New Mexico's Pet Resource FALL 2002



by Freddi Hetler

Now, homeless and lost animals in Sandoval and Bernalillo counties and the surrounding areas have an angel watching over them. Actually it is a group of angels, running the Watermelon Mountain Ranch (WMR). The ranch is a non-profit organization aiding companion animals in need. By recruiting the help of animal lovers, politicians and business leaders, WMR is making a positive impact on the community and the lives of many forgotten creatures.

The ranch grew from a dream in 1996. Today the dream is working its miracle by not only providing shelter, but by involving the community in many incredible programs designed to bring humans and non-humans together.

Realizing the positive impact pets have on people, the WMR works to promote this bond. Its mission is to care for companion animals that are lost or abandoned until they can be returned to their homes or placed in new loving homes.

Currently, the Watermelon Ranch is a network of foster care homes for rescued animals, explained Beth Petronis, a volunteer with WMR. Eventually a shelter is planned. The WMR board recently purchased ten acres of land in Rio Rancho and is about to begin development for its permanent site.

The Ranch would like to be in a position to offer kennel space to other smaller, independent groups in need. Once the main shelter is built, WMR plans to provide that space, preventing any animal from being refused help, due to a lack of available foster homes. Their philosophy is, when groups work together with a combined effort more animals could be saved.

The Watermelon Mountain Ranch feels its Foster Care and Adoption Program is the key to reducing the number of stray pets immediately. Animals entering the program are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then placed with a foster parent for care and socialization until they can be adopted. Many of these animals come from local animal control facilities, where they were to be euthanized. In the first eight months of 2002, 210 lucky pets found homes this way.

Other programs in operation include Reptile and Amphibian Rescue, Micro-chipping, Humane Education and the Thrift Shop. Money from sales at the Thrift Shop supports Don's Angel Fund, which provides medical care for sick or injured animals. Don Johnson of Bernalillo, rescued animals in Sandoval County for 12 years. Mr. Johnson was hired by the WMR and sadly, the next day was killed in a traffic accident. The WMR's Mobile Adoption truck was dedicated to Don.

There are 142 hard-working volunteers who run the adoptions, work in the Thrift Shop, coordinate special events and toil in the office. The ranch has two employees, Christie Chiordi, who oversees cat rescue and adoption, and Cameron Murphy, a former animal control officer in Rio Rancho, works with dog rescue and adoption. The Watermelon Ranch is fortunate to have a working board of professional developers, fundraisers, engineers and an advisory board that includes the District Attorney, the Police Chief and the School Superintendent among others. Sophia DiClemente, interim Executive Director explains, " Since we are working with children as well as animals, we want to ensure that we have professionals to help in all phases of fostering the animal-human bond".

On April 20, 2003, the Watermelon Ranch will host its first annual Furr Ball at the Tamaya Resort in Sandoval County. Other rescue groups are invited to participate. Your organization can make money and take part in a sure-to-be "spectacular "event. For more information call Sophia at 505-771-0140.

Looking for that perfect dog or cat, maybe some sheep or a goat? How about a 9-year-old pot bellied pig? One is looking for home right now. Pets are available for adoption seven days a week at several different locations in Albuquerque, including the Indoor Mercado located at I-40 and 12th Street NW, PetsMart on Renaissance, Pet & Vet Market on Montgomery NE, 3 Dog Bakery, and The Homesteads Shopping Center in Placitas. For additional information be sure to check the Watermelon Ranch website at

Freddi Hetler is a writer who lives in Eldorado, south of Santa Fe with her husband, six dogs, and four cats. In her spare time she volunteers for the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society and the El Dorado Fire and Rescue Service.

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