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CARE shelter turns 15, thousands of lives changed

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Thousands of lives (counting dogs and cats) have literally been changed for the better since Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) opened its shelter doors 15 years ago.

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“People come up here and fall in love with a dog or cat,” said CARE co-founder Jim Calaway. “I see it all the time.”

The CARE shelter is located on 11-acres at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Chances are that you, or someone you know, has adopted a CARE dog, cat or other pet. In fact, CARE has placed more than 12,500 homeless dogs and cats in homes in the past 15 years.

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“It’s been great for the community,” Calaway told The Sopris Sun.

CARE’s major fund-raiser, the Dressed to the K9s fashion show, returns to the Orchard in Carbondale on Sept. 26. With that in mind, did you know:

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• Parents can throw birthday parties for their kids at the CARE shelter;

• Volunteers are welcome to come up and walk dogs or help out in other ways;

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• CARE micro-chips dogs and cats for $30;

• The CARE Pet Food Bank was started in 2011 to assist pet owners in Garfield County and nearby communities who are having a difficult time feeding their pets due to their economic condition or other challenges;

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• CARE also offers dog training classes.

Although CARE mostly takes in dogs and cats, it is also equipped to take in birds and “exotics.”

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CARE responds to local disasters such as wildfires and takes in affected pets. It also took in pets from hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

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Local veterinarians incorporated Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) in 1992, according to CARE’s website. For nine years the rescue and placement of abandoned, stray and surrendered animals was done out of the homes of C.A.R.E. board members. But 16 years ago, Calaway, a well-known philantropist and retired oilman, met some CARE people who told him of their operation. A self-described “animal lover” his entire life, Calaway took his cat with him when he entered the University of Texas.

In short order, Calaway approached Colorado Mountain College, which donated 11-acres to CARE, and now works closely with the college’s vet tech program. Then he donated half the $3 million to build the shelter, and helped to raise the remaining $1.5 million.

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With the shelter up and running in 2000, Garfield County was able to close its pound and annually contribute $300,000 to CARE’s budget. Other funds come from the 160 “Annual Angels” who contribute $1,000 or more, plus the annual Dressed to the K9s event.

Through the years, CARE’s staff has grown, and now numbers 10 full-time employees. “They do a wonderful job,” Calaway said.

Leslie Rockey was CARE’s first director at the shelter and stayed with the non-profit group until she accepted a position in the Colorado Mountain College vet tech program earlier this year. “We lost a wonderful executive director and friend but she went to a wonderful organization,” Calaway said. A nation-wide search is underway to find Rockey’s replacement.

CARE is well known and respected among those working in the animal shelter field. It’s also known, in a manner of speaking, to music fans. That’s because pop icon Neil Diamond employed 10 CARE puppies to appear in a video for his current CD “Melody Road.” Diamond adopted two of the puppies and the other eight were later adopted out. The video will be shown at the upcoming Dressed to the K9s fashion show and all 10 puppies are scheduled to appear in person (so to speak).

Reflecting on the lives that CARE has touched over the past 15 years, Calaway points to one woman who adopted a dog when the shelter first opened. Her dog recently passed away but she told Calaway,  “If that dog came back as a man, I’d marry him.”

CARE is open for public tours, which take about an hour. To schedule an appointment or for more information, go to

Next steps

What: CARE’s Dressed to the K9s fashion show.

When: Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: The Orchard on Snowmass Drive.

How much: $85 per ticket at

Published in The Sopris Sun on September 10, 2015.