By Robin Russell, Volunteer Writer

Have you seen this dog? Not only was he a handsome fellow, but for the past 20 years, his enduring impact has been larger than life as the Buddy Center’s namesake. Sadly, Buddy is no longer with us, but his people – former League Board Member Debbie Bennett and her husband, Robert, of Parker – have ensured his memory and name live on.

Over 20 years ago, the Douglas County community, familiar with the great reputation of the Dumb Friends League, requested a facility be built to serve its residents and animals. The County donated the land, and residents funded it with their generous donations. Among these compassionate donors were the Bennetts, which is how the center came to be named after their beloved pet, Buddy. By April of 2002, the Buddy Center was open and ready to make a difference in the community.

On November 12, 2022, Dumb Friends League staff, volunteers, supporters, community members, local officials, and animal alumni gathered at the Buddy Center to celebrate its 20th anniversary and rededication.

Representatives from both the League and Douglas County were present for the event. Dr. Apryl Steele, President and CEO of the League, kicked off the ceremony and shared the touching story of the two Buddy Center alumni in the audience, Bandit and Brownie. Also present was Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray, who shared his lifelong love for animals and his gratitude for the impact the Buddy Center has on the community. Finally, Douglas County Undersheriff Dave Walcher shared his positive experiences with animals and praised the League’s work, while encouraging people to support the mission.

Dr. Steele concluded the program by inviting everyone to gather for the “rib-bone” cutting (or chomping) ceremony, made possible by Bandit and Brownie!

In preparation for this piece, I sought the perspectives of Lynn Gillingham, a Buddy Center volunteer, who began working at the facility shortly after it opened. Her service has been emblematic of the Buddy Center’s evolution but has sadly come to an end as she prepares for an upcoming move to Arizona, making the milestone a bittersweet one.

Lynn shared that, two decades ago, staff and volunteers were few, but over time they’ve accomplished great things together. She feels that her time at the Buddy Center has helped her grow and feel more comfortable around dogs after some negative experiences as a child. She says, “The Buddy Center has evolved into a very special place, and I am very sad to leave.”  

While Buddy has long passed and Lynn has continued on to new adventures, their legacies live on as the Buddy Center remains a pillar of the Castle Rock community. Today, the facility operates as a full-service shelter offering adoptions, pet admission, lost and found services, and humane education opportunities to the public. In fiscal year 2022, the Buddy Center found homes for 2,887 furry friends.