All creatures, great and small |

All creatures, great and small

Connie Steiert
Special to the Daily Humane Society Director Char Quinn with a rescued dog, Anastasia.

It wasn’t intentional, not planned at all. They just kept showing up; either Inga Prime and Joanne Swift found them or, just as likely, the dogs and cats – and various other critters – found Inga and Joanne.Week after week, month after month, Swift and Prime filled their homes with cats and dogs and animals in need, finding permanent homes for the menagerie where they couldn’t offer their own.”More often then not, we ended up adopting them ourselves,” says Swedish-born Prime, laughing. What began more as haphazard good heartedness gradually became the Eagle Valley Humane Society. And three decades later, the organization has become known for its humane treatment of animals and extensive outreach programs. As the Eagle Valley Humane Society celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, it can look back at the past three decades and the many people who have volunteered their time inspired by the hundreds of animals that have been cared for. Volunteers past and present say their years working with the Eagle Valley Humane Society are both among the most rewarding experiences of their lives and, at times, the most heart-rending.

Success storiesThe Eagle Valley Humane Society has been recognized for its “no kill” status, which means that at least 96 percent of animals are placed in homes. The only animals normally put down are terminally ill ones or dogs that have attacked. Of the 866 animals that came into the Eagle County Animal Shelter during 2003, all but 29 were adopted out or reclaimed. Eagle Valley Humane Society director Char Quinn recalls how one “well-mannered, nice” golden retriever mix inexplicably sat in the animal shelter for four months, before a woman with a history of bad seizures wrote seeking a service dog.”It was strange. It was like he was waiting for her,” Quinn says with wonder.Current Humane Society president Bill Loper, who along with his wife, longtime volunteer Ann Loper, is crazy about cats, will never forget one kitten who ran off from its Gypsum home after being scared on Halloween. The frightened cat was hit by a car before it was rescued and treated by the Humane Society. The most rewarding moment came when the cat was joyously reunited with its family.

Rescuing the animalsYet, these tremendous success stories often come with a price. Many animals are abandoned or surrendered after abuse or neglect. Dakota, tThe dog now owned by past president Susan Markowitz, was found terrified and covered with scars from abuse after being stuffed through the shelter’s drop box. The bewildered white Siberian husky took months to trust people again, then followed Markowitz everywhere for the next eight years.Quinn talks fondly of the boxer puppy she named Anastasia, which was blind and deaf, its siblings dead, after being bred by an “unqualified” breeder. Quinn spent three sleepless days keeping the puppy alive, until a Denver specialist finally diagnosed the problem as water on the brain. After successful treatment, the eight-week-old puppy was adopted. Quinn says she will never forget how Anastasia’s ears began to twitch as she heard her first sounds, and her eyes rolled around in amazement as she first saw the world. Then there was little Xena, the cat who was thrown into a roaring fire in February. Five thousand dollars and three painful months later, Xena will live, but she will never recover the tips of her burnt ears, lost toes or tail, although her hair is finally growing back. Still, 41 people in the community offered to adopt the kitten, and Xena is now happily in her new home.”She has such a will to live. It’s amazing,” says 12-year Humane Society volunteer J.P. Kacy, whose passion is caring for cats. “Cats like that are amazing to me. They don’t hold resentment.”

Michael Morris, a teacher at Vail Mountain School and past Humane Society volunteer, believes, as did Ghandi, that society’s true measure of humanity is in how it treats those creatures over which it has dominion. His own compassion for animals was fostered by his parents, Bob and Suzanne, of Edwards, also Society volunteers, and cemented by the pure innocence and trust of a pound dog that leapt into his arms one day while he was walking it. Today, Morris points his own students toward the Humane Society’s dog-walking volunteer program.”It’s a wonderful venue for teaching young people to feel compassion and responsibility and to instill in them those essential aspects of our race’s power in the world,” he says.Adopt-a-thonThe Eagle Valley Humane Society will celebrate its 30th anniversary with an Open House Adopt-a-thon:When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday

Where: Eagle Valley Animal Shelter, adjacent to the Eagle County Fairgrounds, EagleWhere are they now?Swedish born Inga Prime is now “95-plus” years old and lives in Arizona, but still maintains a home in Vail.She no longer volunteers at the Eagle County Animal Shelter, but she still supports shelters financially where she can. And, animals still find her way to her door. Her current companion is Curly, a cat which found Prime a while back.Joanne Swift now lives in Middleburg, Va. Swift is still rescuing animals at her own little shelter on her horse farm. An antiques shop owner and interior designer, Swift’s passion is raising horses these days, and she has a barn of professional three-day event horses. And, she just adopted a Rottweiler mix, that is “as cute as she can be.”Swift and Prime remain good friends, and Prime’s daughter and granddaughter now live near Swift in Middleburg. Obviously Prime has passed on her compassion for animals; her daughter is very much into horses, and her granddaughter, Nina Fout, earned a silver medal on the three-day event team in the last summer Olympics.

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