Last November, Cheyenne the Australian shepherd, her mate and siblings were found with an abandoned pickup truck and trailer full of horses on Monarch Pass.
In a small crate in the back of the truck, Cheyenne mothered three puppies – a fourth found dead – against the snow and the cold.
All animals were rescued, and Cheyenne and her puppies were given to Melissa Berndt-Snyder, foster mom with Ark-Valley Humane Society.
Berndt-Snyder noticed that while Cheyenne didn’t tolerate people touching her pups, she also neglected them due to stress. As she began to relax in her new foster home, Cheyenne began to eat regularly, take better care of her puppies and allow humans near them.
In time, each was adopted to a different family, and Cheyenne went home with Congregational United Church of Christ pastor Rebecca Kemper Poos by March 3.
Cheyenne has since adapted to a happier life in the Poos household with her new animal siblings. She has transformed from an emaciated, wary and stressed mom to a happy, healthy and friendly dog.
Poos added that during a return visit to the foster mom, Berndt-Snyder was very pleasantly surprised to see Cheyenne in significantly better condition, and Cheyenne was thrilled to see her foster mom again.
Now Cheyenne even lives as a church dog at CUCC, greeting visitors and staying by Poos’s side as she’s working.
The owners of a few of the dogs, including Poos, arranged to meet and bring the canine family together. On May 28, Cheyenne was brought to Columbine Park and reunited with her sister Lucy and puppies Bodhi and Ellie.
Dogs greeted each other with wagging tails – and backends – and some gamboling around the park while owners compared notes on how each dog has improved.
“It was heartwarming and ‘heart uplifting’ for us all to get Cheyenne, Bodhi, Ellie and Lucy together today,” said Poos. “They greeted each other in quite a friendly way and then were soon romping like lifelong friends! They couldn’t stop playing and wrestling together and wanted to run all over Buena Vista. Not a word or growl was to be heard.
“We kept wondering if they recognized each other, and it wasn’t totally clear if they did, but they sure enjoyed meeting, greeting and romping together. I think they knew they were family – just a hunch!”
Similarly, Cheyenne’s siblings and puppies had to adapt to a new life after their traumatic episode. Lucy’s owner Lee Davis happily noted that her fur had become “100 percent better.”
“She was really timid at first. We know they’ve been through some real trauma,” Davis added about Lucy.
“She’s doing pretty well. We know she’s in a much better situation now than she was.”
Puppy Ellie, now owned by Bob and Sarah McMahon, had her own struggles to face since being born.
Resulting from double merle breeding, Ellie was born deaf and mostly blind. Her siblings tended to ostracize her, Poos explained, as she was often found separated from them.
“The pups didn’t know what to do with the blind and deaf one,” Poos said. “She maybe wasn’t trying to nurse and stuff.”
After adopting her, Sarah began to see that Ellie could actually detect shape and motion.
This still left the challenge of trying to communicate with Ellie and get her attention, a unique” experience which Sarah continues to work on.
“I had her down by the river in Salida one day and there was a little girl, probably about 3 years old, playing on the rocks beside us,” Sarah said.
“The little girl was doing just fine and then she began climbing on the rocks above (Ellie), and that scared the snot out of her. She started growling and barking because she didn’t know what was up above her. We’re having to learn to be aware of things like that.”
Other than that, Sarah reported that Ellie has “done remarkably well. We bought 12 acres and she kind of got comfortable with it. She’ll go out and run and do dog stuff.”
With or without her sight, Ellie had no trouble being amongst her family at the park. According to Poos, she and Bodhi had reunited previously at the AVHS Tails on the Trail 5k run and walk. Neither dog barked at one another, which Poos said was unusual for them when meeting other dogs.
More reunions lie in the future for Cheyenne and her family as they continue to settle into their new, happier lives away from the trauma that they survived.