- Courtesy Paws N Hooves
- Lady is a draft horse that was adopted by one of Paws N Hooves' foster families.
On Halloween morning, Tracy Berry faced the grim task of monitoring "death row" for unwanted dogs slated for euthanasia at a shelter in another state. As a longtime volunteer with the all-volunteer Paws N Hooves Rescue, Berry looked to salvage some of the doomed dogs.
"We get a list from Amarillo," she says. "There was Charlie, and his euthanasia time is 9 a.m. Then we saw a chocolate lab on there. Her name is Miley. Her owner surrendered her. We said, 'Yeah, we'll take her.' She got saved from the 2 o'clock euthanasia time."
Miley became one of thousands of animals that annually pass through the rescue, also known as Black Forest Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter. Located on 35 acres, the nonprofit began as a wildlife rescue, but now handles domesticated animals that include cats, parrots, lizards, horses, miniature donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, llamas and a Holstein steer named Homer — "2,000 pounds of love," as Berry says.
Animals arrive via various means, but most are castoffs from owners who are moving or aging, such as two alpacas recently ceded by an elderly woman. "She said, 'I need to find a place for them. I'm 84 and every day's a blessing,'" says Berry.
"We take in the unwanted, neglected and abused, and then retrain and rehabilitate and re-home them," she says. The nonprofit, which also has a service dog program through certified volunteer trainers, goes the distance. A volunteer who's a pilot flew to Oklahoma to bring home Tillie, a young blue heeler mix dog destined for the needle. "She got adopted a week later," Berry says. "Networking takes effort, but saves lives."
Paws N Hooves places a large focus on dogs, like Miley, that travel in vans weekly to Colorado, where their adoption chances are greater than in municipal pounds in Texas that euthanize to make room for more. All dogs are inoculated and spayed or neutered before making the trip. Many are placed in Paws N Hooves' foster homes, across seven states.
The nonprofit also responds to disasters, including wildfires and floods, to rescue animals and reunite them with owners or find them new homes. "Our dog numbers are increasing because we've increased foster homes in Monument and the Colorado Springs area," Berry says, adding that more are needed. The week we talk, she's receiving 26 dogs.
The nonprofit's longest resident was a female mastiff who didn't get along with other dogs and stayed for three years before being adopted by a man who had the perfect setup — a cabin in Divide.
Adoption fees vary but, for dogs, the fee includes a starter kit: 50 pounds of food, a leash, collar, bed and up-to-date vaccines and a microchip. They also provide supplies to foster families. Though Paws N Hooves has about 90 volunteers, they welcome more, and money to absorb rising costs and enable expansion.
As for Miley, Berry asked the shelter to shoot a video, which shows Miley sitting for a treat and giving her "high paw" to a worker. Berry "tagged" her, meaning Miley went to a foster family in Texas for a 10-day quarantine before heading to Colorado. Paws N Hooves volunteer Christine Clark and her family will now foster her until she finds her forever home.
"It's so rewarding," Clark says. "We want to help however we can."