Animal Assistance League’s work helps Theo the dog find new home |

Animal Assistance League’s work helps Theo the dog find new home

Theo's story began long before the folks at the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado showed up to rescue him and his siblings, who had taken shelter in a rock outcropping on a ranch near Hayden.

"We are actually not a rescue organization. It's a misconception that a lot of people have, but we do end up doing a lot of rescues," said Cassandra Mendonca, president of the assistance league. "We also do a lot of assistance, and we are really a liaison because we stretch across five counties."

But Mendonca said that when the league is needed, it’s ready to step in and rescue dogs, cats and even horses.

"We work with shelters and the Humane Society, but in some cases, those organizations may not be  the best,” Mendonca explained. “Sometimes, we will get the first call that there is a dog that has been left behind or abandoned —  or maybe fell out of a truck. Sometimes, it's easier for us to go, explore the circumstances and get the dog. We might end up taking the dog to the shelter or to a veterinarian.

“Sometimes, we might end up paying for the bills, or part of the bill, because the dog fell out of a truck, or needs some other care," she added.

The group also gets calls from citizens who are concerned about the well-being of an animal.  The group often works with the pets owners and different organizations to make sure the animal gets the care needed.

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In October, the assistance league was called into action when the group got a call about a puppy at large on a ranch near Hayden.

When the group investigated, they discovered Theo, and his eight siblings, who had been left alone on a remote part of the ranch. The puppies’ mother and their owner were nowhere to be found.

Mendonca said it is not unusual for some dogs to get left behind on some of the larger sheep ranching operations.

The workers must move with the sheep and move quickly. She suspects that the mother was part of a large group of dogs, maybe 10 to 15, being used to watch the sheep. She thinks workers may not have known that the mother gave birth to the litter, and when the operation moved, the puppies, and possibly the mother, were left behind.

Mendonca said the puppies were noticed by someone driving past the ranch who thought the puppies appeared to be abandoned. That citizen called the Animal Assistance League.

When the volunteers arrived at the ranch, Hayden resident Deb Rowe and Denette Webber, of Craig, worked to get permission from the ranch owner to let the Animal Assistance League come onto the ranch and take the dogs. Theo, an Akbash, was moved with the other dogs to another ranch nearby.

All of the dogs, including the mother who eventually found her way back to the puppies, survived and have been placed into homes.

Mendonca said it's the kind of service the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado has been providing since it was founded by former Routt County animal control officer Cindy Del Valle 20 years ago to fill a niche for the underserved residents of Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties.

Today, the group is fueled by seven dedicated members and a large group of part-time volunteers. The group raises money by holding bake sales and yard sales and applying for grants.

In the last year, the assistance league provided and paid for veterinary care for some 100 animals.

The group is also active in education, and Mendonca said that accounts for about 25 percent of what the group does. Volunteers have visited 16 different elementary schools in the five-county region it serves to spread the word about the importance of being kind to animals and teaching students what it takes to be responsible pet owners.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966