Mila enjoying her new life in Colorado. (Photo by Maureen Pelisson/Telluride Daily Planet)

One hot summer morning in July, a skinny pregnant lab mix was found wandering the streets by animal control in Roswell, New Mexico, and brought to animal services. That night her puppies were born. She nursed them in a crowded shelter that sees few adoptions. No one came to claim her.

Friends of Roswell Animals (FORA) work closely with animal services in Roswell to promote the animals in need. They named the skinny lab mix Mila. Once Mila’s puppies were weaned, she was put on the euthanasia list.

FORA sent out an SOS to rescue partners in Colorado, explaining that the shelter was full and many animals were out of time.

Local animal advocates saw FORA’s request for help and reached out to the Telluride Humane Society and Second Chance Humane Society to see if they would be willing to help.

Both organizations responded quickly, and Mila found herself on a transport van with 25 other dogs on their way to a better life. Mila and a puppy named Carter came to Telluride, where local families fostered them until they found their forever homes.

More than 15 Colorado-based rescue groups stepped in and ultimately saved 80 dogs. The animals were transported from New Mexico to Colorado, and met with rescue partners along the way.

“We drove 13-hours roundtrip to meet the transport vans that made their way from Roswell to Colorado,” stated Ellen Williamson, chairman of the board of the Telluride Humane Society.

Williamson went on to explain how she could feel the instant relief from the dogs as they settled into their freedom ride.

“It’s amazing to feel the animal’s relief when they’re safe and in their foster homes, I wish we could have taken more back to Telluride,” she said.

Carter’s foster, Laura Young said, “fostering allows a path to a forever home while they decompress and adjust to new things like stairs and toys.”

Second Chance Humane Society in Ridgway works closely with rescue partners from neighboring states. Elizabeth Kirwin, shelter manager at Second Chance, shared that rescue organizations in Colorado work to service Colorado needs, and then broaden their efforts to help rescue partners in neighboring states.

“In July, we took approximately 10 animals from surrounding states,” she said.

Walking down the streets of Telluride, it’s easy to see how much residents of the community love dogs. In July, the Telluride Humane Society adopted out 13 dogs, and year-to-date, Second Chance has adopted out nearly 200.

Rescue groups take the time to vet the animals in their care, assess their behavior and provide training before the animal is placed for adoption, ensuring it’s the perfect match.

 “There’s always a way to save a life,” Kirwin added. “Take the time to do your homework to see if you can fulfill your needs with a rescue animal, and if we don’t have the dog you’re looking for we will work with our rescue partners to help you find the right pet for your family.”

New Mexico has made great strides in reducing the number of euthanized dogs and cats over the years, but there are still many shelters there, as southern states are also struggling with significant overpopulation.

“As most other rescue groups and shelters in Colorado, we believe it is important to step in and help out when overcrowding and other circumstances put homeless pets in danger,” said Kelly Goodin, executive director of Second Chance Humane Society.

There are many ways the community can get involved — make a donation, volunteer, foster, adopt, help transport or provide supplies.

Goodin added, “It is always most important to be a resource and available for our Colorado communities. While expanded spay and neuter, animal welfare education, and good transport programs are working well, they will need to continue to expand to lower the numbers of euthanized dogs and cats around the country.” 

Back in Roswell, FORA is raising money for spay and neuter equipment; a donor has agreed to match all donations that come in.

“This will truly be life-saving equipment and significantly help us reduce the over pet-population in our area,” said Sammye Leflar, FORA founder and president.

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