“She works tirelessly to help the animals.”
— Jill Nelson,a community service officer with the Craig Police Department, on Ann Anderson, Humane Society of Moffat County secretary
By the time the little Shih Tzu mix arrived at the Craig Animal Shelter, life had already taken a brutal toll on him.
He was missing an eye.
His fur was matted.
“He was … a real big mess when he came to the shelter,” Ann Anderson said.
But, she looked past all that.
Underneath the woeful exterior, the dog she now calls Elway was a “really nice dog,” she said.
Elway is just one of several animals Anderson, 47, has adopted from the animal shelter.
Yet the number of animals the Craig resident has helped through her seven years with the Humane Society of Moffat County is far greater than what her house could hold.
Anderson, Humane Society secretary, devotes her time, both on and off the clock, to caring for the county’s unwanted animals.
As a part-time employee of Bear Creek Animal Hospital, which runs the shelter, she cleans the kennels that house the animals and often brings them toys and treats.
She also comes in on her days off to administer temperament tests to dogs waiting for a home.
“She definitely is concerned about the animals’ wellbeing,” said Meagan Counts, the animal hospital’s front office manager. “She’s always the first one to come tell you if a pet doesn’t look like it feels well.”
Spending day after day with these animals — including the dog with the sorrowful eyes and the cat who reaches out of its cage to touch a nurse’s sleeve with its paw — may seem like an invitation to heartbreak.
But Anderson has already made up her mind on that account.
“I kind of just decided to let myself get attached” to the animals, she said. “I’ll go in there and I’ll just pet them and love on them.”
She offers a kind and loving hand to the assortment of cats and dogs that life has not always treated kindly.
Some animals end up at the shelter when their owners can no longer take care of them, Anderson said.
Most, however, are found “just running loose,” she said.
The number of pets picked off the streets is staggering.
In 2011 alone, the Craig Police Department’s community service division picked up 608 animals both within and outside city limits, Community Service Officer Jill Nelson said.
When these animals arrive at the shelter, they sometimes endure a long wait, one that seems like “forever” until they’re adopted, Anderson said.
Others face a harsher fate.
Animals are rarely put down at the shelter, she said, but occasionally it happens.
In either case, Anderson may represent their last hope at finding a home.
She coordinates a transfer program that ships unwanted pets or those facing euthanasia to Petco stores or other shelters in the state.
“Some animals just aren’t popular here, and you get them sent somewhere else and boom, they’re adopted quick,” she said.
She knows all animals that get a new start at another facility don’t find the same kind of happy ending.
Still, she said, she gets satisfaction from knowing she tried to help them find better lives.
As she walked through the shelter’s kennels Thursday morning, passing cage after cage of wagging tails and lolling tongues, she paused near each one.
She let the dogs give her a nuzzling with their wet noses.
Coming to the shelter isn’t a mere duty. Anderson sincerely cares about animals housed there.
“Absolutely,” Nelson said. “From my perspective, what I see is that she works tirelessly to help the animals.”
The Anderson household has no more room for any new additions of the four-legged kind.
With numerous animals — more than she’d like to have mentioned in print, she said — and her husband, Ed, and their 5-year-old daughter, Arianna, the house is full.
“I’m at my limit now,” she said, laughing.
Yet her sympathy for these animals remains. Her heart, it seems, is easily pierced by the sufferings of these cast-off companions.
Maybe it’s her heart, then, that makes her their ideal advocate.
“We’re really blessed to have her at our facility,” Counts said. “And the community is blessed to have her.”
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