Animals Rescued from Colorado Flooding

Colorado has recently been devastated by flood waters. President Obama has declared this flooding to be a “major disaster.” Historic flooding has ravaged the state, from remote mountain towns to the eastern plains. Days of almost constant rain swelled the riverbanks and streams, causing rushing water to crash into bridges, over highways, and through people’s homes and businesses. Seven lives have been lost, 143 people are still missing, 5,350 people have been evacuated, and 1,918 square miles have been affected. Entire towns have been washed away.

(Video by Jeremiah Whitlock, Under Oath Productions, Ltd.)

Yet, in the chaos of this natural disaster, miracles are occurring.

The efforts of rescuers are heroic. Lives have been saved. People are already coming together and rebuilding destroyed communities. Helpers are coming forth to provide food, clothing, services, and shelter for families that have been displaced. And the animals are not forgotten. Organizations such as Colorado Disaster Wildfire/Flood Lost and Found Pets, Fort Collins Cat Rescue, Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals, and many local veterinary clinics have stepped up to keep animals safe and to reconnect lost pets with their owners.

But what happens to that herd of horses or cattle standing in the pasture? Most ranchers have one, maybe two trailers. Cattlemen and horsemen typically haul their herds in batches. Anyone who has moved livestock knows that it is not a process that can be rushed.  So who do they call when disaster strikes? The volunteer organization Fleet of Angels helps provide large animal transportation, pasturing, and feed. Mankind at its finest; these people are angels, indeed.

Most of us aren’t prepared for disaster. Dr. Naomi Hoyer, a Fort Collins veterinarian, said, “One of the biggest issues from this flood has been with pets in remote areas. People are stranded in their locations and don’t have enough pet food and medications on hand. For people that have been helicoptered out, we have encountered problems with a lack of leashes for big dogs and carriers for all of the small pets. A lot of people in these remote mountain areas never need these simple items before a disaster.”

You can also visit 9News to learn more about disaster preparation for your pets.

Storm Mountain Evacuation

Celeste Guerrero and her husband, Robert, own a mountain home in the Cedar Springs Community in Drake. All of the roads leading to towns with provisions had been obliterated by the raging North Fork and Big Thompson Rivers. They had to make a quick decision about exiting when helicopters became available to them. Because of waning provisions and their six pets, including two English Mastiffs weighing 180 and 210 pounds, they chose to be air lifted to Fort Collins. Celeste spoke of her experience in a Chinook helicopter with her husband, two Mastiffs, a French Bulldog, two cats and two birds, “We were uncertain if it would even work. Our neighbors were unable to load their Wolfhounds. If the Mastiffs refused to go, there was nothing we could do.”

Celeste went on to describe the chaos of having the animals around a helicopter, “It was loud, like some combination between a tornado and a train. There were rocks and debris flying everywhere. The back of the helicopter was open the entire time. Matilda, my youngest Mastiff, was very scared, but we loaded every animal with the help of our neighbors.”

Celeste and Robert handed their house keys to their neighbors with the Wolfhounds. “They had only lived next door for three months,” Celeste said, “and we didn’t know them very well, but I wanted them to take whatever they needed for themselves and their animals from our house.”

The estimations for rebuilding and reopening the damaged highways have been everything from three months to a year.

Celeste reflected on her disaster experience with her pets, “My lifesaver was that my animals are socialized and well-behaved. They were trained and that was a huge benefit in such a stressful time.”

Operation Sled Dog Rescue

Michaela Maddalena was evacuated from her home in the Big Thompson canyon at 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning with a reverse 911 call. She escaped up the canyon to Estes Park. Unfortunately, the intense rainfall affected the St. Vrain Canyon as well, destroying Highway 36, where Michaela housed her five sled dogs at her grandfather’s property. Before all phone service was lost, she was able to contact a neighbor to feed her dogs. However, the condition of the roads was only worsening, with no access from either direction. It took some time to get clearance from the National Guard to access her grandfather’s property. Michaela said, “We finally got clearance Monday morning and four of us threw on packs and hiked to the property.”

When Michaela and her crew finally reached Tob, Tornado, Abbie, Denali, and Dreamer, they were overcome with relief. Michaela said, “It was a bittersweet, surreal moment finally cresting that hill where we were able to see the dogs. They were happy to see us.”

Michaela proceeded to carry 15 year old Dreamer on her shoulders during the hike out.

Michaela said, “Those dogs are my family. People and sled dogs have a really strong bond. You have to trust each other. If something goes bad out on the trail, you have to rely on each other to get out of the situation.”

Michaela’s dogs are currently safe and dry. They are being housed at a pet lodge in Estes Park.


If you would like to assist Colorado in regaining its strength after the devastation from flooding, click here.

See the damage from the Colorado flooding and heartwarming pictures of the animals that were rescued.

  • Highway 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon. 1 of 18
    Big T before and after

    This before and after aerial shot of "The Narrows" portrays the damage to Highway 34, which leads to the towns of Drake, Glen Haven, and Estes Park.


    (Photo by Belak Reppoh)

  • Glen Haven resident and business owner rescues her animals. 2 of 18

    "This is a photo of the rescue efforts of Leah Simmons DeCapio, Scott DeCapio, Michael Barnthouse, Lisa Foster, Heather Johnson, many other volunteers and the Glen Haven Fire Department!!!" posted Lisa Sutton. "Lisa [Foster] is a climber in Glen Haven and is one of my FB friends. The woman on the photo is my sister Leah Simmons DeCapio. She was trapped and rescued by her husband who flew home early from a business trip to climb to her and rescue her and their dogs. Their friends assembled a crew to save her and more trapped neighbors!"

    (#COFlood Photo taken by Lisa Foster. Quote from the 9News facebook page.)

  • Flood Damage in Drake, Colorado 3 of 18
    Drake flood photo (10)

    The North Fork and the Big Thompson Rivers converge in Drake. This picture was from Friday September 13, taken behind The River Forks Inn. 


    (Photo by Celeste Guerrero)

  • The Guerrero Clan, safe and dry. 4 of 18

    The Chinook helicopter was the only helicopter that could fit Robert and Celeste's enormous English Mastiffs. When they learned that the future availability of the Chinook was uncertain and realized they didn't have enough supplies on hand, they each grabbed a backpack full of necessities and took Justice, Matilda, Bart, Pretty Bird, Fred, Sinatra, and Zoey on a chopper ride. They are currently safe in Fort Collins.


    (Photos by Celeste Guerrero)

  • Cowboy Church under water. 5 of 18
    Cowboy Church

    Days of intense rainfall created more water than Colorado's streams and rivers could hold. Standing water, mud, rocks, and debris still litter many parts of the state, like this photo from Masonville, which is just outside of Loveland.


    (Photo by Jace Larson)

  • Rescue by raft. 6 of 18
    Aussie in raft

    Rescue teams take great care with people and animals.


    (Photo from Colorado Disaster Wildfire/Flood Lost and Found)

  • Highway 36 outside of Pinewood Springs. 7 of 18

    Many of Colorado's highways are obliterated, making life difficult for the mountain residents who chose to stay in their homes.

    In reference to the hardiness of mountain residents, Celeste Guerrero said, "We're mountain people. We have supplies. We can hunt and fish. We can sustain ourselves for a good amount of time."


    (Photo by Justin Smith)

  • Operation Sled Dog Rescue. 8 of 18

    Michaela Maddalena  and her family hike out of Pinewood Spring with her five sled dogs. She carries her 15 year old dog, Dreamer, on her back saying, " I am the one in the picture who carried my beloved 15 year old dog out today. It is the least I could do for an amazing friend who has literally and metaphorically carried me through worse many times."


    (Photo by Jen Juneau)

  • Flood Damage in Drake. 9 of 18

    What remains of the bridge that went to the County Park property in Drake.

    (Photo by Justin Smith)

  • Dogs are family. 10 of 18
    Dog saved

    "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

    ― Fred Rogers


    (Photo from Colorado Disaster Wildfire/Flood Lost and Found)

  • Flooding of a trailer park in Evans, Colorado. 11 of 18
    Evans Trailer Park

    Kilee McCaleb, a veterinary technician in Fort Collins, said, "Trailer parks are flooding and the colonies of feral cats are climbing onto the rooftoops, in an attempt to stay dry. Friends of Ferals is an organization that collects the cats, and spays and neuters them." 

    Kilee said, "With their owners in shelters, many pets are being temporarily housed in Veterinary Clinics across the Front Range. Because many people lost their vehicles in the flooding, volunteers from the community, clinic clients, and staff are walking and feeding the animals."


    (Photo by Cody Crouch)

  • Kitten in a dish. 12 of 18

    Many animals in these shelters have owners waiting for them. Others, like this adorable kitten, still need to find a home. Perhaps it will at my house...


    (Photo by Kilee McCaleb)

  • Runoff creating other problems. 13 of 18

    The rivers and streams aren't the only hazard Coloradans are facing. Many areas have received so much rainfall that the ground is saturated and unstable. This photo of runoff was taken at a livery stable in Estes Park, where a crew of people worked hard to divert the water from its intended course into the horse barn and pen.

    (Photo by Jessi Kokjohn)

  • Safe and dry in the barn. 14 of 18

    The livery horses munch hay in the stable that was narrowly missed by the mountain runoff. 


    (Photo by Jessi Kokjohn)

  • Aerial view of the St. Vrain flooding. 15 of 18
    Hwy 36 and Big Elk Meadows

    The St. Vrain crashed out of its banks, wreaking havoc on all of the roads and towns in its path. The communities of Pinewood Springs and Lyons were hit hard and now the water is contaminated with E.Coli. The river rerouted itself in many areas and the city water lines were destroyed. It will take more than 1 million dollars to get water treatment back in place.


    (Photo by Justin Smith)

  • Stressed, but safe. 16 of 18

    This dog is in good hands and strong shoulders. Colorado Strong.


    (Photo from Colorado Disaster Wildfire/Flood Lost and Found)

  • Rebuilding has begun. 17 of 18
    Rebuilding in Glen Haven

    The residents of Glen Haven have joined together in solidarity and are already rebuilding their community.


    (Photo by Justin Smith)

  • We shall overcome. 18 of 18
    Colordo Strong

    This picture says it all. Donate if you can.


    (Photo by Katherine McManus)


Read more of Johi’s writing at Confessions of a Corn Fed Girl.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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