Meet Scooter, a Bichon-Frise mix rescued during quarantine. (Photo courtesy of the Telluride Humane Society)

Each week, The Watch hosts an interview with one of this region’s leading nonprofits. This week we chat with Ellen Williamson, founder of the Telluride Humane Society, whose mission is to “build and foster a no-kill community,” end the overpopulation of homeless dogs and cats, and better animal welfare.

Leslie Vreeland: How have you been doing, these past few weeks? Who have you been sheltering with?

Ellen Williamson: I have been doing well! Along with everybody else, it seems, my focus has shifted: I notice that whoever I engage with, whether it’s on the phone or at a safe distance in public, there is warmth and sincerity in our greetings and dialogues. I’ve been sheltering with my dogs, and they help keep the levity in my day-to-day life. I’m so much more in balance with them. They really help with my health and wellbeing!

LV: I understand the Telluride Humane Society has been busier than ever. Is that true?

EW:It has not only been busier than ever, it’s remaining busy. By nature, humans thrive on companionship. We’re not intended to live a solo existence, but to bond, and to establish meaning in our daily lives. Pets provide us with profound companionship that transcends age, race, geography, economic status and more. It feels like we’ve been watching this unfold recently, as people increasingly open their homes and lives to pets. We are not successful in life when we’re isolated from others and the world, and pets provide a conduit for connection in the safest, most unconditional of ways.

LV: How are you keeping busy?

EW:We’re keeping busy by rescuing animals throughout this area who need fostering and adoption; with local residents, who need assistance with food and medical care for their pets; with so many locals who’ve stepped forward to offer their homes, walk pets, help deliver pet food, etc. I would say that the number of people who have come forward has tripled! A lot have been families with young children who want to show and share — to teach their kids how to care for an animal, and to give back. It’s really sweet!

LV: How many dogs and cats are in foster care right now?

EW:We cannot keep a larger number of pets in foster care right now, because here in Telluride, we continue to have almost three or more adoption requests, from highly qualified potential owners, for every single pet we put up for adoption. It’s a big contrast from a year ago, when it could take weeks to find a pet a new home. Right now, we have two dogs in foster care, and one of those dogs has three applicants! It will be going to a great new home within the week. We just rescued a beautiful border collie yesterday; she was found in the middle of nowhere, south of Telluride, with her mouth full of porcupine quills. The quills appear to have been there for at least a week or longer. In addition to the incredible pain, she was emaciated — she was starving to death because she couldn’t eat. She was immediately taken care of. I’m so proud of our core mission of health, wellbeing and excellent medical care, which we provide to pets that are truly in need. This little girl will recover; we’ll be looking for a foster home, and then a new home, for her very soon. We also rescued a four-week-old kitten yesterday; he’ll be up for adoption in several weeks. I’ve been told that we’ll be rescuing another litter of kittens within the week.

LV: Are you providing help with veterinary care for people who may be out of work and not able to afford it?

EW:Yes. We’re doing this right now, and we’re preparing to do more of it, as the long-term effects of the pandemic on our community continue to unfold. I’m so pleased that we’re working with all three local veterinary clinics: San Miguel (in Norwood), Telluride Vet Clinic, and the Animal Hospital of Telluride. The best way to apply for assistance is to contact us via email (at and let us know you’d like an application. Once someone returns the application, we work to provide assistance as quickly as possible.

LV: I understand the THS has also received pet food and flea treatments (and more). Where do people go to obtain low-cost food for their pets?

EW:We received generous donations of food from (manufacturers) Hills Pet Nutrition and Canidae and Frontline flea and tick vaccines from the company Boehringer-Ingelheim. We’re providing these supplies at no cost, while supplies last, to those who contact us via email and complete an application. … We’re working unilaterally with all the vet services in the county, and will provide needed vaccines through a pet’s current vet.

LV: Why is it important to donate to the THS right now, if you can?

EW: We’ve been overwhelmingly moved by, and are deeply grateful for, each and every donation that has been provided to us. Donations come to us most often in one of two ways: through our website (click on ‘Donate’) or by mail, at PO Box 455, Telluride, CO 81435. We’ve also had many donations provided through people who leave a contribution for us at the veterinarian clinics and at the PET Telluride store in town. The importance of donating — and the value — is that we are staffed entirely by volunteers. One hundred percent of any donation goes directly to the care of a pet: to its medical checkup and evaluation upon rescue, to its support in foster care along with supplies that might be needed (such as a collar) and through adoption. Support continues through a major medical-emergency fund we’ve established, which allows us to continue making a significant difference in the ongoing care for local pets. We’re deeply grateful for all the donations that have been provided to us. They are truly and fully helping us do the work we’re committed to doing in the local community.

Editor’s note: This has been edited for space.