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Josie Dean hasn’t met an animal she can’t love

Christine Metz

— Josie Dean loves animals. But it is a love that has shifted in the past two months. And though she said her love has not lessened for her dog Comet and all the other animals she works to save through the Humane Society, it now has to be expanded to include her 9-week-old baby girl, Anna.

The arrival of Anna has changed the life of Josie, who has been president of the Routt County Humane Society for the past year and a half.

When she is driving through Steamboat Springs, she can no longer pull over to check the tags of stray dogs and load them into the back of her Subaru. She also no longer takes them home so they have a place to stay as she tries to contact the owner. And she no longer presides over the Humane Society meetings. She handed the gavel over to her vice president, Maggie Smith.

“My heart is outside the body. Someone said that to me once (about motherhood) and she was right,” Dean said. “I still have a passion for animals, but it’s a little different.”

In the past three years, Dean estimated she has taken in 20 stray dogs. Her wish for a better Steamboat would be having pets spayed and neutered. A boyfriend once told her she was too compassionate.

Compassionate, energetic, open hearted those are all words Teresa Steffen would use to describe her closest and longest friend in Steamboat. And she claims Dean loves animals just as much as she always did.

“She still loves her dog more than you can imagine. She has always treated her dogs like babies,” Steffen said.

When the two are together hiking or biking, Steffen said Dean is constantly wondering if animals are given enough to eat, are too hot or need water.

The two met in their first months in Steamboat at an open gym volleyball night and would eventually become roommates. And living in a family of10, Steffen said her Dean’s open-door policy reminded her of home.

“Our house was always Grand Central Station,” Steffen said. “Living with her was like being at home. There were always people dropping by. She had an open-door policy. If you need a friend, need someone to talk to and share things with, she is one of the most supportive and generous people I know.”

And Dean’s open-door policy does not just extend to people. She has kept dogs in her backyard in Old Town Steamboat for hours, sometimes days, as she waited for owners to pick up the pets that have wandered off.

Dean was 10 years old the first time she felt drawn to protect animals. She had just finished a soccer game in her suburban neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. She watched as a man mistreated his dog, and her dad went over to the man and scolded him.

Her father doesn’t remember the incident, but it was a moment that changed her life.

“It really hit home to me. People need to be kind to their animals,” she said. “And it never stopped since then. I have a bleeding heart for animals. All kinds of animals.”

She admits to spending more time working with the Humane Society than on her part-time job as a mortgage banker for Fairway Lending.

“What stands out about her is not her resume. She has so much energy, so much interest in other people,” Steffen said.

After graduating from St. Mary’s College, Dean joined a consulting group in Washington. Although she thought of being a lobbyist for animal rights, she said her volunteer work up to that point was focused on soup kitchens and walking dogs.

Like many others, Dean came to Colorado seven years ago and never left. Visiting a friend, she arrived in Thornton on a Thursday, had two job interviews by Monday and had her mind made up.

“In 24 hours, I fell in love and made the decision that Colorado is where I wanted to be,” she said.

Not long after, Dean went to a dinner party where she met what she describes as a “smart” snowboarding instructor. A few years later, she married the instructor, Bruce Dean, who moved on to be a computer consultant.

Eventually, someone persuaded her to get involved in the area’s animal groups, and she dove in headfirst.

“I needed to put my action where my heart was,” Josie Dean said.

Although Dean has a passion for animals, the beauty and the people make her love Steamboat. She loves it so much she was able to convince most of her immediate family to move here.

Her sister Christa Gardner moved out four years ago, her father followed shortly after and her mother is planning to make the move from the East Coast next summer.

The once college soccer player, Dean has shifted her activities to walking her dog, skate-skiing and tennis. At the age of 33, she picked up the task of learning to play the piano.

And although she is twice as tall as the average student, Dean still plays at the end-of-year recitals and said she receives some of the loudest ovations.

Sitting in a comfy sage chair in her home, Dean holds her daughter and is content.

“My life is complete,” she said. “I have a dog, baby and wonderful husband.”


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