Community rallies around stranded dogs
Daily Staff Writers
EAGLE — Locals provided unexpected hospitality to some furry friends in need after an accident on Vail Pass on Thursday afternoon left about 100 dogs stranded in Eagle County, where they were temporarily housed by the county’s animal shelter in Eagle.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, a truck driven by Walter Wlodarek from Tall Tails Rescue in Texas was pulling a trailer over Vail Pass, en route to Washington state, when it slid off the road near mile marker 186. The truck was severely damaged, but no people or animals were hurt, said Capt. Rich Duran, of the Colorado State Patrol. Wlodarek, who was driving with his wife and daughter in the car, was transporting some 100 rescued dogs from a kill shelter in Texas to adoptive homes on the West Coast. Tall Tails is a nonprofit that works to find homes for dogs and cats through a network of volunteers and foster parents.
Eagle County Animal Shelter staff quickly mobilized and set up kennels and beds at the Eagle Fairgrounds’ Eagle River Center on Thursday afternoon. Staff and a few volunteers took turns caring for the dogs overnight and put out a call for help on social media channels.
“It was an amazing response,” said Eagle County Public Information Officer Kris Friel. “We had about 30 volunteers who showed up (Friday morning) to help with kennel cleaning and dog walking.”
Volunteers continued to show up throughout the day, bringing supply donations and helping to walk the dogs at the Eagle River Center, where the animals were temporarily housed. At some points, there was a line of people waiting to help walk dogs, said Friel.
Eagle resident Karen Jarchow said she first saw the news about the dogs on Facebook and thought it might be a joke.
“A giant truck full of puppies in Eagle? I thought it was too good to be true,” she said. “Then someone else told me about it, so I went over on Friday morning and there were all kinds of dogs from adults to puppies. So I grabbed a leash and helped walk a dog.”
Daniel Ettinger, Eagle County animal services manager, was at Eagle River Center most of the night. His cell phone rang constantly with people asking to donate and volunteer.
“Yes,” Ettinger said over and over and over, smiling each time. “We’ll be happy to use anything you want to donate.”
By late Friday afternoon, people had donated dozens of blankets, cases of wipes and cleaning supplies, dog beds, toys, leashes and almost two tons of dog food.
A long journey
The crew from Tall Tails started their journey to Seattle from Springtown, Texas, a 38-hour drive. That doesn’t include stopping every four to six hours to feed the dogs, walk the dogs, clean up after the dogs and reload the dogs.
“It’s a trip, but the destination is worth it,” said Michael Wlodarek, who runs Tall Tails with his mom, Karolina Wlodarek.
They had hoped to avoid snow-covered roads, but swung by Colorado Springs to pick up one dog. That put them on Interstate 70 headed west over Vail Pass in the dark Thursday night.
The ice and snow didn’t agree with the eight-horse trailer, and the diesel truck got squirrely, and that’s how they landed at the Eagle River Center. Bronn Trucking towed the entire rig to Eagle, and Alpine Collision got to work patching up the trailer. The truck was too severely damaged to drive, so the Tall Tails crew headed to Denver and got a new truck on Friday. About 90 of the dogs and the crew were in a new car and back on the road to Washington by Friday night.
Alpine Collision owner Bruno Edelmann said the group was lucky that the wreck wasn’t more serious.
“It all turned out fairly OK, but based on the damage on the truck and trailer, they could have easily flipped over. Then there definitely would have been some people or animals hurt,” he said.
Most of the dogs were on their way to new homes, but there were 10 who were still awaiting adoption. With the turn of events, Eagle County will now be their new home — 10 animals stayed at the Eagle County shelter for local adoption, and a number of them were already spoken for as of Friday afternoon.
Eagle County love
Meanwhile, no dog or human went unloved.
“These dogs must think they’re in heaven, they’re getting so much attention and love,” Michael Wlodarek said. “Every dog has been walked a couple dozen times and held for hours.”
A local horse club was supposed to use the Eagle River Center indoor arena Friday afternoon. When they heard about it, they canceled their ride, but showed up to help with the dogs.
Dozens of kids showed up around mid-afternoon with the parents to help as they wrapped up their first semester and headed into Christmas break.
One animal control officer even came all the way from Pueblo.
“There is a silver lining to this, and it’s that we broke down here,” Michael Wlodarek said. “This speaks volumes of good about this community.”
For more information on the Eagle County shelter, see http://www.eaglecounty.us/animal/.