Animals and their people stick tight, like Velcro

Several years ago, Ozzie was a wreck, a hyper, needy spaz whose main focus was scattershot mayhem.

These days, though — and Saturday afternoon specifically — he earns the distinction of Good Boy. As in, who’s a good boy? Who? Who?

Ozzie, that’s who. Just look at him, relaxing under a picnic table bench Saturday, head resting on paws, curly hair flopping in eyes, emanating palpable “please drop the hot dog” rays.

So, Barb Halverson, of Delta, why do you love this guy?

“He’s just such a sweet dog,” she said. “He has fun doing anything. He’s just a very nice companion. And if you get too lazy, he’s over at the door going, ‘Come on!’ “

Ozzie, an Old English sheepdog, was a rescue dog. At first he seemed hopeless, but with training and love, he’s become a Good Boy. He was one of dozens of animals at the third-annual Western Slope Animal Expo at the Mesa County Fairgrounds Saturday.

Ruffling their fur or stroking their feathers, and looking into their eyes led to one overarching question: Why do we love our animals?

They can’t, as a rule, talk, they occasionally drool and gobble packing peanuts. They shed and poop and get sick, and we love them like family.

In fact, Judy Leonard, of Delta, loves her corgi, Darby, for “her sense of family,” Leonard explained. “She loves the family. She’s one of us.”

We allow these animals into our homes, onto our laps, next to (or sometimes on) our beds. We open our hearts. We see our own feelings in their eyes, we project on them our emotions, we talk for them and let them do the talking for us. We comfort them and ask them to comfort us.

Take, for example, Emma, a medium-sized dog with the coat and shape of a golden retriever and the icy blue eyes of a husky. She nonchalantly strolled the fairgrounds Saturday.

“She was our heart-healer,” explained Chris Ivie, of Grand Junction. “We’d kind of gone through a hard time, and she helped heal our hearts. She’s just very sweet.”

“And she’s an instigator,” added Dave Orton. “She gets things going with our other two dogs. She’s very enthusiastic, loves to play. And she loves being with us. I think because she was a rescue dog she has those abandonment issues, so she follows us around the house.”

In the animals who share our lives and homes, we find friends and companions and, often, hope. Christy Bennett, of Clifton, got her hyacinth macaw, Isis, from Texas, adding to a family of four other macaws. Hyacinth macaws are endangered, so Bennett got not only a companion, but assurance that things aren’t beyond redemption.

“It’s a privilege having her in our home,” Bennett said.

Larissa Rignall, a co-organizer of Saturday’s event, said she and other members of the Western Slope Animal Services Networking Group hope to educate people about the vital role animals play in our lives, “and we want to help people in every aspect of raising, training, buying, selling animals. We want to educate and to share.”

Saturday, Rignall and her husband, Rick, had several of their miniature appaloosa horses at the fairgrounds Saturday, including a 4-day-old foal who is, as yet, unnamed. She’s a frisky little thing, gamboling around the pen, leaping and running into her mother and finally, exhausted, collapsing for a nap.

Cute? Beyond question. Lovable?

It goes without saying.


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