Mutt Strut fundraiser returns to Steamboat on Saturday |

Mutt Strut fundraiser returns to Steamboat on Saturday

Nicole Inglis

More than 50 dogs and their owners enjoyed beautiful weather at the inaugural Mutt Strut on the Yampa River Core Trail in 2010. The event returns Saturday with the addition of a pet product sale with hundreds of items. Proceeds benefit the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado and Steamboat Springs' Heeling Friends animal therapy program.

— All Jim Stimson has to do is take out his fanny pack full of dog treats and Bingo knows.

The 9-year-old golden retriever is a cancer survivor herself and revels in the opportunity to serve as companion and furry distraction for local hospital patients through the Heeling Friends animal therapy program.

"She can relate to the patients," said Stimson, a Heeling Friends board member who has had Bingo since her puppy days. "Best case, people who are hospitalized are bored, and that allows them to break through the boredom. It's like a special visitor.

“Worst case … people are having bad days, they're coming out of surgery, they're frightened, confused, you name it."

About 40 dog-human teams visit local patients in the Yampa Valley through the Heeling Friends program, which will hold its major fundraiser Saturday.

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Starting at 9 a.m. at the Howelsen Hill beach volleyball courts, the Mutt Strut is a day for the dogs (plus cats and other pets). The strut starts at 10 a.m. and is a 1 1/2-mile charity walk for people and their dogs. The cost is $20 per dog, which benefits the Heeling Friends program. Each dog earns an entry into drawings for two $100 gift certificates to the Rocky Mountain Retrievers Pet Resort and Red Rover Resort.

Back at the volleyball courts, the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado will conduct a bake sale featuring treats for humans and dogs. There also will be pet information booths in addition to a new aspect of the Mutt Strut, a massive pet gear sale.

Stimson said he has a trailer full of about 500 new and gently used pet items that were donated to the event. There are crates, kennels, cat carriers, collars, backpacks, leashes, grooming tools and more. Prices will be at garage sale level, he said.

The funds raised will go toward helping Heeling Friends dogs like Bingo participate in reading programs to help young students feel more comfortable as they learn to read as well as visit residents of the Doak Walker Care Center. In addition to multiple breeds of dogs, there is a cat and even a miniature horse in the program.

Stimson, who has been a team with Bingo for about five years, said it takes a lot a lot hard work — and treats — to train a therapy dog.

"These dogs have to be extremely well-behaved," he said. "They have to have the personality. They have to be warm and loving."

To the patients who get to see an eager canine wagging its tail down the hallways of the hospital, it’s all worth it.

"It lifts the day for them," Stimson said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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