‘I’ve got 300 lives’ | AspenTimes.com

‘I’ve got 300 lives’

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
**FILE**Maxine Mager pets Emily the iguana at Creative Acres animal sanctuary in the northeast Denver suburb of Brighton, Colo., in this file photograph taken July 1, 2007. Mager is struggling to raise money to stave off foreclosure on the sanctuary, which is home to roughly 300 abandoned, orphaned or abused animals. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski,File)

DENVER ” Maxine Mager has maneuvered through so many rough spots over the past 20 years that she can’t rule out another miracle materializing to save her animal sanctuary and its 300 or so orphaned, abandoned and abused creatures.

Her 44-acre property is in foreclosure, and she has until Sept. 7 to raise $357,000 or get the bank to agree to another arrangement.

Creative Acres, a free-roam sanctuary near Brighton and about 40 miles northeast of Denver, houses cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, emus, peacocks, ducks, turkeys, geese, ferrets, hedge hogs, guinea pigs and an iguana.

“I’ve had so many miracles out here that I can’t believe one’s not going to come,” Mager said.

The employees and managers of one of Colorado’s banks have taken up Mager’s cause. The 31 branches of Compass Bank are accepting donations for her and are distributing fliers.

Bank employees have contributed money, plan to volunteer at the shelter and might help with a telethon. Managers are talking to mortgage brokers about investors.

“We doing it because she’s doing amazing work and needs help,” said Natalie Landau, the bank’s regional human resource manager.

Although the amount to be raised is large, every contribution helps because Mager might be able to strike a deal to keep the land by making a down payment on a restructured loan, said Jody McNerney, Compass’ vice president of deposit services. The bank also wants to help Mager find a steady funding source.

Washington Mutual, which is handling Mager’s loan, is considering “every possible alternative,” said Deanne Stodden, an attorney representing the company.

Mager’s one-woman-operation has survived in part because of donations and grants. She has publicized Creative Acres at fairs, festivals and through outreach to schools and at-risk youths who have volunteered at the shelter.

A series of blizzards and snow storms last winter derailed Mager’s usual fundraising and set her back tens of thousands of dollars for snow removal, repairs to fences, pens and other structures, extra feed and antibiotics for the animals that fell ill during the cold weather.

People have sent Mager about $55,000 since her plight became known. She went through a similar crisis about five years ago at a different site when a dispute over the lease landed in court and the owner sold the property.

“I’m not giving up. I can’t,” Mager said. “I’ve got 300 lives.”

Mager has accepted several abandoned and abused animals. She took in a sheep that others said was vicious and ran into people. She figured out that the sheep was blind.

Two of her animals, Junior the pig and AKA the chicken, made national news in 2005 when she put them together so they could look out for each other. The chicken, which had a bad heart, and the pig, which had deformed legs, became inseparable. The chicken stayed with Junior until he died after developing a tumor.

Mager said she does all she can to give the animals a good life. She consulted an out-of-state veterinarian to rehabilitate a pig with an infection and swelling of the brain. She has had only five animals euthanized over 20 years.

Mager said she will try to find a place to board the animals if she has to relocate.