Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 54 – Cooper’s Companions Animal Rescue

Cooper’s Companions Animal Rescue is a foster-based rescue located in Southern Colorado. Cooper’s takes in owner surrenders as well as working with high kill shelters. All of their dogs are spayed/ neutered, microchipped and have age-appropriate vaccinations.

Facebook:“Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week podcast. Featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters. And the only site that automates rescue relay transports. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.


 Cooper’s Companions is a foster-based rescue located in southern Colorado. Cooper’s Companions takes in owner surrenders, as well as working with high kill shelters. All of their dogs are spayed or neutered, microchipped and have aged appropriate vaccinations upon adoption. Hi, Suzanne. Welcome to the show today. Thank you for having me. Of course, we’re happy to learn more about Cooper’s Companions Animal Rescue in Colorado. Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your rollover there? I grew up here in rural Colorado, and I have traveled the world and came back to Pueblo County to live, and quite a few years ago we all learned that Pueblo had a high kill shelter. And you know that’s a big deal when your own shelter is, is, a high kill shelter. And, you know, I always thought about well, somebody should do something about that. And I figured out that, that somebody just really needed to be me. I worked for a breed-specific rescue for a while and really enjoyed that. And then I was like, well, we’ve got this high kill shelter. I think I need to jump in. So I looked at my little dog, Cooper and Cooper is a mini Dachshund, and I write a little page called Cooper and Company. And it’s like, well, we’re just gonna do Cooper’s Companions. So we have a foster base rescue here in Pueblo County, and we take in as many dogs as we have fosters for. And we rehome them all over. That is so awesome. And I did see the little picture of Cooper. He’s too cute, but I think it’s great that you know, you literally took a stand and you’re like, I’m gonna make a difference. And I’m gonna make this industry a little bit better by having an animal rescue of your own so well done for that.


 Well, thank you. You know, people could talk about things and people can demand change and people should talk about, okay, something needs to be done. So there’s a whole lot of talk sometimes, but I’m more of an action person. And so it’s like, no, I’m actually going to do something. We’re gonna stand up. We’re gonna do something. Though I didn’t have any fosters, to begin with, and now I have over 25 fosters. This is so time appropriate because it was in 2018, March of 2018 is when we actually started. So you guys are definitely fairly new, but I mean to have 25 fosters currently. You know, in 2018, it doesn’t seem that far away, but you’ve come a long way to already having 25 fosters. That’s awesome. Our fosters are truly the amazing people. And each one has their own strengths, and each one has lent something uniquely different to our rescue. And we have younger people who take the younger dogs or maybe even the bigger dogs. And then I have my wonderful, wonderful gaggle of older ladies, who love the little Chihuahuas. Who love the little Dachshunds and the little bit older dogs. Our last year’s statistics really kind of astounded me because we actually had more older dogs through our rescue than puppies. That is an awesome thing to have now, because, you know, usually with the overpopulation issues and everything like that, puppies are a huge thing. So the fact that you guys have seen your dogs as being your higher statistic, that’s very interesting. We do a lot of owner surrenders, and a lot of dogs come from people who are going into hospice care or going into nursing homes. We always reach out to the families and make sure that if they still want to see the dogs or we need to take the dogs into the nursing homes to see their family members, we always offer that, as well. So we try to just encompass those families that are re-homing, their dogs and the people who are adopting the dogs. I mean, it definitely seems like it’s working for you, and you kind of have a mixture of people within your foster base that are kind of better. I don’t want to say equipped, but that’s the only word that’s coming to mind. But they’re better equipped to handle certain situations. So, like you said, the younger ones take on the puppies and the bigger dogs. Where is your older ladies, they take on the senior dogs and the little Chihuahuas. So it’s great to kind of have that support, from a broad perspective of people. Exactly. You know, Cooper’s is, obviously it’s an animal rescue, but we are really inclusive as to all of our fosters and our volunteers because there’s a place for everybody at Cooper’s Companions. That is awesome!


 So I’m kind of curious as to what the community is like in your area. I know you mentioned that a lot of the dogs that come into your care our owner’s surrenders. But do they have any other challenges within your area? Our biggest challenge here in Pueblo County and especially where I live, because I live about 25 miles east of Pueblo. And I live in a very rural community, where most people are living under the poverty line. One of our biggest challenges is just to get dogs spayed and neutered and get them vet care. Just the basic shots. We are going to be teaming up with the Humane Society of Pikes Peak. They have a brand new manager there, and all the public county has changed dramatically within just the last six months when it comes to animals. And we have a new shelter director, she has reached out to many, many rescues, and she definitely reached out to us. And so we’re teaming up together in June, and we’re gonna have a spay and neuter clinic for the Avondale Boone area. And this is just monumental, to come out here where it’s so, so very rural, with a lot of migrant workers and people living under the poverty line. So this is a big win for everybody in Pueblo County. Yes, it definitely is. And the fact that they reached out to you guys and you know, they’re trying to work together with you guys and ultimately that’s a huge accomplishment in this industry, is you know, we’re all kind of working towards the same goal, so we want to make sure that we’re reaching it. So it’s gonna be great that you have that support. But then they also, you know, you guys are supporting each other at the same time, so that’s awesome. It is. I really feel fortunate that we’re able to work with our local shelter. It’s an, a game changer, here in Pueblo.


 Yeah. So I know that you’re going to be partnering with the Humane Society of Pikes Peak, but I’m curious to kind of back up a little bit. And you said that the dogs that come into your care, you guys do the basic shots and everything. Is that something that you guys do,  I’m assuming at a local vet? Do you have somebody that works with you guys, or how does that work? Well, sure. Um well, we get dogs in from, from a couple of different places. We do get owner surrenders from our, from our area. And then we actually pull out of two shelters in New Mexico. And we pull out of Los Cruces and then we also pull out of Valencia County because they’re just so totally overwhelmed. Another thing that we do that maybe is a little bit different, is that we also pull moms. We pull, um, pregnant moms, and we also pull moms that have their, have puppies. So we’re not one of those rescues that just pull the puppies and leave the moms to die in the high kill shelters. We, we don’t do that. Um, we definitely pull moms and babies. Um, and for as far as vet care goes, is, we do age-appropriate shots, and we use two local vets here in Colorado. We, all of our dogs are spayed, neutered, microchipped and have their age-appropriate shots before they go to their homes. And then, you know, we get puppies in that don’t have all of their shots. Are those adopters? No, um, we’re certain how many shots are needed. We also, um, we’re a higher service and higher quality of service is that we email all of our records to their vets, to adopters vets, directly. So if there’s a problem, they’re not, people aren’t having to search for their records. And then the vets can actually contact the adopters to say, hey, you know, your dog is due for some shots. That’s a really cool thing that you guys do, that way they’re not curious as to what vaccines this puppy or dog has or hasn’t had, so that’s pretty cool that you guys were able to do that. I think it helps them out quite a bit and it helps our dogs out quite a bit because once a Cooper dog, always a Cooper dog. And that’s part of our contract, where we will take back every single dog.


 Just from kind of how you were describing, you seem very understanding that, you know, sometimes dogs don’t work out with family members. One dog may not get along with toddlers and the other one, you know, might not get along with other dogs. So the fact that you guys guarantee that, ensures that that dog is always going to have a home, just in case something doesn’t work out, Right. Exactly. And we also have on our contracts, we have a next of kin. This past summer, this is kind of a funny deal, but I actually crashed a funeral, this last summer. We had a gal adopt out a little Chihuahua, and we saw the newspaper where she died and we were looking around each other. It’s like, well, where’s the dog? So we went to the funeral to figure out where our dog was. Well, the dog went to the funeral, and it was a good friend of hers who happened to be a groomer. And so we went ahead and did the paperwork there because we want to make sure that all of our dogs are well taken care of, and you know where each and every one of them are. Oh, my goodness, that is definitely a different kind of story. But it definitely shows that you’re willing to go to great lengths for the animals that you have in your care. We have dogs all over the place, too. We’re just not your regular rescue. And I would like to be known as not the cookie-cutter rescue, anyway, because we do adopt out to senior citizens. Our dogs are all over. We have four dogs that have passports, that go back and forth between the United States and Europe. We have dogs that live, of course, in the Rocky Mountains because we’re here in Colorado. We have dogs that are roaming the United States in RVs. Todd, that’s in Napa Valley. We have a couple of dogs that live downtown Denver, as well. So we do have dogs in regular old suburbia. But we actually look past that, because different dogs have different personalities and they like to do different things, just like with people. So we really pride ourselves in matching up dogs with potential adopters. So it’s a good match.


 Yeah. I mean, it’s great that you as an organization, you know, because, like you said, a lot of organizations won’t adopt out to senior citizens, So that’s a good one. But I’m kind of curious how many, I know you said you have 25 active fosters. How many animals do you usually have in your care between you and all your foster’s at one time? Oh, right now, have about 30 dogs right now. We just got in on a mom and her puppies. We actually have two moms in their puppies, and then we have a pregnant mom that we pulled, and all of these were on the euthanasia lists of the shelters that we pulled them from. You know, we tried to keep that number right at 20-25. So we don’t burn out our fosters as well, you know. They like to go on vacations and actually have a life outside of rescue. So you tried to keep that number about at 20-25 is about as much as what we can really handle. Okay. And effectively. That’s a good number to kind of keep it at,  because you’re absolutely right. It’s hard when you have to take on, you know, an animal. You can’t just leave them home and say, hey, I’m going on vacation I’ll be back in two weeks, you know? So I think it’s great, you take, Right. Right. Your fosters into consideration. You know that they do have lives and they may need a slight two week break between each dog. So I think that’s awesome.


 And I can tell already that you guys handle just dogs. Do you have any point in your future where you’ll maybe take on other animals? Maybe cats or rabbits or something? Well, you know, the funny thing is, Cooper’s Companions Animal Rescue and about the second week into my rescue, and thinking that I could rescue the universe, right? We actually got into rats. We got in Salmon Frodo, where our rats that we got in and one was a hairless albino, and the other one was just kind of a rat. And happy, for about six months at my house, I actually transferred them to an actual rat rescue. So we have guinea pigs. We had five guinea pigs. I’m down to two right now, and I’m surprised they’re not squealing in the background. You’ve also had one rabbit and the chicken. Oh, my gosh. I went to go pick up these two little dogs out of a home in Colorado Springs, that the lady said, let’s go with a rabbit and a chicken. Do you want them to? And I said, well sure. She says, well, good. I already boxed them up. I was like, what do you mean, you boxed them up? She had this rabbit in a box, and then she had this chicken in the box. But we’re driving from Colorado Springs to Pueblo. And all of a sudden I heard this racket in the back and flap, flap, flap, and I had a chicken loose in my van! I was scared to death! I’ve never had a chicken So I grew up working on a cattle ranch. We didn’t have chickens. And I was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? And how am I gonna get this chicken in a dog kennel? So it’s clucking. She flew around. I had to pull over to the side of the road because I didn’t want to drive down I 25 with a loose chicken flying around my van. So anyway, the chicken of my week, we became good friends. And I got her into a dog kennel. And this clunky is so lucky because, she ended up being adopted out to a family. Yeah, in the area. And she lives in a heated, air-conditioned coop. Oh, wow. Yeah. And then we’ve had a few goats. We had Barnes and Nobles. They were Nigerian pygmy goats. So, yeah, you know, you have different kinds of animals when in your contract, you say you cannot eat your animal you adopt from us. So I’m not sure we’ll go either further into a livestock rescue or not. But, you know, we just do what we can. And I’m pretty lucky cause I live in rural Colorado and I have a few acres here, so, you know, if need be, I can always put another goat or whatever on my property here. So, yes, we’ve had our share of goats and as well as guinea pigs.


 Well, that’s actually good, because I was actually my next question. I’m thinking of your fosters. And I’m like, who is gonna take in a goat in a chicken? So it kind of helps me to know that you’ve got some land where you can kind of keep them and care for them. So that’s good. That’s one of my goals here is, I’ve just got a few acres and that’s truly one of my goals is to be able to get a manufactured home or a barn built so I could have a small kennel. Maybe, you know, to be able to put in 15 to 20 dogs or a goat or two or what not? And that’s one of my long term goals is to be able to have a place on my property, here, where I could bring in some more animals. 


That’s a good goal to have. And you know what? I think it will definitely help you out a little bit more. And one of the things that I’m kind of curious about, is when you started in 2018 and now you, literally it’s March of 2020. So you’ve been open for two years now. How has your organization changed in those two years? When I first started, it was just me. And it was just me and a whole lot of determination, and I was not going to back down about what was happening in our community. The best thing that ever happened is that I have one amazing team. You know, I have some wonderful volunteers. I have some wonderful fosters, but my leadership team has taken us to the next level. Have a gal who is a retired and she’s in her seventies and she ran a doctor’s office for many, many years. And then she retired and she talks about how one of the best things that ever happened to her was that this new life, this new project with Cooper’s Companions because she’s taken the, our paperwork and our back office into something that is absolutely magnificent. I’m actually sitting here with one of my team members, Kim Pul and she does all the medical. She makes sure that all the dogs are chipped. All the dogs are spayed and neutered. That she keeps up on all of the vaccines on all of our animals. And then we have adoption coordinators. We do a home check, so we make sure we verify where people actually live. We verify if they are renters, that they can have animals. We verify with their vets, that their, that their other animals are current. Because we want the very best for every single dog or every single animal that comes into Cooper’s. You know, somebody once told me, they said, well, those are just rescue dogs. And, I don’t know whether I just felt sad at the moment or just absolutely irate because it’s like, they’re just not rescue dogs, because it all comes down to it, they’re my dogs! Each and every single one of them is my dog. And the very last question on all of our home checks is, would you put your own personal dog in this home? And if the answer is no, then they don’t get one of our dogs. Because we want the very best. You know, they don’t have a voice, and they’ve already been let down at least one time by humans. And so the idea here is that we want something oh so much better for them with their new families and with their new adventure that they have. I love that and I agree with that 100%. I love the saying where you never know what an animal has endured in their past, but you can definitely do your best to change their future. And I firmly believe in that. And so I love that you do thorough checks like that. Because there are people out there that love animals and they’re looking to adopt and rescue their little fur baby and take care of them to the fullest. But there are those out there that don’t have those same intentions. So the fact that you try to search those people out, to not give them the opportunity to adopt an animal and put them in a bad situation, is, it’s truly awesome. And, you know, that’s a great aspect to have in this industry, especially. Well, I think that’s why we have this big team approach, and we are very much like-minded. The leadership team is like-minded that way and that it’s really ok to be small and to do it well, that’s the big one. Is, if we were just looking at numbers, we would not be going that extra step in trying to place each dog, each animal, each guinea pig and to really great, loving homes. 


Yes, absolutely. So, Suzanne, do you have any stories or situations that you’re proud of that you would like to share with us today? I do. This past summer, I had a Vietnam Veteran call me up, and he and his brother were both Vietnam vets. And he called me up, absolutely sobbing on the phone and they were homeless. They found themselves suddenly homeless. And he wanted us to take his two Beagles. And we did. We took his two Beagles, and his Beagles were Old Red and Buddy. They were 16-14 years old. And we did. We got them very, very safe. And then we partner with quite a few different rescues. And one of the rescues is Rest Easy My Friend, which is out of Gillette, Wyoming. And she has a sanctuary for old dogs or dogs that need some help. And so we took Red and Buddy up to Rest Easy, thinking that they would live out their days. Well, six months goes by, and in the meantime, Buddy, he had really bad cancer and he passed away and I kept in contact with this guy Warren and his brother, and we took pictures and all that kind of good stuff. Anyway, about six months later, he called me up and he said, hey Suzanne and I got home. It’s like, do tell. He and his brother  That’s some sort of hazy program where Vietnam veterans could qualify for homes. And they bought this little home in Rocky Ford, which is even further East from where I live. And a simple, do you think that we could get Red back? Well, of course you could have Red back. So I went up to Wyoming and picked up Red and drove back. And I think that’s one of the happiest days of rescue days. Is returning this really old dog to this Vietnam veteran, these two Vietnam veterans, these brothers and the joy on their face. And they were, it was one of the most moving moments really truly of my life. Of course, they were sad that Buddy didn’t come along. But we brought Buddy’s ashes, and we brought them Buddy’s collar and so Red was home with her people. And a couple weeks later, I got this other dog and a little Dachshund. And because they had had a Dachshund before, and it was an older Dachshund, I just went down there and I said, I have a surprise for you. And so these two brothers, they ended up with Red. And then they ended up with this little dog named Shasta. And so their family was really complete and whole. And, you know, that’s what it’s all about. It’s really about connecting with people, doing the right thing by everybody and doing the right thing by all of the animals whose lives that we get to touch.


 That is absolutely right. And I love stories like that, because they get you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. And it really does make working in this industry and saving animals all worthwhile, you know. Because you know as well as many other people in this industry, that it has its ups, but it also has its downs, and it’s happy times. But there’s also ugly times. This is so true because you know how in two years, my life has changed so very much by the truly wonderful people who I have met. I mean being dog rescue, we see the very worst of what humanity has to offer. We see the unspeakable things that happened with animals. And then, we get to meet some of the most wonderful people ever. And that’s one of the reasons why we started the Senior to Senior Program. Where we take senior dogs and we put him into senior homes. Because those seniors, senior citizens, they’ve got a lot of love and they got a lot of time. And sometimes those dogs, all they want to do is sit on the couch with somebody and be somebody’s everything. And so we really take pride in our Senior to Senior Program. We keep tabs on our senior citizens as well, because, you know, that’s just a stewardship that we have. I think it’s great. It really seems like you focus a lot on the seniors and the senior pets, and that’s something that many organizations don’t do. So I think that that’s very unique about your specific organization. 


Well, thank you really, try to help out. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ve got puppies. And right now, we, it’s puppy season and we have the cutest, little puppies that you’ll ever want to see, and so we’re pretty excited about having them as well. So we do have our share of puppies, so that is a good thing. But, you know, it’s just the whole community thing, going past just putting a dog in the home. It’s really reaching way down into our community and being an asset for the area in which we live. Yes, I would agree. You know, Suzanne, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, and I absolutely love what you’re doing over there. And we need more people like you in the world. You’ve got that enthusiasm. You’ve got that little spunk about you, that you can tell that you just love what you do. And it’s people like you who really make a difference. And I absolutely love that. Well, thank you so much. You know, it’s a passion of mine. And I think that everything in my life has basically led up to this moment. And I think all of my experiences, my lifelong experiences, has led up to this point. I wish I was better at technology. I’m kind of one of these old grandma things. You know, the best part about it is, we have this wonderful team and we just try to put our best foot forward. You know, every single day. And you know what? That’s all you can do! You’re making a difference. And the technology thing, it’ll come. But I promise. As soon as you learn it something will come back out and you’ll just be stuck in the same spot.


 So, if you could go on through our Facebook page, we have a new video about our hospice dogs that we have. We ended up with three hospice dogs. Two Dachshunds and somebody said, hey, come get him or we’re going to let him loose in the field. And it was the beginning of January. They would have frozen to death. So we have the two hospice Dachshunds. And one has most of his intestines, is only being held in by his skin. And then we have another little girl that is in chronic heart failure. And we have a gal, one of our fosters. That’s what she does. She is a vet tech, a retired vet tech. And she is making sure that their last days are the absolute best days ever. At first, when you just started telling the story. I was like, who does that? You know, like come pick up these animals. We’re just gonna let them go. You know, it never ceases to amaze me. But the fact that you have a foster that’s willing to just love on them and make sure that they know that they’re cared for, is truly gonna make a difference. Right. And that’s part of that. We see the worst of humanity and then the very best of humanity. With a woman who has such a soft, tender heart that she can love these animals in their last days. So, you know, a circle that’s complete here. Yes.


 Well, Suzanne, do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? We have a wonderful little website, and we have a wonderful Facebook page that we keep up on, and you can follow us there. We’re just hoping that we can get all of these dogs adopted out, and life is good, so. I definitely want to kind of circle back around and check in with you in a few months and after your partnership with the Humane Society of Pikes Peak and, you know, just see how that’s coming along and, you know, just kind of do like a check in. I always like to see how much you know you guys as an organization grow in such a short time period. So I’d love to connect with you in the future. That would be great. We would love to have that. You know, this crazy thing about time is you know, two years ago I couldn’t even walk in that building. And when we have the new manager there and she called me up, she said, let’s break bread together. Let’s sit down and break bread and let’s talk. And it was a night and day thing. It was truly one of the most amazing afternoons have ever spent with anybody. In the most heartfelt part was the first day that we were able to pull a dog out of the Humane Society of Pikes Peak. He was a little Chihuahua, of course. You know we have a couple of Chihuahua whispers in our rescue. And this is a little dog that didn’t do well, you know, in the shelter environment. And so they do. They call us. This is one of the most monumental things that has happened in Pueblo County. So they call us up when they’ve got these little dogs that need to go into a home. And that might need a couple weeks just worth of being loved up. So to say. It is just really magnificent because our,overall in our community than we together are saving more lives. Yes, it’s nothing sweeter. And I love how you have Chihuahua whispers. That’s awesome. Yeah, well, we do. I’ll tell you what. These ladies, they are truly phenomenal. So, yeah, you can reach us at, that’s our web page. it’s Cooper’s Companions. Okay, Perfect. And I encourage all of our listeners to go check out the website, go check out the Facebook page. Love and share everything that they’ve got going on. They’ve got pictures and everything of their cute little doggies, and I’ve truly enjoyed speaking with you today. And I look forward to chatting with you soon. Thank you so much. It’s been truly a pleasure of mine.


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