New Mexico's Pet ResourceFALL 2003


Text and photos by Sandra Greengard


Several months ago I was helping a friend find an adult Lab to adopt. Kelly came to me because she knew I was the biggest animal lover in our office, and had rescued several dogs and cats from one situation or another.

I did my initial search for a wayward Lab on Joyce Fay’s website, You can search for a particular breed, age, or size of dog on her site, which includes pictures and short descriptions as well. As I was perusing the results, I was shocked to see two Labs, which I recognized as belonging to my neighbors, at Rio Rancho Animal Control. The neighbors had recently divorced and their house was now empty. Innocently, I had assumed one of them kept the dogs. I was wrong. It seems Coco and Bugera were left to wander from their yard by a gate deliberately left open – a very sad but all too common result of divorce. Pets are often treated worse than possessions in divorce cases because they simply are no longer wanted.

Coco and Bugera were labeled as strays and incarcerated a few days shy of a month when I called to rescue them. They were literally hours away from being euthanized. I thought I had the perfect plan. Since the house was vacant and it would be months before the bank took possession, I arranged for Coco and Bugera to be adopted from Animal Control and brought them back home. Jumping for joy and wagging with pure Lab wiggles, Coco and Bugera were finally reunited with each other (each was in a separate kennel at the shelter) and their familiar surroundings. Amidst the welcome home celebration, it was obvious these two dogs had endured a stressful ordeal. Their eyes may have been shiny and bright, but their souls were bruised, their trust shattered and confidence greatly diminished.

I contacted Watermelon Mountain Ranch, a local rescue group, who told me the dogs were “too old and too hard to place” for their program. Coco is around 5 years old, and Bugera is about 6. Too old. Too hard to place. Those words still ring in my head.


If I was Coco and Bugera’s advocate, then Tom Payne was their guardian angel. Tom runs Lodestar Labs (, or phone 505-286-3729), and has rescued and placed approximately 50 labs since Lodestar’s inception less than a year ago. I was referred to Tom by Joyce Fay, to whom I wrote, explaining the dogs’ situation. Tom immediately posted information and photos of Coco and Bugera on his website. He screened the calls that came in and forwarded potential new guardians to me. I had several people come out and look at the dogs, but no one adopted them.

I then decided to send an e-mail to Steve Stucker at KOB-TV to see if he would be able to post the dogs on his Parade of Pets with my phone number. Steve, as many New Mexicans know, is a dog lover and posts animals that are available for adoption on the KOB-TV website. Although we couldn’t put the dogs on website because I was not an official rescue group, Steve encouraged me to place a newspaper ad and offered great advice about how to screen for the best candidates.

I sent e-mails to everyone I knew, hoping each person would forward it to even more people. I envisioned the e-mail making its way around the world!

The week my ad ran in the Albuquerque Journal, I was simply flabbergasted by the amount of calls I received – some even from out of state! Now I was really getting somewhere!

Coco and Bugera were finally placed with a family who live in Albuquerque’s North Valley. I have visited them twice since the adoption, and am very happy to report that everything is just fine.

You might think that placing two dogs out of the hundreds that are in need of homes doesn’t make that much of a difference. But tell that to Coco and Bugera, who had been rejected by a rescue group as too old and too hard to place. Too old? Too hard to place? Nope. I’d say too determined.

Sandra Greengard is an animal lover from Corrales.

If you take a dog who is starving and feed him and make him prosperous, that dog will not bite you. This is the primary difference between a dog and a man.
– Mark Twain

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