Dogs get help, too |

Dogs get help, too

Anne Bennett has taken in Gin Gin, a 6- or 7-year-old Finnish wolfhound mix rescued from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

It takes a couple of dog treats and some reassuring words to coax Gin Gin out onto the porch of Anne Bennett’s Aspen home. She looks around timidly and stays close to Bennett to get her picture taken, but as soon as she can, she dashes back into the house.Gin Gin, a 6- or 7-year-old Finnish wolfhound mix, does not like being outside – in fact, she tries to turn around when taken out for a walk. Gin Gin is one of 18 dogs a group of local volunteers brought to Aspen from the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast region this past weekend. Most had gone weeks without a stable home. By Tuesday, all but one of the dogs had been fostered out.”We had so many people call, it was amazing,” said Susie Harken, who works at the Aspen Animal Shelter, which housed the dogs temporarily.

The dogs that came to the valley are a broad mix of breeds, sizes and ages. Most came without tags or any known history. Bland Nesbit, one of the four volunteers who organized the canine relocation, said they were careful to choose dogs least likely to be reunited with their owners. Some people requested specific kinds of dogs, and others were deemed a good fit for Aspen – athletic but not aggressive.The enthusiasm of dog-loving locals to take the canines in kept the shelter and its volunteers busy all weekend, but it was also the end of a long journey for the dogs.”We felt strongly with what they’ve been through that they needed to get into homes right away,” Nesbit said. The dogs are technically now in foster care, Nesbit emphasized. If a previous owner comes forward, the local caretakers must give them up. In their temporary shelter in Louisiana, all the dogs were vaccinated, photographed and fitted with microchips. Their information is available online at If, by Oct. 15, their previous owners haven’t come forward, then they can be adopted.

Two of the dogs have already been sent back. A black Lab Nesbit had taken in – and what turned out to be its yellow Lab daughter – had escaped from their home in Baton Rouge, and animal control workers had taken them to the hurricane survivors’ shelter by mistake.But while there’s always a chance that the dogs’ owners may reclaim them, the sad truth is that many won’t be able to.”I have a feeling that most of those people don’t have homes to bring them to,” Bennett said.Most of the dogs are contentedly settling in with their new owners, who were carefully screened to ensure compatibility.

Jan Panico, who accompanied Nesbit to Louisiana, had no intention of adopting a dog herself. But Daisy, a black-and-white pit bull mix, “stole my heart,” Panico said. At 4 to 6 months old, Daisy shows no signs of having been through a disaster – she’s affectionate and plays all day with Panico’s blue heeler. Panico knows she’ll be able to keep Daisy – the dog was traced back to someone who said he couldn’t keep her.Basalt resident Melissa Dettlinger took in a year-old border collie mix who shows signs of stress. “She’s very timid, does not want to leave my side,” Dettlinger said. “They think she had a litter right before the storm.”Having lived in Louisiana, Dettlinger was determined to get one of the canine refugees. She named her Missy, after the Mississippi River.”I wanted to physically do something instead of just donating money and not knowing where it’s going,” she said. Her bond with Missy is already strong, but “if the owner shows up I’ll be elated,” she said.Catherine Lutz’s e-mail address is

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