Animal advocacy

Abandoned dogs good example to promote special week

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— While all the dogs at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter yelps and jumps against the chain-link fences of their kennels when someone walks by, a black border collie-chow mix retreats back against the cage as far away from the person as he can get.

By no coincidence, this dog was named Bashful at the shelter.

But Bashful isn't unique for his shy behavior. What makes him special is that for the first 9 months of the dog's life, he lived under an abandoned house in Craig with his mother. Until Craig animal control officers found him in April, he had no human contact. However, he is not aggressive.

"There's no aggression," Steamboat Springs animal control officer Stacy Hayes said. "Typically, when you have a dog that hasn't been around people their whole life, they are aggressive and it's hard to turn them around."

But he still has a hint of wildness. If let off a leash, Bashful will run. Not that he doesn't want to be around people he'll always come back, Hayes said. But the closest he'll get to a human is within a five-foot radius.

A few weeks after Bashful was caught, Craig officers caught his mother, who has been named Heidi. The 2-year-old has had some human contact in her life but probably was abandoned about a year ago. She is as gentle as a baby and will crawl onto the closest lap she can find.

Craig officers asked the Steamboat shelter to find owners for the animals.

"We don't have scenarios like this," Hayes said. "These dogs had to fend for themselves as long as a year."

But not anymore. Both mother and pup have been adopted by a family. As soon as a fence is built at their new home, the dogs will leave the shelter.

This week is Be Kind to Animals Week, and Hayes said the story about Bashful and Heidi is a good example of how people can neglect animals while others can be kind.

"There are quite a few pets that get abandoned," Hayes said.

Josie Dean, president of the Routt County Humane Society, said the special week is nationally recognized and helps educate the public about being humane to animals.

"It's just to remind people that how they treat their animals is important," she said. "The way a person treats an animal says a lot about who they are as a human being."

Dean explained that studies have found a strong correlation between people involved in domestic-violence disputes and owners of neglected pets.

Hayes said the week also is an opportunity to let people know that the shelter always has animals to adopt.

The humane society is using this week to prepare for a spay and neuter clinic on May 28 and 29 at Oak Creek Medical Center.

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