‘Dog people’ welcome abandoned pet to pack

Tucker, a rescue dog, is shown with his owner, Keith Tucker, at home in the Redlands. Keith and his wife, Gail, have three other rescue dogs.They like the fact that their latest addition to the family also shares their name.


Pet stats

Some numbers this year through November by Mesa County Animal Services, 971 Coffman Road.

■ 1,410 animals adopted or transferred.

■ 1,152 animals returned to owners; almost all of those were dogs. Eighteen cats were returned to owners.

■ 1,284 animals were euthanized, which include 412 dogs. Many of the cats were feral cats or very sick or injured.

Sometimes it takes a community.

That’s the story behind Tucker, a spry, white dog with black spots who found a home just in time for Christmas, and likely, for the rest of his doggie days. With a black-ringed left eye and an open-mouthed grin when he’s around his newfound dog pack, a crew of three other rescue dogs, Tucker is starting to fit in.

Nearly four months ago, the future wasn’t so bright for the pooch, when he was seen in the blistering August heat, skittering around in the Redlands near the base of Colorado National Monument, scrawny, terrified of people and “almost feral,” animal advocates said.

Tucker, who now lives with the Tuckers, Gail and Keith, is enjoying a second chance, thanks to the work of several animal lovers.

“He hasn’t missed that many meals since he got here,” Keith Tucker chuckled, watching Tucker play in the backyard of his Redlands home.

For some time, several Redlands residents reported seeing the fearful dog and “tried to get near it, throwing it hotdogs,” said Penny McCarty, director of Mesa County Animal Services. Around that time, Cindy Haerle, a volunteer transport coordinator with animal services, was mountain biking in the area and saw the dog. She alerted an animal services officer who set a trap, and the dog was caught and taken to the Grand Valley Emergency Veterinary Clinic.

“It was like he was so tired, he was worn out,” McCarty said. “He was limping; he had an infection. It took us two weeks to get him on a feeding regimen.”

The dog, later named Tucker, was likely dumped near the monument, or its owners lost him and didn’t bother to try to find him, McCarty said. Because he wasn’t aggressive,  workers were cleared to nurse him back to health. The recovery would be long, they realized, when Tucker didn’t even unfurl to look up at staff after five days of being in a cage.

“This is a dog that had nobody,” she said. “He was not real trusting. He was never aggressive with staff, just scared and hurt.”

When staff determined Tucker needed more help socializing, they called on Teri Thomas, a dog trainer with Angels in the Making. Thomas donated her time to develop a plan to get Tucker to the point where he could be adopted.

It was about then that the Tuckers were looking for a fourth dog. They saw Tucker’s photo and read his story from a notice issued by Best Friends Animal Society, a sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.

They liked Tucker’s name (of course, it’s also theirs), the dog looked like a younger version of their other dog, Ranger, and they believed they had space in their home and hearts for another project.

“It was just like one of those signs. All the signs,” Keith Tucker said.

In the next weeks, the Tuckers put 175 miles on their vehicle, traveling to animal services to visit Tucker and then to introduce him one-by-one to their current dog pack. 

“He was not a dog you could take home and put in a living room and say, ‘Welcome,’ ” McCarty said.

After socializing with the Tuckers, and also meeting with other prospective families, it was determined Tucker would fit best with the Redlands couple.

“When he finally came here, they were thrilled to see him,” Keith said of his other dogs, a chocolate Lab named Meg, a heeler-mix named Ranger and a Chihuahua-schnauzer mix called Buttons ­— the welcome committee for Tucker in his new spacious backyard.

For the past two-and-a-half weeks, Tucker has been settling in, mimicking dog play by taking turns pulling and being pulled by the scruff of his neck.

Just recently Gail and Keith went into town for a few hours, leaving all the dogs in the house together. When they returned, the furniture was intact, and “there was no blood,” the experiment heralded as a success, Keith said.

“Dogs find dog people somehow,” Keith Tucker surmised about the turn of events. “We didn’t do kids; we did dogs instead.”

Tucker’s transformation is the most concentrated effort yet by Mesa County Animal Services, and it was possible because of a network of resources that wasn’t available before, McCarty said.

“I give the Tuckers so much credit for taking in a dog that comes to them with so much history,” she said. “We are going to be doing more and more because we have the resources.”

In general, prospective pet owners are opening their hearts and homes to adopt what had been known as less desirable pets. That could mean pets with special needs or older animals.

Pet owners also are taking better care of their animals, McCarty said. In Grand Junction that means about 800 fewer animals being brought into the shelter compared to 2011.

“I do attribute that to more responsible owners,” she said.

Animal services so far this year has not euthanized any healthy, non-aggressive animals, a statistic which mirrors last year. The agency puts down animals that are found abandoned with injuries or animals that are deemed to be aggressive.

Recently a woman arrived at the shelter with the idea of giving herself the Christmas present to adopt an older dog, preferably one that needed hospice care. She went home with a 7-year-old hound dog.

“That just wasn’t happening before,” McCarty said.


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Great story.  Made me happy.

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