Must love dogs

Seth Sachson heads the Aspen Animal Shelter. A chance encounter with a guy he later came to learn was with Sirius radio, which has led to Seth doing syndicated radio show related to animal issues.



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Seth Sachson heads the Aspen Animal Shelter. A chance encounter with a guy he later came to learn was with Sirius radio, which has led to Seth doing syndicated radio show related to animal issues.

Seth Sachson.



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Seth Sachson.

Seth Sachson, who heads the Aspen Animal Shelter, takes a break with his dogs.



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Seth Sachson, who heads the Aspen Animal Shelter, takes a break with his dogs.

Seth Sachson takes some dogs for a run.



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Seth Sachson takes some dogs for a run.

Seth Sachson with a few of the dogs from the Aspen Animal Shelter.



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Seth Sachson with a few of the dogs from the Aspen Animal Shelter.

QUICKREAD

‘Let’s fix the problems’

Area animal shelters often get in a pinch for space, and cooperate in taking on excess animals when one shelter is in a bind. That’s one instance when Aspen Animal Shelter Director Seth Sachson’s enthusiasm for working with others to meet animals’ needs shines.

Heather Mullen, director of the Rifle Animal Shelter, said he’s been good to work with at times such as the busy season for kittens.

“He’s just always been very upbeat and positive and … if we have had problems with space constraints, helped us think of solutions. He’s always willing to help us out with kittens. He’s always very positive, ‘let’s fix the problems and help find solutions,’ and things like that,” she said.



When Seth Sachson slips you a business card, the grin on his face tells it all.

This is no ordinary business card, but a bone-shaped dog tag imprinted with Sachson’s title: executive director of the Aspen Boarding Kennel and Aspen Animal Shelter.

And Sachson’s grin says he knows he’s got no ordinary job. Rather, it’s simply an extension of a life centered on a passion for dogs and other creatures. Sachson loves the work he does and the life he lives.

“It’s been an incredible journey for me because not only am I meeting incredible animals, I’m meeting incredible people,” Sachson said.

These people include everyday volunteers who share Sachson’s devotion to making the shelter a success. They also include personalities such as singer Bernadette Peters and Sirius XM Radio President Scott Greenstein, whose only-in-Aspen encounters with Sachson led to moments including Sachson hosting a show one night recently on a Sirius station.

It’s all heady stuff for the 42-year-old Sachson, who marvels how far things have come for him since he was a child living in Plano, Texas, pinning up photos of dogs on his bedroom wall and constantly perusing the animals section of the classifieds section.

He grew up on five acres with dogs, cats and horses. He still speaks fondly of past pets, dating all the way back to his childhood.

“As a teenager, I shared an incredibly close bond with my childhood dog, Gulliver, a yellow Lab/boxer mix,” Sachson said.

“Gulliver and I spent years hiking and biking all over the countryside. He even pulled me on my skateboard all around our neighborhood. I loved Gulliver and I miss him today,” he said.

Perhaps those skateboard jaunts with Gulliver spurred something inside Sachson, because when he and his family would vacation in Aspen, he constantly wanted to check out the sled dogs at Krabloonik, a Snowmass Village business offering dog sled rides for tourists. In lieu of pursuing a more traditional career, he wanted only to be a dog sled musher, and after finishing his studies in animal behavior in college he found work at Krabloonik in the early 1990s.

But Sachson soon realized mushing wasn’t the job for him. Meanwhile, he went into the animal shelter one day in search of a mouser cat, and felt right at home.

He got involved, and before long was running the shelter and took over the contract to provide shelter services for Aspen and Pitkin County.

Sachson wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Despite the plethora of goats, chickens, dogs and other animals he keeps at home, he can’t wait to get to the shelter each day. Anne Gurchick, a board member of Sachson’s nonprofit Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter, marvels at Sachson’s around-the-clock, year-in, year-out devotion, which includes rarely taking a vacation. Sachson would rather be at the shelter.

Gurchick added, “He’s quite a Renaissance man. He’s a great businessman, he’s a kind person, he rescues dogs, he dogsleds.”

On a recent morning, Sachson gave an interview in his office with about 10 of his personal pets filling up couches, floor space, even the back of the chair where he sat. Many were dogs he accepted when Krabloonik needed to get rid of them, and they now make up his own mushing team. While they were quietly napping, the heads of some resting on the rumps of others, within hours they would be crazily yelping as he readied them for an afternoon pull of his sled.

“Dogs have just always been in my blood,” Sachson said. “They’re what makes me feel fulfilled and happy and I love taking care of them. I love all animals, but especially dogs.”

The animal shelter building also consists of a boarding kennel, pet shop and grooming services that Sachson additionally is involved in, and which help generate revenue for the entire operation. As Sachson puts it, these services allow animals with homes to help those without homes.

A capital campaign by the Friends group led to the current shelter building opening in 2006. It houses dogs, cats, birds and other animals. Sachson shows off such features as copious natural lighting, and plentiful outdoor running areas for dogs, which are kenneled in small groups when they are compatible, honoring their desire as pack animals for companionship.

Webcams at the facility allow anyone to see what’s going on there, including potential adopters and people who board their pets there.

“People can be in Italy right now and watch their dog playing, and trust me, they do,” Sachson said.

Sachson’s efforts on behalf of animals include taking in homeless pets for other area shelters when they face space shortages, being involved in regional spay and neutering efforts, and working to help defuse controversy over conditions at Krabloonik. He has taken in dogs otherwise facing potential euthanasia by Krabloonik and participated in discussions aimed at improving living conditions there. While those conditions still might not be ideal to some people, Sachson says conditions aren’t ideal either for some dogs that are kept inside people’s homes all day and get little exercise.

His interest in seeing dogs ending up in the right setting led him to gently urge a New York City man a few years back not to adopt a large dog the man fell in love with during a visit to the shelter. But the two stayed in touch and eventually the man — who Sachson only later learned was Greenstein, the Sirius executive — encouraged the personable shelter director to do a Sirius show.

Sachson ended up working out of a makeshift studio created in his shelter office, taking animal-related calls and even having his friend and fellow Aspen-area resident, musician Jimmy Ibbotson, of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame, sing during the segment. Sachson said Greenstein has expressed interest in having Sachson do more shows.

On another occasion, Sachson was attending a performance Bernadette Peters put on at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House when she chose to sit in his lap to sing a song. Totally unaware of the work he does, she ended the performance urging people to support their local shelters. The next day he called her, and soon they both became involved in each other’s efforts on behalf of animals.

Peters, celebrity animal trainers Cesar Millan and Victoria Stillwell, local resident and singer John Oates of the former duo Hall and Oates, and Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle are just some of the figures who have participated in events to help raise funds on behalf of Friends of the Animal Shelter. For Sachson, making acquaintances with such prominent figures is one more side benefit of running a shelter in Aspen. But it’s the animals that really benefit from being housed in such a town. He said he sometimes hears people say they’d like to help out at the shelter but such facilities are too depressing.

“I tell people, don’t feel bad for the animals. They have a blast here,” Sachson said

As he showed off the facility, he added, “This is the life of the homeless dog and cat in Aspen.”

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