Tails from the Park: Local finds bundle of fur during a hike in the Flat Tops | SteamboatToday.com

Tails from the Park: Local finds bundle of fur during a hike in the Flat Tops

Amber Paul has her hands full with Luna, a young white Akbash puppy she found last fall while hiking near the Flat Tops. In her other arm is Toby, another rescue she had already adopted after moving to Steamboat Springs three years ago. Luna, playful but gentle, is one of the most popular puppies at the park among her “peers.”
Frances Hohl

Every time I go to the local dog park or take my dog out on a walk somewhere, there’s always a story to tell when I get back home. Be it the nice old man who warned me about walking counter clockwise instead of clockwise, or watching a ridiculously large dog whimper at a tiny dog trying to take him down. It’s always an adventure when you have a dog in tow. Every first and third Saturday, we hope to lighten up your day with a few tales of these creatures and the doting owners who can’t seem to live without ‘em. Enjoy. — Frances Hohl and Mugs McDoodle

Frances Hohl and Mugs McDoodle
Frances Hohl

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was a cold December day at the Rita Valentine Dog Park, and I was hoping my new puppy would find a playmate — one that wouldn’t stomp him into the ground too hard.

He wasn’t even four months old, and I was desperate to run Mugs ragged.

Of course, the big dogs manhandled the poor pup, but still, he gleefully raced from dog butt to dog butt like a blind man eagerly reading braille. Then I see it … another puppy! She’s white with this incredible fur I have never felt before.

Her “mom” calls her Luna, and she was found half-starved on a rainy August day below the Flat Tops.

Amber Paul remembers she and a friend almost didn’t hike the Devil’s Causeway that day because of thunderstorms.

“Right when I got out of the car, I tripped on something,” Paul said. “My friend was like ‘Oh gosh, you almost stepped on that little puppy.’ I looked down and saw this potato-sized fluff ball shaking … she was hiding behind this tire on some U-Haul.”

Paul believes the potato-sized puppy was not older than three weeks, and she worried it wasn’t going to survive. She looked around for other dogs or people as she and her friend started their hike up the trail leading to the Devil’s Causeway. She finally ran into Peruvian sheepherders who she tried to communicate with, but they didn’t speak English.

“I asked if it was their puppy, but they shook their head,” Paul said.

Other hikers walked by and offered to translate.

“I asked them if I could take it to a safe home. They translated back ‘how much do you have?’” Paul said.

She showed them $7 in her wallet while the puppy yelped and cried.

“They were like ‘take it, take it, take it’ and shoved her toward me,” Paul said.

She and her friend hiked up to the Causeway as planned, comforting the cold, wet puppy along the way, and checking with other hikers to see she belonged to them and asking if they’d seen a mother dog.

Other hikers explained to Paul that sheepherders in the mountains will often move their flocks quickly, and if a dog has puppies, the puppies can be left behind, accidentally or not, to suffer the whims of nature and man.

From the looks of Paul’s puppy, she appears to be an Akbash, a dog originally native to Turkey used for herding animals. The breed is a beautiful large white dog with thick fur and a face similar to a golden retriever. Little Luna looks eerily like the abandoned puppies found exactly two years before in a rural culvert south of Hayden.

Paul’s young Akbash is friendly and playful for a breed that is often described as “fiercely independent.” Amber said her other rescue dog Toby is tolerant of the new puppy, and while Luna sees the dog park as a time to roughhouse with other dogs, Toby is a lot more chill.

As for Paul, she views her pups as rescuing her, not the other way around. Just out of college, she moved to Steamboat Springs for a job with The Foundry in 2016. She was lonely and missing her family dogs tremendously.

“I needed a friend and fell in love with Toby right away,” Paul said. “I went to the Humane Society and walked him four times one day. I kept going back.”

Now engaged to be married, Paul’s family will soon be complete.

So next time you’re at the dog park, look for Toby, the ridgeback/black mouth cur mix and give him a good head rub, because his little sister Luna will be spending her time running with the park’s more “playful pack.”

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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