro area. So, a few days after being admitted to the San Luis Valley Animal Center, Phoenix was transferred to the Leslie A. Malone Center in Denver. Jes explained that animals from Alamosa who need medical and/or behavioral attention are often transferred to the Leslie A. Malone Center or the Dumb Friends League Buddy Center™ in Castle Rock, since these shelters are currently better equipped to address these needs. Animals may also be transferred because there are comparatively more foster and adoption opportunities available in Denver and Castle Rock.

Another way the League is making an impact for the San Luis Valley is by providing accessibly-priced and convenient spay and neuter clinics to help decrease the number of strays and control the pet population in southern Colorado. Jes said that expanding access to spay and neuter procedures allows for more members of the community to keep their pets. Similarly, the San Luis Valley Animal Center is a safe place for people to bring lost or suffering animals in need of healing or reunification with their owners.

Phoenix and her foster brother, Pablo

After Phoenix’s dental surgery, Jes stepped in to foster her. When asked why they decided to foster Phoenix, Jes said, “I have a soft spot for little old chihuahuas. Her story also resonated with me. She has such resiliency and, of course, a very sweet face.” Despite being shy and reserved at the shelter, Phoenix warmed up quickly to her new life in Jes’ home. She especially befriended one of Jes’ dogs, a fellow League adoptee named Pablo. Phoenix could often be found cuddling with Pablo, and the two became quite a blanket-burrowing pair. Phoenix also bonded deeply with Jes and regularly sought comfort from them. Jes mentioned that while they and their husband have fostered more than 100 dogs in the last decade, Phoenix was one of their favorites. Once Phoenix recovered from her dental surgery, she was adopted by a League volunteer and remains happy and healthy in her new home.

Phoenix’s story is just one of many that demonstrates the beneficial impact the League is making for animals and the community in south-central Colorado.