Canine companions learn to serve

Southwest Life

Ann Butler

Current Columnist


Phone Number: (970) 375-4584

Canine companions learn to serve

Courtesy of Sue Mooney

All ready for some love and training are three cute puppies, from left, Delilah, Deegan and Apache, with their humans, from left, Jim and Sue Mooney, Nancy Peake and Wayne and Sue Caplan. They are in Grand Junction standing in front of the “puppy truck,” an RV that picks up dogs that have finished their training to become service dogs for the blind to take them back to Oregon for further training and delivers new puppies to begin their training.

Many of us would find it difficult to get a cute, squirmy, cuddly puppy, love it and train it, then send it off to help someone with a disability live a fuller life.

But it’s a tremendous gift that a number of locals give every year.

Muffin, Persimmon and Ryder, three cuties who spent the last year training with their families Byard and Nancy Peake, Wayne and Sue Caplan and Jim and Susan Mooney, have arrived in Oregon, where they will begin their official training to become guide dogs.

The three couples exchanged the dogs they raised for three new, cute, squirmy, cuddly puppies, Deegan, Apache and Delilah, in Grand Junction.

“I don’t think I could do it if we didn’t get the new puppy the very same day,” Sue Mooney said. “We’re standing in the parking lot watching the puppy truck (an RV) drive off with the older dogs and crying, and the new puppies are licking away our tears.”

It’s quite a commitment, because for about a year, the raisers take the dogs everywhere with them. Their goal, to raise a dog that can focus on the job at hand despite distractions – getting their blind companion safely to his or her destination.

Here’s an important lesson we all have to learn. One should never pet a service dog (whether in training or all grown up) without receiving permission from the owner. Remember, no distractions!

Mooney and her husband, for whom Delilah is their fourth dog, said the students at Park Elementary School have learned that lesson. Two of their dogs have been Reading Buddies, and she said the children understand that when they’re reading to the dogs, and the dogs are lying down beside them, it’s OK to pet them. But if they see the dog at City Market or downtown, they need to ask first.

Mooney credits the group’s leader, Darla Welty, with the fact that puppies raised here beat the national failure rate of 60 percent. Half the dogs raised here go on to be guide dogs through Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Some of those who fail go on to become search and rescue dogs or some other kind of service dog, while the rest go on to good homes. (The organization does house checks and everything.)

The Peakes’ former puppy, June, ended up in a home on Bainbridge Island in Washington, where she has adventures hiking and kayaking. (She even has her own life jacket.)

Nancy Peake is the overachiever of the group. Deegan is her ninth service puppy.

Mooney said the group must raise at least three dogs each year to keep its charter, so they’re always looking for people interested in raising puppies or willing to puppy-sit. If you would like to know more, call Welty at 533-7231.

And the next time you see them out and about with their dogs, remember to ask first before petting. That’s something we can all do.


Enjoying their heart of Virgo birthdays are Abigail Albert, Kelsey Esger, Eli Parker, Sara Campano, Cindi Clay, Sydney Morris, Emma Wales, Emma Zink, Jim Clair, Charlsie Nygard, Chris Safran and Ted Robson.


Log on and support the great outdoors. It sounds counterintuitive, but Durango Nature Studies is holding it fourth annual online silent auction, and it closes Monday.

There are all kind of goodies on the list, with both businesses and individuals donating everything from fine dining and haircuts to a keg from Ska Brewing Co. and margarita package from Wagon Wheel Liquors. Add in massages, chiropractor visits, yoga, Zumba and jewelry. And, of course, there’s a ton of outdoor gear.

Your winning bid supports environmental education. Research is showing we don’t spend enough time outdoors, and it’s an important component of our well-being.

Durango Nature Studies helps more than 6,500 young people and adults to understand and appreciate this unique place we call home. The organization just opened a center at its 140-acre Durango Nature Center and collaborates or has partnerships with Durango School District 9-R, the Durango Discovery Museum, Southwest Conservation Corps, Leave No Trace, Fort Lewis College and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

It quietly goes about doing this important work, and the auction is a great way to help it carry on. When I went online to check it out Thursday night, I saw several cool things that weren’t going for anything near their value.

Visit, where you can learn more about the organization and make some bids.

Thanks to Executive Director Sally Shuffield, who is doing a great job of keeping me informed about what’s DNS is doing.


A group of friends established a cool birthday tradition that is still going strong. If a member turned an age that ended in five or zero that year, they were the hosts for that year’s celebration. No questions were asked about what numeral went before the five or zero!

This was the third event for a group that retired in Durango to enjoy fishing, skiing, hiking and everything else the mountains of Southwest Colorado have to offer. They’re also people who are committed to making a difference here. Almost every one of them volunteers for one or more local good causes.

This year’s celebrants were Cissy Anderson, Jim Beatty, Gene and Sally Bradley, Paul Cahill, Norm Goldman, Verlena Collentine, Sue Griffith, John Montle, Chap Petersen, Ted and Gay Robson, Jerry Sheldon, Norm Stern and Jim Welch.

They provided a dinner at the Edgemont Ranch Picnic Grounds catered by Chuck Norton that included barbecued chicken, pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad and, of course, a giant birthday cake. Sans candles, since fire remained a concern. Besides, who has enough breath to blow out that many candles?

Music was provided by a DJ, and most of the fun was just catching up.

Many happy returns to all of you.


It’s been a little more than a month since the 26th Music in the Mountains ended, enough time for some reflection.

Almost 10,000 people attended the events, which included everything from concerts and recitals to lectures and master classes.

Of the 113 students who attended Conservatory Music in the Mountains, 23 hailed from Southwest Colorado, with others coming from across the nation and Bulgaria, Finland, Puerto Rico, South Korea and Germany.

The festival offers complimentary tickets to conservatory students to orchestra and chamber concerts, and they took advantage of them, filling 915 seats during the festival. Music in the Mountains Goes to School offered free tickets to local elementary school students and their parents, to the tune of 125 tickets.

But more than the numbers, the festival offered some indelible moments: four of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos at St. Columba Catholic Church; the wonderful orchestral performances of Beethoven’s Second Symphony and the Danse Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’ “Samson et Dalila”; Aviram Reichert’s performances, both at the Glacier Club and with the orchestra, where he played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26, the piece that won him the bronze medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition; Steve Lippia’s homage to Frank Sinatra at Pops Night; and the début of Dmitri Berlinsky with the Music in the Mountains Orchestra.

Those are my favorite recollections from this year’s season. They’ll be tucked away in my memory banks along with performances in earlier years by Vadim Gluzman, Philippe Quint, the Clavier Trio and always, the wonderful Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra.

I’m going to sound like the late Bob Hope when I say, “Thanks for the memories.”


The next time you stop by Maria’s Bookshop, be sure to check out Ten Tiny Toes by Todd Tarpley, with illustrations by Marc Brown of the Arthur the Aardvark books and PBS television series fame. Brown, who has illustrated more than 100 books, said in an interview at a book fair in New York City that he had never had as much fun as he did while illustrating the book, which is a shout-out to dads. He also said it has the potential to become a classic.

Tarpley, the son of Bill and Dorothy Tarpley, graduated from Durango High School. His day job is as general manager for Parents Network Digital, the online version of Parents Magazine. He lives in New York City with his wife, Jenny, and sons Samuel, 13, and Ethan, 10. And yes, he’s related to the Tarpleys of Tarpley RV. His brother Brad is running that business when he’s not off playing the drums.

It sounds like a great Christmas present.


The hills are beginning to come alive with color for the anniversaries of Will and Milly Lacey, Eric and Wanita Christensen, Gay and Chris Goold, Brad and Angelia Cook, Bob and Millie Graff, Neil and Karen Johnson, Jim and Susie Robinson, Clyde and Dianna Hassett, Jimmy and Jean Robinett and Butch and Karen Keller.


Here’s how to reach me:; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality.

Canine companions learn to serve

Courtesy of Sue Mooney

All ready for some love and training are three cute puppies, from left, Delilah, Deegan and Apache, with their humans, from left, Jim and Sue Mooney, Nancy Peake and Wayne and Sue Caplan. They are in Grand Junction standing in front of the “puppy truck,” an RV that picks up dogs that have finished their training to become service dogs for the blind to take them back to Oregon for further training and delivers new puppies to begin their training.
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