A decade of saving animals

Amy Whilden and Chris Copeland, both 12, have hearts for pets. In addition to caring for a number of their own animals, the students work twice a month to make sure abandoned pets find a good home.

"This helps them firsthand to know why pets are at the shelter," said Mary Blakeman, an organizer of Lifesavers, a program that involves students in various aspects of helping stray pets find a home. "It's so good for the pets too."

Students have been involved in helping pets find a home for almost a decade, thanks to Blakeman's effort. The program, which is heading into its 10-year mark starting Friday, has been responsible for saving the lives of a number of pets during the years.

A revolving group of students regularly advertise pets that are up for adoption through radio and TV advertising recorded each Monday, and weekly newspaper advertising. Students also take the animals for walks and often get to choose names for them.

But Blakeman's efforts have-n't gone unnoticed.

The Craig Intermediate School teacher recently earned an award from the Col-o--rado Association of Ani-mal Control Officers. Craig Animal Control Officer Kathie Johnson nominated her for the honor.

"I was totally surprised," Blakeman said. "This recognition belongs to so many people, and I am very blessed to be a part of it."

Efforts of those in Lifesavers and a start-up Humane Society group have helped save more animals' lives each year for the past decade.

Last year, 90 local cats and dogs were transferred and adopted out of other shelters. Those pets may otherwise have been euthanized.

Almost a decade ago, an average of about 150 animals in Craig were put down a year. Last year, only 40 pets were put to death, some because they were not deemed suitable for adoption.

On a positive note, the number of pets being adopted has increased -- it topped 140 in 2004.

Blakeman knows the program is making a difference, because she hears from some former students who want to become veterinarians or involved with animals.

"When I see those kids again, there's a connection," Blakeman said.

"There's a connection there that is more than just my teacher."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craig-daily-press.com

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