Carol Nations will be the first to tell you she has the best job in the world. It doesn't pay much; in fact, she often digs into her own pocket to purchase dog food, pay vet bills and upgrade her kennels, but as a foster parent for abandoned and unwanted animals, she's amply rewarded with puppy kisses and doggy breath.
"Perfect" is the word Carol uses to sum up her life on a 25-acre parcel just outside of Crawford.
She lives life on her own terms, surrounded by beautiful views, a spread that keeps her occupied just enough, and friendly companionship in the form of dogs, cats, chickens and a 20-year-old cockatiel named Oscar.
"This has been just heavenly for me," she said. She's so content, she sees no reason to spend her retirement years in search of adventure. She had a rewarding career with Motorola, and after moving from Phoenix to Crawford in March 2002, she sees no reason to leave, even for a weekend trip to the Front Range, where she was raised. Her dad raised registered Herefords in the Lyons area and later ranched in the North Fork Valley.
Carol was the one who discovered this unique place she calls home.The following year her parents came for a visit and bought the piece of property where Carol now lives. At that time, it was occupied by a single-wide trailer that became a rental until Carol could retire and realize her dream of returning to Colorado to live.
She vividly recalls the day she arrived — it was Jan. 22, about 4:35 p.m. "Not that I remember it and was grateful," she said.
"To me this is perfection. I don't ever see any reason to leave. When you've found the perfect place in the world, you don't have to go anyplace else."
Before Carol left Phoenix, she fostered a few kittens. With cats in mind and a desire to get involved, she contacted Jackie Schoonover at the Delta County Humane Society. After screening, a 10x10-foot kennel was delivered and set up near Carol's trailer. A tarp over the top of the enclosure lasted until the first rain, and Carol began the 12-year process ofupgrading her kennels, a process that continues as she learns and applies her engineering skills.
The kennel is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. Music soothes the animals year-round. Each dog has access to a dog run, as well as a play area. Carol points out features that keep the dogs safe and disease-free until they find their forever homes. She has proven to have tremendous talent for matching animals and their new owners — earlier this month she placed her 714th animal. One year she hit 100 adoptions, but normally 60 to 90 dogs passthrough her foster home.
The key, she says, is marketing.
Check the Internet — search for kittens and 90 percent of the hits will be for domestic short-haired or long-haired cats. As webmaster for Delta County Humane Society, she tries to set the animals apart by identifying unique breeds they might fit into. Her own rescue dog, for example, has the coloring of a border collie but the short legs of a Corgie. "If I was going to advertise her, I'd advertise her as a 'borgie'," Carol explained.
"We're very honest with people," she said. "You have to be able to support what you're saying. But people are looking for Turkish vans and rag dolls, and if you've got a cat you can put into that category, they'll fly from Washington state to get them."
The Internet is a vital marketing tool. The Delta County Humane Society (DCHS) posts animals on its own website, as well as Petfinder (petfinder.com) and Adopt-a-Pet (adoptapet.com).
"A few years ago both sites gave us the option of putting video up," she said. "That's the best thing that ever came along. I bet eight out of 10 people talk about the videos and how that helped them make the decision to drive to Crawford" — sometimes from the Front Range and even from out of state. There have been years where the majority of adoptions have been made to families from the Front Range.
Carol tells a story about one dog that was flown to Ontario, Canada, at the new owner's expense. "That man never saw that dog except in photos," she said. Then there was the woman who flew from Washington state just to pick out a kitten. Carol and another volunteer met her in Grand Junction with three squirming kittens. After spending time with all three, the woman got back on the plane with not one, but two, new companions.
There are many more stories that illustrate what people will go through when they fall in love with a cat or dog posted on the Internet. Carol fully understands — after all, her pets were rescue animals, as well.
Chester, who is the website spokesperson, is a purebred GKW — God Knows What. "I kept him because when I brought him into the house, he laid in the doorway of my bedroom like he was protecting. I said, 'Well, I guess he's mine.' "
Maizy, the "borgie," arrived with day-old puppies on a freezing February day. She left Carol's side only to feed her puppies. The puppies were weaned and adopted out, but Maizy stayed on.
Petunia came into Carol's life exactly one year ago. At 12 weeks of age, she was a "skinny little thing" weighing just 12 pounds. It turns out she had a liver defect and was born with diabetes. Doc Vincent successfully performed surgery and she began putting on weight. She's up to 45 pounds now, but requires twice-daily shots and twice-daily blood tests. About halfway through the summer, Carol realized she had adopted Petunia.
Normally, though, she tries to keep foster animals out of her house. "They're harder to give up, and they can disrupt the household," Carol said.
The Delta County Humane Society does not have an actual shelter, but instead relies on volunteers like Carol who care for the animals in their own homes until they can be adopted. DCHS does not accept vicious animals, Carol said, so in her mind there's no cat or dog that cannot be placed. "Sometimes it takes a while," she said. "I had one dog here for 2 1/2 years."
DCHS is the oldest rescue group in Delta County, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011. "We're quieter than a lot of others," Carol said. "In general, we're just a bunch of old women!"
"I have never seen anyone more dedicated to every animal that came into her care," said Jackie Schoonover, DCHS. "The hours she has put into caring for her foster 'kids' is amazing. From cleaning, to administering medications, to just being with them to "hold their paw," even if it means sleeping in a kennel to make sure they are doing okay, she never bats an eye or thinks it should be any other way.
"Every new foster is carefully monitored their first couple of weeks to make sure there are no signs of injury or sickness. Since we never know for sure where they come from or what they have been through, this is very important, and Carol will catch anything, right away, that is not as it should be with them.
"You can tell her life is at its best when she is lying on the ground with a pile of puppies chewing on her shoelaces, ears and nose and lavishing her with puppy kisses.
"And she still finds time to keep track of statistics for us and keeps our website updated and informative.
"We are so very blessed to have her giving her all to the homeless animals and to our organization. She is a shining example for us to look up to and try to keep up with.
"Put simply, she is awesome and awe-inspiring!"blog comments powered by Disqus