Where Every Dog Has His Day
Puppy Dog Ranch provides a safe haven for abused, neglected or abandoned dogs.
Story and photos by Peggy Platonos
Puppy Dog Ranch is a ray of hope for dogs that have been rescued from abuse, neglect or abandonment — a safe haven where these dogs can heal from physical and emotional wounds. Five of the seven rural acres it occupies in the Arenas Valley near Silver City have been enclosed with eight-foot-high fencing, giving the larger dogs a lot of safe running space. And the smaller dogs have the run of a large patio and yard. All the dogs receive plenty of food, water and loving attention.
Laurie West snuggles with Sydney, who was found near death in the desert last spring, nursing his dead mother. He was four weeks old at the time, and his nutritional deficit from that period was so severe that his teeth are brittle and will be a lifelong problem.
Established in July 2009 by partners Laurie West and Kevin Rodriguez as a no-kill/no-cage dog rescue sanctuary, Puppy Dog Ranch has, in its single year of existence, saved the lives of 34 dogs and has succeeded in finding good homes for 23 of them. Several other dogs with long-term medical problems or lingering effects of trauma have been adopted by West and Rodriguez themselves and are now permanent residents at Puppy Dog Ranch.
"When we say we're a no-kill shelter, people think that means we only take in cute, cuddly puppies, the kind that are easy to find homes for. But that's not the case," says West. "We take in and work with dogs of all ages, sizes, shapes and personalities, and with all kinds of problems. Our mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home abandoned, abused, unwanted and discarded dogs throughout Grant County and surrounding areas. We think every dog deserves the chance to live and to have happiness, love and stability in its life."
West, who has been involved in conventional animal shelters and dog rescue programs in Maryland, Washington, DC, and San Diego in the past, is passionate about this. She adds, "The most important thing is to spay and neuter dogs — that's why there's such a problem."
She herself has demonstrated repeatedly that dogs deemed unadoptable by traditional shelters can make wonderful pets and live happy lives. Lucy, the epileptic Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever that West saved from euthanasia 13 years ago while working at the Washington, DC, Humane Society, continues to thrive as a permanent resident at Puppy Dog Ranch. So does B.D., the blind and deaf bichon/poodle that West rescued from a San Diego animal shelter nine years ago. Both were considered unadoptable because of their medical problems.
Several dogs now happily living as permanent residents at Puppy Dog Ranch narrowly escaped being euthanized due to the intervention of Kathy Lee Regan, the director of the Grant County animal shelter at the time. Lola, a chihuahua/rat terrier mix, had been hit by a car and her legs were seriously injured. One eventually had to be amputated. And Junior, a shepherd/collie mix who had been abused and abandoned, suffered from debilitating fear.
"Laurie and I share the same philosophy about animals, which is that animals deserve a life," says Regan. "They deserve to have the opportunity to live and have a good home."
In addition to rescuing and providing temporary shelter for up to 20 dogs at a time, Puppy Dog Ranch offers a number of different services for dog owners, including assistance in finding new homes for pets that owners can no longer care for.
Puppy Dog Ranch Tex-Mex BBQ & One-Year
What: A festive celebration with live music by The Silver City String Beans, vendors, silent auction, door prizes, cantina and tasty food to eat in a covered picnic area or to take home: smoked brisket, smoked chipotle BBQ chicken, chili con carne, vegetarian dishes, salads, desserts and more. All proceeds benefit Puppy Dog Ranch.
When: Sunday, August 29, from noon to 4 p.m.
Where: Puppy Dog Ranch, 27 Twin Sisters Creek Road, Arenas Valley.
Directions: Take Hwy. 180 to Racetrack Road in the Arenas Valley. Drive three miles. Turn left onto Twin Sisters Creek Road. Drive 1/8 mile. Puppy Dog Ranch is on the left. Park along the road by the fence. A "Puppymobile" will shuttle visitors from the road up the driveway and back down again.
For information about vendor booth availability, call (575) 313-7232.
"Our telephone rings off the hook from heart-stricken pet guardians [owners] within a 100-mile radius, who have to relinquish their dog. They tell us Puppy Dog Ranch is their only alternative," West says. "When we can't take a dog, we turn to our proven resources to keep this dog out of a shelter. We help out the dog owner by adding a courtesy listing of their dog, with its photo and pertinent information, on our puppydogranch.org website, on Petfinder.com, Adopt-a-Pet.com and all other dog adoption websites. We also go through our database of people requesting us to find them dogs. We refer them to other rescue groups, and also help them make adoption flyers."
Puppy Dog Ranch also offers dog kennel rentals, and loans out dog houses. "We do not believe in chaining a dog and want to do everything we can to discourage it and improve the quality of life for the dog. So, we offer to rent our large dog kennels to assist those residents who don't have a fenced yard or who have their dog chained. We loan the kennel for the first week, and rent it for $10 a week thereafter," West explains. "Dog houses are loaned out for free, and the recipient is asked to volunteer one hour a week to Puppy Dog Ranch while they use them."
A fenced yard, incidentally, is one of the requirements for adopting a dog from Puppy Dog Ranch. The adoption process is a long and careful one, with the goal of finding a compatible match between dog and family or individual pet owner. "We do yard and home checks," West says, "and we suggest a sleepover for a couple of nights to see how things will work out. Our adoption success rate is 98%."
Another service now being offered by Puppy Dog Ranch is a Community Pet Food Bank, where both dry and canned dog and cat food can be obtained free of charge by pet owners having financial difficulties. West explains, "We realize residents desperately want to keep their pets but sometimes may need a little helping hand to get them through tough financial times. All we ask in return is for the recipient to volunteer one to two hours to Puppy Dog Ranch."
Puppy Dog Ranch has also recently initiated a kind of pet therapy program whimsically called "Whiskers on Wheels." Volunteer Pat Wolph heads up a team of volunteers and "furry ambassadors" who visit local retirement facilities monthly.
And in another community outreach effort, Puppy Dog Ranch schedules "Picnics with the Pups" by appointment on Wednesdays through Fridays. "Visitors can enjoy our fabulous views, serene environment, learn about our programs, tour our Ranch and spend time with our dogs," West says.
Puppy Dog Ranch is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. It receives no public funding, but relies on grants and private donations to survive.
Laurie West (left), founder and president of Puppy Dog Ranch, dispenses treats to residents of the five-acre fenced-in area where large dogs live and safely run free. Helping are Pat Wolph (center) and Sunny Baumann (right).
"Our dog food bill alone is $400 to $500 a month. Veterinarian bills average $900 per month," West says, adding that none of the expenses connected with the "permanent residence" dogs are included in those figures. "Kevin and I cover those expenses with our own personal funds."
West, who works part-time as a bartender, and Rodriguez, who is employed as a line foreman with PNM, have invested time, money, effort and lots of love in Puppy Dog Ranch. Their dedication has been matched by a small core of volunteers who pitch in on a regular basis to help care for and socialize rescued dogs in preparation for adoption. Support in the form of donated materials, funds and services also comes from local businesses including Isaacs, Manzanita Ridge, PNM, the Moose Lodge, the Gila Travelers, The Rock Center, Silver City Floral, Western Stationers and Mis Amigos.
"I want Puppy Dog Ranch to be a place to mend dogs' broken bones and broken hearts and broken spirits. It may not be the place that they will live forever, but it's their gateway to a better life," West says. "In order for this to happen, we desperately need the support of the community."
On Sunday, August 29, from noon to 4 p.m., Puppy Dog Ranch will be celebrating its first year of helping dogs with a Tex-Mex BBQ and One-Year Anniversary Fundraiser. There will be live music provided by The Silver City String Beans, vendors, door prizes and lots of good food to eat or takeout. This event is open to the public. Attendees must be at least 16 years old, and no visiting pets are allowed.
Puppy Dog Ranch is open to the public on a regular basis from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only. "This is our home, too, so people need to call before coming," West says. The telephone number to call is (575) 313-7232.
Peggy Platonos is a Mimbres freelance writer.
Puppy Dog Ranch Wish List
(All donations are 100% tax deductible)
And, of course, MONEY: