Paying It Forward for Pets in Need
It all started with a dog named Dundee.
“I met Dundee at Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) in 2011,” recalls Jenna Mitchell, a lifelong Roaring Fork Valley local and former CARE employee. “He was this funny greyhound/shepherd-y mix, about eight years old. He’d been waiting for a home for a while, and I took him on as my project.”
Dundee did eventually find the forever home he deserved. With Mitchell.
“I pretty much fell in love,” she remembers. “He was just a very special dog. It wasn’t until about a year later that he got sick.”
When Dundee suddenly stopped eating in the summer of 2012, Mitchell took him to get checked out. Multiple vet visits ensued as his condition worsened. Bills piled up. “The vet thought maybe it was ulcers, or an auto-immune disease, or cancer. It was tough to tell,” Mitchell says. “In a month, he was gone.”
Even before Dundee’s death, Mitchell faced over a thousand dollars in vet bills.
“At the time I was working at CARE, and just didn’t have the cash to cover the costs immediately,” she says. “That’s when Laurie (Raymond) at High Tails had the idea to host a dog wash fundraiser.”
In August 2012, with the help of her husband, the High Tails crew, and a few others, Mitchell raised approximately $1,400. “It was four hours, three bathtubs, something like 64 dogs and a lot of support from people who cared,” Mitchell says of the fundraiser. “It was an immense help for me during a really tough time.”
“I met Jenna years ago when she was helping trainer Tracey Yajko with dog classes at High Tails,” recalls Raymond, who has owned the beloved Glenwood Springs business since 2004. “We had held dog wash fundraisers before, so when Dundee got sick it seemed like a great way to help Jenna cover the medical costs.”
After the success of Dundee’s dog wash, Raymond had a light-bulb moment.
“People were standing in line that day waiting to get their dogs bathed,” she remembers, “and they said, ‘Wow, this is a great way to help others, because anyone could end up with unexpected vet bills.’ Afterward I thought, ‘Why don’t we pay this forward?’ So we did.”
Raymond approached Mitchell with the idea, and the Dundee Dog Wash Memorial Fundraiser was born. The next wash took place in November 2012 and they have continued once a month since then.
“We do a fundraiser on the first Sunday of every month from noon to 4 p.m. at High Tails,” Mitchell says. “It’s $15 per dog with free nail trims. The money we raise goes directly to helping local families and their pets.”
Funds have helped critters like Rosie the beagle, who needed a wheelchair, and Moon, who received diagnostics and acupuncture treatments for an auto-immune disease. There was also Mr. Dude, a pomeranian who underwent extensive treatments after being attacked by a raccoon, and border collie mix Nikita who needed spinal surgery after being hit by a car.
“We have also helped cats in the past, and of course we’d help other types of pets, too,” Mitchell says.
To receive financial assistance from the Dundee Fund, a local pet owner must first provide information about their animal’s needs and treatment plan as determined by a veterinarian.
“We can’t pay for routine care like vaccines or spay/neuter—help with those services is already available from other groups in the county,” Mitchell notes. “We focus more on pets that have suffered some kind of unexpected emergency which the owner is having trouble paying for.”
Once the pet’s needs are clarified, Mitchell will counsel the owner to consider seeking assistance from a variety of other sources before committing dog wash funds. “Before we offer assistance we recommend they look into alternative options first, like maybe a payment plan their vet could arrange,” she says. “If they still need help after that, we will take on a portion of their vet bills.”
In exchange for financial assistance, pet owners are required to work at the dog wash alongside volunteers who have come to help.
“And we are always looking for more volunteers!” Mitchell says. “We want to be able to keep the fundraiser going for as long as we can.”
As of January 2016, the Dundee fund has raised over $32,700 and helped 74 local pets.
Visit DundeeDogwash.com and “Like” the Dundee Dog Wash Memorial Fundraiser on Facebook for news and information.