An Interview with Anna Anderson, Executive Director of Annie’s Orphans
This week comes another installment of our Adopt-A-Dog Interview series. Today, we are interviewing Anna Anderson, co-founder and director of Annie’s Orphans Dog Shelter located in Durango, Colorado. Annie’s Orphans is a no-kill animal shelter that houses up to 70 dogs and has become a safe haven for neglected and mistreated animals throughout the Four Corners area.
Anna personally goes out to find and bring back abused dogs to nurse and rehabilitate so that they can be adopted by loving families. Unfortunately, some dogs have not been able to recover well enough to be adopted, and in those cases, have found a permanent home as Sanctuary Dogs at Annie’s Orphans. The organization goes above and beyond to provide for and protect these dogs.
All this effort and love is made possible by the devotion of all the staff at the shelter and the donations made by the community. Anna has been so busy traveling between rescuing dogs to picking up donations that we’re lucky to have been able to ask her a few questions.
Anna, you’re the co-founder and executive director at Annie’s Orphans Dog Shelter in Durango Colorado. That’s not necessarily a common job – how did you get into this?
In the early 80’s, I became interested in dog sledding and traded jewelry for a team and equipment. My husband and I make animal themed jewelry (primarily dog jewelry). So we bartered for the team. We went to small local races, and it became apparent to me that not all racers were into it for the love of dogs. In fact, quite the opposite. So I started taking in sled dogs that no longer were “useful” to their owners. It wasn’t long before I expanded to include wolfdogs, then it seemed that anything that needed sanctuary from the cruelties of people were welcome to Annie’s Orphans.
Dealing with an abandoned or abused dog for the first time sounds like a pretty daunting task, what is the hardest part when taking in a new dog?
What makes my heart ache is to see the sadness and confusion in the eyes of the little souls that grace my doorstep. They have no clue why their owners are turning their backs on them. So it makes me all the more committed to making them feel welcome, happy and loved.
What kind of behaviors are most often seen with these dogs when they first come to your shelter?
Many of them are frightened, starving, and beat up. So some are very shy and take a while to build their confidence. Others are more willing to let us love them. Then there are a few that grieve for a long time. I have one that has been grieving for 4 years, and barely tolerates us.
The way we rehabilitate our dogs is through patience and understanding. The good thing about being a no-kill shelter is that we aren’t under the kind of pressure that most kill shelters are. We have big kennels and very large play yards, one with a small swimming pool that the dogs enjoy frequently. We shower them with love, good food and warm houses.
I’m sure working there has its ups and downs, but what would you say is the most rewarding part of working with these dogs?
The most rewarding is sometimes also the hardest. Seeing them go to a wonderful loving home is a very happy moment. And hearing from the new families that the dog is doing great and seeing pictures of them with their families is so heartwarming. But the hard part is making myself surrender to the fact that my baby is no longer under my protection. Even though I check people out as best I can, I still have this empty feeling that something could go wrong and my dog could be in danger.
So many come to mind. But one in particular is when I got this email about a blind pit bull who had been found on a highway in eastern Texas. He was sitting next to another dog, probably his friend and eyes, that had been killed. A lady stopped and picked him up and he ended up in a shelter that could not keep him. Nobody wanted him. He was due to be killed in a few days, but the wonderful ladies at the shelter put out a plea for someone to help. I don’t know what came over me. After all, I am in Colorado and he was in Eastern Texas. What was I thinking! But my heart took over my head and I emailed them telling them I would take him if we could get him to Colorado. So thanks to the Internet and a lot of wonderful people willing to give up their time and money, Mr. Bluejeans (now Levi) was on his way to Colorado. After being here for a couple of months, the most wonderful family adopted him, and we delivered him on Christmas Eve. Now he is sleeping on their daughter’s bed at night instead of being dead.
For someone considering adopting a dog, why should they consider going with a rescue? And if so, what’s the biggest piece of advice you can give them?
There are millions of dogs and cats dying every day either by the hand of man, starving to death or being killed on the highways. Why should these animals suffer because people have to have purebred dogs, designer dogs or just too inconsiderate to have their dogs spayed and neutered? All the stupid old wives tails that “people should be smart enough to know better” are still irritating my ears. Like “she will be a lot calmer if she has one litter”, or “she or he will get too fat”, or the best yet, “my kids should see puppies or kittens being born, it will be educational.” Anyway, “Don’t buy while shelter dogs die;” I love that sentiment.
As for advice, check out many shelters. Go into this as if you were adopting a child, and commit, commit, commit. Look for the dog that suits your lifestyle and try to visualize what your lifestyle will be for the next 10 or 15 years. Also research the breeds and the shelters. Find out what the shelter is willing to do for you to help the dog adjust. Put yourself in the animals place and try to understand what it goes through when you dump it off at a shelter. They have feelings; they love you and trust you. If you don’t believe me, look in your dogs eyes. They will tell you.
Thanks again from the PetMeds community for all your hard work, dedication, and taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Anna. If you want to learn more about Annie’s Orphans, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.
All images used with permission of Annie’s Orphans.
Interview conducted via email, lightly edited.