A dog’s life in Dogtown USA | SteamboatToday.com
YOUR AD HERE »

A dog’s life in Dogtown USA

Brooke Graham hangs out in a downtown park with Juniper, her companion of more than 9 years.
John F. Russell

Things to do with your dog in Steamboat

Make a splash at the Poochy Paddle:

Twice a year, Old Town Hot Springs is the place to be if you are a dog or a dog owner in Steamboat Springs. The Paws & Claws Poochy Paddle happens in April and September when the pools are cleaned. The event provides a chance for dogs to chase tennis balls and swim in the comfortably heated waters of the Old Town Hot Springs Pool. The event has become a huge gathering for pet owners looking for a unique opportunity to enjoy an afternoon with their favorite, four-legged buddies.

Hit the trails

Hit the trails — Steamboat offers countless hiking and bikinig opportunities for owners and their dogs in the Yampa Valley, and among the most popular is Spring Creek Trail. The Spring Creek Trail also offers a chance for your pooch to get off leash in the park located near the bottom pond. Owners should remember, however, that dogs are required to stay on leash in other areas and along the road leading to the park.

Dog trainer Sand Reed also advises people with well-trained dogs to head into the (Routt?) National forest. He said properly trained dogs are allowed off leash there, as well, and there are plenty of places to get away from the crowds on many of the local trails.

Take a ride

Long time Steamboat Springs dog trainer Sand Reed advises dog owners to grab their pup, jump in the car and take a long drive to new adventures. "Dog owners have a habit of going to the same places with their dogs,” Reed said. “This is a way to have some new adventures with your dog, and most dogs love to jump in the car and take a ride with dad.” Reed, who has trained dogs for more than 20 years, also advises dog owners to be cautious this time of year, as many residents are changing the anti-freeze in their vehicles. The fluid has a sweet smell that is attractive to dogs and cats, but is extremely dangerous to animals. He advises drivers to find a friendly service station that will allow a person to change anti-freeze on-site.

Shopping trips

Several stores in Steamboat Springs allow owners to take their dogs inside, including Steamboat Ace Hardware, Paws ’n Claws, All Things Pet and Elk River Pet and Ranch. Here, owners and dogs spend quality time picking out a soft bed, the latest in dog toys and many other items. Several other businesses in Steamboat Springs offer dog treats and water dishes to encourage dog owners to stop by and shop.

Day at the park

Steamboat offers two off-leash dog parks where dogs can roam free and meet other dogs in a relaxed open atmosphere. One park is located on Spring Creek Trail at the lower pond, and the other can be found at Rita Valentine Park off Anglers Drive. Both offer dogs plenty of open space to roam. Routt County Animal Control officers remind owners that, in other locations across Steamboat Springs, dogs are required to be on leashes.

Crazy River Dog Contest

For dogs that might have a competitive side, this annual event, which is held as part of the Yampa River Fest, is not for the faint of heart. Dogs chase their favorite ball or stick into the fast-moving waters of the Yampa River and are timed on how quickly they can return the object to their owners. Most of the dogs in this contest are willing to perform the feat with or without the stopwatch, making this one of the most popular events each spring.

The Yampa Valley Pet Calendar

Want to see if your dog has what it takes to be the face of on the front of one of Steamboat Springs’ most popular pet calendars? Send a favorite photo and make a donation to the Routt County Humane Society. The funds will help support the organization and the animal shelter in Steamboat Springs. Owners can submit their pets’ photos online at routthumane.org/calendar.htm or mail photos and a placement check to RCHS, P.O. Box 772080, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.

K9 nose work

This is a great game that uses your dog’s natural scenting ability through fun and games. The idea is to train the dog to follow scents. Inspired by working detection dogs, K9 nose work is a search-and-scenting activity for just about any dog and their owner. The game might start with getting your dog to find its favorite treat hidden in boxes but can be expanded to the entire room and exterior areas. The game has been expanded to a competitive event that takes place on large stages across the country.

Training time: Spending quality time with your dog is important to build a strong relationship. While it may be great to play fetch or tug-of-war with your dog, owners can also find rewards in time spent training their dogs to sit and heel on command. This will not only strengthen the pet-owner relationship, it will also make your dog more well-liked in many social situations.

Steamboat’s love of dogs is easy to find.

They can be found in the back of a pickup truck stopped at a light on Lincoln Avenue, strolling down the Yampa River Core Trail and on the shores of the Yampa River.

“There is an acceptance in Steamboat Springs that dogs are a part of the community,” said Laura Tyler, a local dog trainer and one of the writers of “Dog’s Eye View,” a column that appears weekly in Steamboat Today.



She is quick to point out, however, that Steamboat is not alone in its love of dogs. That love is expressed in improving animal care, the extensive marketing that goes into pet products and the availability of those products in places such as Steamboat.

“Dogs are getting more popular, everywhere,” Tyler said. “Steamboat isn’t unique, but our mountain community makes it easier and more popular to own a dog.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



Tyler points to the number of trails, the investment in dog parks and the way the Steamboat community members include their dogs in the things they love best — biking, hiking and being outside.

Dave Terranova, who, with his wife, Jodi, owns Paws ’n Claws and Everything Pets, said this nation’s love of dogs can be seen on the shelves inside his store, which carries everything from food to backpacks that allow owners to carry their four-legged companions if the dogs get tired.

But even Terranova, who said he’s heard most everything relating to dogs, occasionally hears something that makes him step back and say, “Wow.”

“Recently, I had a customer who had traveled to Steamboat with her dog,” Terranova said. “When I asked her how the dog took flying in a kennel, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t. We just chartered a plane.’”

Terranova said the idea of chartering a private plane to fly a dog across the country may sound a little crazy, but through the years, he’s learned that owners will do just about anything for their pets, and in many cases, the pets have become like children to them.

The idea of caring for pets isn’t just found in boutique stores or the pet aisles of local grocers; it also can be seen in a town that has four established veterinary clinics that offer such services as dental care, cold laser therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care.

Owners leaving town can choose from a number of dog sitters, including Red Rover Resort, All Creatures Great & Small, RK Pet Ranch in Oak Creek and Rocky Mountain Pet Resort in Yampa.

Perhaps no one understands our community’s love of dogs better than Jennifer Good, who works at the animal control officer for the city of Steamboat Springs.

Good wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how many dogs call the Yampa Valley home, but she estimated the 1,400 licenses the county sold last year is far fewer than the number of dogs that live in town. She said dog owners in Routt County are legally required to purchase a license for their pets each year, but many don’t. Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa have their own dog licensing requirements.

Local veterinarians agree that estimating the number of dogs living in Steamboat Springs based on the number of licenses issued would yield a low figure. This year, Pet Kare Clinic has seen more than 2,600 dogs; just down the street, Mount Werner Veterinary Hospital saw another 1,700 dogs.

Mountain Peaks Vet Clinic estimated it has seen 500 dogs in the past year.

“It’s a hard number to pin down,” Good said. “But I know it’s a lot.”

Graham

Brooke Graham will tell you she wasn’t always a “dog person.”

“I never had a dog,” she said. “I was always a cat person. I didn’t understand the thing about dogs — I just didn’t get it.”

But nine years ago, she met Juniper, and all that changed. Graham finally understood what it was like to own a dog and have that kind of love in her life.

“She’s just amazing,” Graham said of the Labrador-shepherd mix she found abandoned while visiting Arizona. The family decided to adopt the dog and brought it back home to Steamboat Springs, where Juniper quickly became a member of the family.

“She has improved our lives 10-fold,” Graham said.

She and her husband, Scott Graham, have worked with Juniper since she was a puppy. Juniper goes on three walks per day, and when the family heads out of town, Juniper is normally with them. Brooke Graham said it’s rare for the dog to stay behind.

But last year, when Juniper began having problems moving her hind legs, the Grahams were faced with serious questions. After years of receiving unconditional love, Juniper’s very life and happiness were suddenly in her owners’ hands.

“She’s been a great addition to our family, and we just couldn’t give up on her so easily,” Brooke Graham said. “We couldn’t give up on her just because she couldn’t walk anymore.”

So the family took Juniper to the veterinarian, then to a specialist at the Colorado State University Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, hoping to find answers and options. Veterinarians there discovered a calcium build-up along Juniper’s spinal cord that was keeping brain signals from reaching her hind legs.

“The doctor kind of thinks she may have had an injury when she was younger, because she always sat kind of funny,” Graham said. “But the past year, her condition has progressed to not being able to use her legs. She’s at the point where she drags herself around and can’t stand up at all.”

The Grahams’ options were limited. They could have had Juniper euthanized, but quickly dismissed the idea because the dog wasn’t in pain and examinations proved she was in good health other than the fact she had lost the use of her back legs.

“We took her to the CSU hospital and had some testing and some blood work done, Brooke Graham said. “We wanted to make sure there wasn’t something else going on with her. We wanted to make sure she didn’t have cancer or some underlying issue that would cause us to let her go.”

The other options included investing thousands of dollars into a surgery that may not have corrected the problem or purchasing a doggy wheelchair to see how Juniper responded to that.

“This was really the only option, aside from putting her down,” Graham said. “ We had a harness for a little while that we used on her rear area and just sort of lifted her up and carried her around. But that was hard on us and wasn’t good for her attitude and demeanor. She was bummed and depressed the whole time.”

Eventually, Graham found a doggy wheelchair on eBay that her veterinarian recommended and decided to give it a chance. She said it only took Juniper a couple of minutes to get used to the wheels, and she was off and running.

“This has given her so much more freedom,” Graham said. “It was a no-brainer. Why can’t we give her this quality of life? She has improved our life so much from what she has given us.”

These days, Juniper still takes three walks per day, and Graham said the dog is back to her happy, healthy self. She said the wheelchair draws attention, and, at first, many people feel sorry for the dog. But after a few minutes, it’s difficult not to be inspired by the dog’s resilience.

“She is just so happy and so healthy,” Graham said. “She gets around really well, she’s happy and her tail is wagging all the time. She’s alert and excited.”

Graham knows the love her family shares for Juniper is a commonality in Steamboat Springs. She thinks the area’s healthy outdoor lifestyle is perfectly suited to dog owners who are looking to get outside to hike, ski or just stroll down the Yampa River Core Trail. She thinks dogs make the perfect companions for these types of activities, and that is one of the main reasons dogs are so popular in Steamboat.

“I would say that Steamboat is a pretty dog-friendly community,” she said. “There are plenty of things you can do with your dogs here, and most people understand this is a great place to own a dog.”

Shelesky

Step inside Therese Shelesky’s downtown Steamboat Springs home, and her love of dogs becomes evident.

She has invested her love into four pint-sized, fur-covered, four-legged companions named Bradley, Rusty, Garcia and Coco. All four dogs, who were rescued from shelters in Virginia and came to Steamboat Springs with their own unique stories, and each has its own way of repaying Shelesky for her devotion to them.

“We rescued all four dogs,” Shelesky said of her family, which includes husband, Steve, her two grown step-children and her daughter, who is also out of the home. “They were all biters, so their chances of getting adopted were not good.”

“They are my joy,” she added. “I love working with them.”

The Shelesky family moved to Steamboat Springs in 2012 and now are empty nesters.

These days, Therese and Steve wake to the sound of 16 paws moving across the home’s hardwood floors, the silence replaced by soft barks and, yes, from time to time, a little baby talk.

The dogs are of varied ages, different breeds and have different likes and dislikes. But they share at least one thing in common — they were all rescued from shelters.

To say the dogs got lucky would be an understatement. Both Cocoa and Rusty are recovering from surgeries, the dogs see a groomer on a regular basis in the winter and the nutrition and care they need is always provided by their loving owners.

The dogs also get plenty of opportunities to roam outside in Steamboat’s clean mountain air, thanks to owners who moved here for Steamboat’s outdoor, active lifestyle.

In fact, Steamboat’s dog-friendly community was one of the reasons the Sheleskys wanted to move here full-time after years of vacationing in the Yampa Valley.

“I love it. I have nothing negative to say about the Steamboat community,” Shelesky said. “It’s a dog town … the people are friendly, and wherever you go, they have something for your dog. The town itself is geared for dogs. I love the fact we have dog parks; you can take them on trails, you can take them biking. It’s been awesome.”

Shelesky said many local businesses always welcome dogs with treats and bowls of water, and the people she bumps into on the trails always seem to have an understanding of dogs and what they mean to the town and the people who own them.

Shelesky said her dogs provide warmth in her home on the coldest winter days, and she believes the dogs show gratitude for being rescued.

“I believe in spending a lot of money caring for my dogs,” Shelesky said. “But I didn’t spend a lot of money on my dogs. I just couldn’t, because there are plenty of dogs in shelters that need a good home.”

Shelesky makes it clear that she loves all of her dogs, and she is glad to have every one of them. But she isn’t looking to adopt any more dogs in the near future.

“Four is enough,” she said. “They are all doing really well, and socially, they are awesome. They are my kids. My kids just happen to have four paws.”

Piano

In a community of dog lovers, Oak Creek’s Sarah Piano stands out in the crowd.

“People absolutely adore dogs,” Piano said. “We have a relationship with dogs that dates back thousands of years as companion animals. It started as a working relationship, but today, dogs have made it into our homes and under our beds.”

Piano loves her dogs, but if she plans to let them sleep under her bed, she will need more than a king-size has to offer. Piano has grown her love of dogs into a business, a lifestyle and a kennel of 28 Alaskan Huskies and a border collie, each of which she considers her pets. She knows each one by name, knows their personalities and is sensitive to when something is bothering them.

“I want to bring them all into my house on a cold night,” Piano said of her dogs. “On a cold night I will have 20 dogs in my garage and 10 more in my house. Nobody is sleeping outside when it’s 50 below. That’s when I ask myself honestly, do the dogs want to be outside? Truth is that they don’t .”

While it’s rare for Piano to let her dogs inside, it only happens on cold nights in South Routt, the dog owner is setting her own example in the way she treats her dogs and runs her business, Snow Buddy Dog Sled Tours, which operates in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Piano attempts to do what’s right for her dogs by providing them with a good quality of life and a job they love to do.

“I have to fight a little bit with the anthropomorphic side of me,” Piano said. “These guys are not people. What they need is not what a person needs — sure if you give them a choice between laying on a big fluffy bed and piece of concrete, chances are, they are going to pick the big fluffy bed. But that might not be what they need.”

Instead, Piano offers her dogs big comfortable runs, dog houses for shelter and straw for beds. Most of the year, the dogs sleep in a kennel, but when the temperature drops to below freezing, Piano’s husband has accepted the reality he is going to have some company in his house.

Still, Piano knows they are dogs, and the idea of feeding them organic foods or bison is laughable. She feeds her dogs what they need to run on all cylinders and provides them with a chance to do what they love — run hard.

“They love exercise and stimulation,” Piano said. “They don’t want to be driven around in plush cars or have funny little haircuts. They are dogs, and this is what they love to do.”

Piano is also trying to set an example of how to care for dogs in a business in which the dogs earn their worth by completing a job.

Unlike many dog sled owners, Piano wants to make sure her dogs have a good life after they are done pulling the sled. This is easier said than done, and she acknowledges retirement isn’t always part of the plan for sled dogs. But she socializes her dogs with the hope they can be adopted when they are no longer able to pull the sled. She actively searches for people to adopt her older sled dogs so they can find their own place to grow old.

Her kennel is small by design, and she wants just enough dogs to get the job done during the winter. Many of her dogs have their own stories, passed on to her by owners who no longer had a use for the dogs.

But keeping extra dogs in this business is expensive and, at times, impossible. So she does her best to line up homes and train her dogs to be good pets.

Piano’s love for her dogs is undeniable, and she was once told by another musher that it is impossible to save them all. Fortunately for the dogs in Piano’s care, she didn’t listen.

“I love these guys to pieces,” Piano said. “I just want to be the type of musher who honors their needs and is realistic about what those are. This is our whole life, morning to night. We are managing these guys and doing the best we can for them.”

Piano isn’t afraid of the hard questions that come with the sled dog business. Recently, kennels are being more selective about breeding, and fewer dogs are needed. But the reality is, most of these dogs are good while they are working, but what happens next is a little less certain.

“Kennels are managing this issue in the different ways,” Piano said. “Most of the larger kennels have an adoption program and are breeding fewer dogs. The idea is to find a place for these dogs when the work is done.”

Things to do with your dog in Steamboat

Make a splash at the Poochy Paddle:

Twice a year, Old Town Hot Springs is the place to be if you are a dog or a dog owner in Steamboat Springs. The Paws & Claws Poochy Paddle happens in April and September when the pools are cleaned. The event provides a chance for dogs to chase tennis balls and swim in the comfortably heated waters of the Old Town Hot Springs Pool. The event has become a huge gathering for pet owners looking for a unique opportunity to enjoy an afternoon with their favorite, four-legged buddies.

Hit the trails

Hit the trails — Steamboat offers countless hiking and bikinig opportunities for owners and their dogs in the Yampa Valley, and among the most popular is Spring Creek Trail. The Spring Creek Trail also offers a chance for your pooch to get off leash in the park located near the bottom pond. Owners should remember, however, that dogs are required to stay on leash in other areas and along the road leading to the park.

Dog trainer Sand Reed also advises people with well-trained dogs to head into the (Routt?) National forest. He said properly trained dogs are allowed off leash there, as well, and there are plenty of places to get away from the crowds on many of the local trails.

Take a ride

Long time Steamboat Springs dog trainer Sand Reed advises dog owners to grab their pup, jump in the car and take a long drive to new adventures. “Dog owners have a habit of going to the same places with their dogs,” Reed said. “This is a way to have some new adventures with your dog, and most dogs love to jump in the car and take a ride with dad.” Reed, who has trained dogs for more than 20 years, also advises dog owners to be cautious this time of year, as many residents are changing the anti-freeze in their vehicles. The fluid has a sweet smell that is attractive to dogs and cats, but is extremely dangerous to animals. He advises drivers to find a friendly service station that will allow a person to change anti-freeze on-site.

Shopping trips

Several stores in Steamboat Springs allow owners to take their dogs inside, including Steamboat Ace Hardware, Paws ’n Claws, All Things Pet and Elk River Pet and Ranch. Here, owners and dogs spend quality time picking out a soft bed, the latest in dog toys and many other items. Several other businesses in Steamboat Springs offer dog treats and water dishes to encourage dog owners to stop by and shop.

Day at the park

Steamboat offers two off-leash dog parks where dogs can roam free and meet other dogs in a relaxed open atmosphere. One park is located on Spring Creek Trail at the lower pond, and the other can be found at Rita Valentine Park off Anglers Drive. Both offer dogs plenty of open space to roam. Routt County Animal Control officers remind owners that, in other locations across Steamboat Springs, dogs are required to be on leashes.

Crazy River Dog Contest

For dogs that might have a competitive side, this annual event, which is held as part of the Yampa River Fest, is not for the faint of heart. Dogs chase their favorite ball or stick into the fast-moving waters of the Yampa River and are timed on how quickly they can return the object to their owners. Most of the dogs in this contest are willing to perform the feat with or without the stopwatch, making this one of the most popular events each spring.

The Yampa Valley Pet Calendar

Want to see if your dog has what it takes to be the face of on the front of one of Steamboat Springs’ most popular pet calendars? Send a favorite photo and make a donation to the Routt County Humane Society. The funds will help support the organization and the animal shelter in Steamboat Springs. Owners can submit their pets’ photos online at routthumane.org/calendar.htm or mail photos and a placement check to RCHS, P.O. Box 772080, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.

K9 nose work

This is a great game that uses your dog’s natural scenting ability through fun and games. The idea is to train the dog to follow scents. Inspired by working detection dogs, K9 nose work is a search-and-scenting activity for just about any dog and their owner. The game might start with getting your dog to find its favorite treat hidden in boxes but can be expanded to the entire room and exterior areas. The game has been expanded to a competitive event that takes place on large stages across the country.

Training time: Spending quality time with your dog is important to build a strong relationship. While it may be great to play fetch or tug-of-war with your dog, owners can also find rewards in time spent training their dogs to sit and heel on command. This will not only strengthen the pet-owner relationship, it will also make your dog more well-liked in many social situations.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


News


See more