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From pound to precious
by Jessica Garcia
Jan 01, 2009 | 2168 views | 2 2 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Nathan Orme</a> - Colleen Spalione holds Sunshine, a female Rottweiler, who often gets skittish around strangers. Sunshine was one of 24 dogs Spalione rescued from a shelter in Delano, Calif. in December. Nearly all the canines have found families to adopt them, but Spalione said she is still trying to give away at least two more dogs that were found in poor conditions.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Colleen Spalione holds Sunshine, a female Rottweiler, who often gets skittish around strangers. Sunshine was one of 24 dogs Spalione rescued from a shelter in Delano, Calif. in December. Nearly all the canines have found families to adopt them, but Spalione said she is still trying to give away at least two more dogs that were found in poor conditions.
Fifteen-week-old Chloe has glaucoma and may be losing an eye this morning during surgery.

She was given eye drops on Wednesday. It became a waiting game on Thursday. But on Friday, there was no improvement. There’s not much of an option left for the little Chihuahua.

Chloe will need training to deal with her blindness. But more than anything, she needs a loving home and a family to take care of her.

She’s one of a handful of rescued dogs in a Spanish Springs home in a similar plight.

But thanks to Colleen Spalione, she and two other dogs also in need of homes are being well cared for until someone adopts them.

“(Pets) mean so much to me,” she said. “I’m losing part of my heart more than anything.”

Spalione, a homeschool teacher, became a hero of sorts last month when she rescued 27 dogs from euthanization at a California shelter. Although three died on the trip back to Nevada, Spalione’s compassion saved the remaining 24 from neglect.

The rescue all started with a 2-year-old pointer named Barney, Spalione’s faithful canine companion.

Nobody loved Barney the way Colleen Spalione did.

He was gentle and beloved by his family. When Barney died after being a hit by a car on Pyramid Highway on Nov. 2, Spalione and her other pets grouped around his body on a bed in mourning, tugging at Spalione’s heartstrings as he died in her arms.

“I put him on my bed,” Spalione said. “I lay next to him. He always slept on my bed anyway. All the dogs came in and laid on the bed. You could see how sad they were.”

She still tears up talking about him. Dogs are Spalione’s life. They have been her therapy since she had a heart attack, a gastric bypass and lost 270 pounds. She also suffers from osteoporosis.

She holds on to pictures, hoping to find another companion as lovable as Barney, but she knows none could ever replace the 2-year-old pointer the same way.

“I was so devastated that the woman who hit my dog (on Pyramid Highway) had to drive me home because I couldn’t drive,” Spalione said when she responded to the accident.

She missed Barney so much that she wanted to find another dog to love right away. But the journey would be more heart-wrenching.

Spalione went online and found such a dog in Atlanta, Ga., but was told that dog wasn’t likely to survive the flight due to health reasons. Looking a little closer to home, Spalione looking through the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Nevada Humane Society. She couldn’t find one that got along with her female shepherd-lab mix, Tipper.

Finally, she found a shelter through a Web site called in Delano, Calif., just outside of Bakersfield. The site said there were many smaller dogs there and with few small dogs in the Reno-Sparks area, Spalione thought she would bring a few of them back.

She paid a neighbor’s son $50 to go with her and put on snow tires for her Mercedes. But she hit a roundabout on the way and had to go back and use her neighbor’s truck, already putting her $3,000 in the hole before leaving Reno.

Once at the shelter on Dec. 14, she discovered many of the pets were in terrible condition and too many were housed together in crowded make-shift kennels. One was sick. Most didn’t have names.

“The conditions of the place were sad,” she said. “They had utility storage units made out of metal. I looked at the woman worker and said, ‘Why don’t you give me the dogs that are going to be put down?’ “

Some of those dogs included seven 2-week-old Queensland heeler-shepherd mix puppies. She took those dogs, bought a kennel in the city and went cage by cage and added 20 adults dogs to the count when she saw how bad conditions in the facility were. Even cats were kept in small plastic crates.

Other breeds Spalione took included 10 Chihuahua mixes, one purebred Chihuahua, a Jack Russell, a poodle, two shepherd mixes, two miniature pinschers and an Australian cattle dog mix.

She brought the dogs back on a slow return drive home. She had strapped a tarp to the truck over the kennels. She fed the puppies on the hour because they were malnourished. Almost all the dogs were underweight and four had tapeworms.

“I never really thought this through until I got home,” she said. “On the second day I’m standing outside with 29 dogs running around, male and female. I see one getting on top of another. I had to put them in different places.”

A feeling of overwhelming nervousness suddenly kicked in, she said.

“It didn’t hit me what I had done,” she said. “My husband didn’t know what I did; he was out of town on business. He’s not much of a pet person.”

Spalione’s been successful in getting rid of most of them fairly quickly. But three, including Chloe, a miniature pinscher and a Rottweiler named Sunshine, are all that are left of the rescued dogs.

She said she didn’t realize for a while that Chloe was still living at her house because one of her daughters had the Chihuahua hidden in her room.

But Sunshine also has a sad story.

“She was abused,” Spalione said. “Her collar was impacted in her neck for four to six months, the amount of time the Rottweiler was in the care of this animal facility.”

It cost Spalione $419 to treat her at a vet and get her spayed.

Sunshine is also extra suspicious around strangers and acts skittish, staying low to the ground, but she’s getting better, Spalione said.

Residents in Washoe County are not allowed to own more than three dogs, so she’s in violation. Neighbors have complained about the barking. She could also have been fined $2000 on top of the more than $1,300 she’s spent on vet bills and supplies for the dogs.

The law on dog limits also means either Chloe or the miniature pinscher will have to be given up, a thought that deeply saddens Spalione.

Spalione said if someone across the country would like to adopt one of the dogs, she would pay half for airfare or, if they’re within driving distance, she could meet them halfway. She’ll do whatever it takes to find a good family to care for the creatures that have made her better.

Whatever the consequences mean for Spalione, though, she has no regrets about helping the dogs.

“God put me on this earth to help others, whether they’re in animal form or human form,” Spalione said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
volunteer no more
January 07, 2009
It is sad you are glorifing the situation, it is not behavior that should be emulated. In case Colleen hadn't noticed there are several dogs put down in Washoe County every month. Bringing sick & non vaccinated animals into a community, where they can infect other pets is irresponsible. Putting others in harms way because it makes you feel good is not cause for a newspaper column. Has the Trib lost it's mind ?

Does this person understand if one of those dogs bit anyone ( and she doesn't know they wouldn't) the person would require very painful injections to preclude the chance of Rabies. Please don't give a platform for this time of self centered, thoughtless behavior.
colleen 27 dogs
January 02, 2009
i need to let you know that CHLOE is not a chihuahua she is a shar pei mix and as of today shes doing well.

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