Going to the dogs
BASALT – Ollie Bode has no regrets about her life going to the dogs – but now it’s time to move on.
Bode has cared for thousands of dogs over the last 19 years as owner of Alpine Meadow Ranch and Kennel in the Basalt area. She runs a boarding operation, doggie daycare and, for many of the years, provided shelter for “rescue dogs” put up for adoption.
She put her 9-acre property on the market and hopes to find the perfect buyer – one who will keep the property dedicated to animals.
“I know they’re out there,” she said of the perfect buyers. “This is my call to the universe.”
That calm and trusting demeanor is typical of Bode, as thousands of dogs and their owners can attest. While Bode isn’t a professional dog trainer, she’s got great instincts of how to handle man’s best friend. She’s a sort of dog whisperer.
She insists there are no bad dogs. “Dogs are like children. They want to know the parameters. They want to know the rules. And they want to shine,” Bode said.
She also knows children. She was a teacher in an elementary school in Solana Beach, Calif, providing alternative education. She got sick of the slow California commute and came to visit the Roaring Fork Valley in 1991. She met the owners of a kennel operating on the hillside above Holland Hills and fell in love with their property. She had it under contract before 1991 ended, then she finished out the 1991-92 school year and moved to the valley.
When asked why she wanted to run a kennel, Bode simply said, “First of all, it was a short commute from my home.” Her home and greenhouse are 100 yards or so from the kennel and chicken coop.
It’s also clear that she loves dogs, and dogs adore her. Each dog that passes through her kennel is different and needs tailored treatment, she said.
“It’s like getting to know people – you read emotions, you read body language,” she said.
She considers Gorby her greatest success story. Gorby was an abused puppy saved by Ursula Rose Shepherd, a legendary dog rescuer in the Roaring Fork Valley. Gorby was brought to Alpine Meadow for boarding while he was up for adoption. At the sight of a broom or shovel he would “try to melt right into the pavement” after being beaten by his former owner, Bode said.
Gorby benefited from lots of loving care over 11 years and became a well-adjusted dog. He was adopted by a long-time volunteer at the shelter to live out his golden years.
Alpine Meadow put up rescue dogs at cost for various organizations around the valley for several years. One year Bode helped board and adopt out 300 rescue animals. She stepped back from that effort once all the shelters from Aspen to Rifle adopted no-kill policies.
Over the years, she’s also adopted goats, pigs, horses, llamas and chickens. She recalled that she once received an urgent plea from a stranger who had to spend some time in jail and had no one to care for his chickens. Bode agreed to take care of them. A friend of the owner dropped them off along with vegetable greens and marijuana leaves as feed.
“I had some happy hens,” Bode said.
The boarding operation is Alpine Meadow’s focus. For most dogs, Bode is like the favorite aunt they come to visit every now and then. She’s seen many a puppy grow up and age gracefully “or not so gracefully.” Owners will give her a call when a dog dies.
“It’s almost like I’ve lost a part of my life,” she said.
Many dogs come a few times each year, when their owners split the valley for a lengthy vacation or weekend get away. A lot of the dogs feel right at home when dropped off.
Regular visitor Oliver Stone – the dog, not the movie maker – would race along the fenced yard adjacent to the kennels, peering in to see if any of his favorite canine friends were also being boarded, Bode recalled.
A trip to Alpine Meadow is essentially like a visit to a camp for a kid. But it’s no picnic for Bode. She is cook, councilor, activities director and janitor. After feeding her house cats, horse, mule and chickens, she heads to the kennel before 8 a.m. and lets all dogs out to their fenced yard. Then she feeds them, and sweeps out their indoor spaces.
Her charges develop an innate anticipation of mid-morning playtime. They get as riled up as Red Sox fans coming to Fenway Park early for a game against the Yankees when Bode starts letting them out of their kennels and leashes them for the walk up to a huge play pen. There, she’ll toss balls for excited dogs or just give them time to sniff around and wrestle with friends.
Quiet time from noon to 3 p.m. is followed by more play time, another feeding, then bedding down for the night.
Bode said she gives all the dogs a cookie each afternoon and tries to tell each one, in her most adoring voice, something special they did that day. “Sometimes it’s hard” to come up with something, she quipped.
But the poop-scooping and demands of the kennel have taken a toll. “I’ve been doing this 24/7 for all these years,” she said. Vacations have been few, far between and brief.
Bode enlisted longtime friend, and kennel customer, Sandye Whitaker of Whitaker Group Ltd. in Aspen to sell the property. Whitaker has been quietly marketing the property, which is for sale for $1.5 million. She is cranking up the effort this spring, when the front pasture and surrounding hillsides turn green. The property will be listed in the Aspen-Glenwood Springs Multiple Listing Service.
Whitaker noted that Bode is listing it for slightly less than the value assigned by the Pitkin County assessor’s office in May 2009.
“I’ve had plenty of inquiries from people that would tear everything down and put up a McMansion,” Bode said. She’s keeping her fingers crossed for the right buyer.
Bode plans to buy property near Paonia, where she wants to garden, resume her passion for water color painting and expand her cooking. Her cheese cakes have been regular winners at the Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Bode is patiently waiting for the transition in her life. Nineteen years around dogs have taught her to stay in the present, don’t worry about the past or future. “I call it dog time,” she said.
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