Mama June

Mama June was rescued from a reservation in New Mexico in January. Her eight pups were also adopted, thanks to the Telluride Humane Society. (Courtesy photo)

One of the silver linings of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the surge in pet adoptions. Since the pandemic’s onset last year, animal rescues and shelters have repeatedly reported higher adoption rates. 

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic led to uncertainty and severe health and economic concerns. Previous studies indicated that owning a companion animal, such as a dog or a cat, has benefits for good mental health. Interactions with animals may help with depression and anxiety, particularly under stress-prone conditions,” according to a November 2020 study that was published in the journal Humanities & Social Sciences Communications. “ … Overall, according to our analysis, as the social isolation became more stringent during the pandemic, the interest in dog adoption and the adoption rate increased significantly.” 

Locally, the Telluride Humane Society is experiencing the same interest in adoptions. The organization’s first rescue effort of the year was a big one, as a mother and her eight pups were rescued from a reservation in New Mexico. Mama June’s litter, (as she was named by her foster family), was adopted within hours, said Ellen Williamson, who was one of the founders of the humane society.  

“This mama dog, Mama June … was one of multiple dogs living outdoors full-time on a property that bordered the reservation in New Mexico. The property owner had too many dogs and could not care for this dog, who in her short life of just under two years old, had experienced back to back pregnancies, which included multiple litters of eight puppies, including this last litter of hers that the Telluride Humane Society took on as a rescue case,” Williamson explained. “We became aware of Mama June when her foster brought her into the Animal Hospital of Telluride due to an infection in her mammary glands. Mama June was in very poor health condition as we learned she was nursing eight, five-week-old puppies. I'm not sure what would have been the fate of Mama June had she not been rescued and given the medical care we provided at that time.”

Unfortunately, Mama June’s health declined to the point that surgery was necessary. Dr. Steven Smolen of the animal hospital suspected she may have cancer in her mammary glands. The humane society sponsored the surgery, which had a positive outcome.  

“The good news came that there was no cancer in the mammary glands, and today after extensive and thorough medical care, Mama June is recovering and looking to have an amazing future ahead of her,” Williamson said. 

Simultaneously, while Mama June recovered and regained her strength, the humane society focused on finding forever homes for her pups. 

“We were concerned that it was going to be a Herculean effort to find eight good forever homes in January, but every single puppy found an amazing forever home within hours of their one adoption meet and greet,” Williamson said. “The humane society has always had an overwhelming response to the rescues we present to the community for adoption, but this rescue especially captured the hearts and attention of a vast audience. Aside from them being absolutely adorable, and then they were all given these vegetable names that I am sure was a pleasant distraction from what was going on in national news last month, we were bombarded by inquiries and guesses to their DNA, which was unknown at the time.”

The “veggie tails” pups had names like Potato, Carrot and Squash, and one by one, found new homes throughout January. Williamson said the most recent adoptions are evidence that the all-volunteer organization is doing work that's making a difference as the humane society continues to financially support pets’ health after they leave the organization’s care. 

“We are not simply rescuing and trying to get an animal adopted and into a home and be someone else's expense,” she added. 

Though they’re living the good life with their new pet parents, the humane society is still caring for Mama June and her pups. 

“Currently, we remain focused on the support of these puppies as they continue to get their shots and further medical exams, and support of Mama June through her full recovery,” Williamson said. 

For more information about the Telluride Humane Society, visit