The uphill gravel entrance road is unfit for a vehicle with low clearance.
You park and enter the compound, to be greeted by a cacophony of barking, as many as 70 or 80 dogs announcing your arrival.
Nobody sneaks up on Anna and Bill Anderson's 15-acre spread overlooking the Animas River south of Durango.
This is the home of Annie's Orphans, a nonprofit sanctuary for wayward dogs of all sizes, shapes and ages. It's part wildlife refuge, part adoption agency.
It's built on a shoestring budget, with a foundation of love buttressed by extreme dedication. Not all the dogs here are cute and cuddly. There's Luca, who lost a leg in a steel trap. And there's Seamus, who has bouts of memory loss during which he doesn't recognize anyone.
"He's kind of a sandwich short of a picnic," Anna Anderson says.
But anyone who values the life of a dog cannot help but develop a tender spot for this place.
And that's what Annie's Orphans will be counting on Tuesday evening when it hosts its third annual Endless Linguine Dinner summer fundraiser at the - is this apropos, or what? - Lost Dog Bar & Lounge.
The last two dinners made several thousand dollars. But more than that, "It's just nice to get everybody who supports us
together," says Darcy Williamson, a volunteer who plays such a key role that her name co-appears on Annie's Orphans business cards.
Williamson serves as adoption coordinator and office manager, and her husband, John, helps out, too.
A tour of the dog shelter follows a gravel path into a labyrinth of chain-link fence enclosures. Orange power cords form arches over the path. Piñon and juniper trees add shelter and a touch of nature.
Each enclosure is labeled with the dog's name and a quick description of its mannerisms and medical issues. Each dog has its own custom-built, insulated house; the lean-to roofs swivel open from the top for easy access.
Weather issues vary by season. Late spring is fairly mellow, winter most challenging. Each dog has a heated bowl to keep water from freezing, and heat lamps are available for the coldest nights. During the winter, Annie's electric bill hits $1,000 to $1,200 a month.
In 2008, the Andersons and volunteers shoveled snow for eight hours a day during a three-week period to keep paths open and gates clear. Finally, they purchased a used snowblower.
The dogs and their jewelry business - conducted in a couple of trailers within the maze - are the Andersons' life.
Her phone rings and she takes a quick look. It's a reminder message, telling her what chore or task comes next.
"It's my brain. It tells me when to do everything," Anderson says.
The dogs need to be fed, walked and doctored, and there's a lot of them. "Without volunteers, there's no way I could keep this thing running."
The dogs' backgrounds and breeds vary widely. There are the inseparable black Labrador (Jenna) and dachshund (Splotch) who arrived together several years ago. There's Christy, a pit bull, who came from the reservation with raw feet and a blood-stained tail, but shows no signs of holding a grudge against humans. In fact, Anderson can't keep Christy from jumping all over her in excitement. "She's a sweet dog."
They arrive in various physical states. Whatever ails them, they'll be treated in a shed Anna calls the "St. Francis Room." Veterinarians and assistants from local animal hospitals visit periodically.
Annie's Orphans functions a bit like a humane society, but with one caveat: Dogs here are never euthanized.
The first dogs came in 1985, when the La Plata County Humane Society's building on Goeglein Gulch was condemned. Friends of Anderson knew she had room, and asked if she could save some dogs from being put down.
She ended up with nine 5-day-old puppies that she had to bottle feed. "I just kind of got the bug," she says.
Now the shelter has more than 70 dogs.
They're not all up for public adoption. Anna personally adopts the ones with behavioral issues, such as Seamus.
The tour ends at a trailer - built last year with a large donation from Durangoans Nancy Reno and pro beach volleyballer Elaine Youngs - that serves as an office. An erasable board lists each dog by name, a checkmark next to it if it's been taken for a walk recently. Williamson and Anderson discuss a few details of the fundraiser, and Anderson sits down for a break.
It's not cheap to feed and house so many dogs, but Annie's scrapes by.
"This community is absolutely the most giving community I've ever heard of," Anderson says. The other day a $500 check appeared in the mailbox. "Without them there wouldn't be an Annie's Orphans. There'd be a whole bunch of homeless dogs."
More than 600 dogs have been sheltered here, and you can believe Annie remembers them all. She's picky about giving them good homes. They're family. And there's the dog-sitting guarantee with each adoption.
"If you adopt from me, I'll babysit," Anderson says. "It's a selfish thing. I get to see my kids again. I'm not as big-hearted as I seem.
"When they go down that driveway, I go into grief mode."
Perhaps the biggest testament: When they return to visit, Williamson says, the dogs always look happy.
[email protected] John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.