Standing on a mountainside overlooking the valley with officers and volunteers of the Routt County Humane Society, talking about our mutual love for dogs and their work to save animals, we witness the most incredible rainbow. Growing ever more brilliant in color, it arches into the sky, forming almost a double rainbow, crowning Mount Werner and the famous ski slopes with brilliant light and color.
It’s the perfect symbol of Steamboat Springs, a place that is physically beautiful, and also filled with the beautiful spirit of animal lovers, dedicated to making their world a better place for people and their pets.
DogTown USA is DOG FANCY’s biggest annual contest, and one we take very seriously, thoroughly researching dozens and dozens of nominated cities to find special places such as Steamboat Springs. But it is when I visit each year that I really come to appreciate just how wonderful a city is for people and their dogs.
It took barely a minute after I arrived at Steamboat Springs on a Friday afternoon to begin to appreciate this super friendly canine mountain town. I had barely stopped my rental car when a Golden Retriever bounded out of the front door of my host hotel, the pet friendly Sheraton Steamboat Resort. With owner in tow this pooch was eager to hit the nearby hiking trails of Mount Werner, which towers over Ski Mountain Resort.
As I hit the hiking trail Boxers, terrier mixes, Goldens, and myriad other pups and their owners are everywhere across the mountainside before me – even riding the ski gondolas up to the peak for a scenic hike back down winding trails that command stunning views of Yampa Valley.
Steamboat Springs is all about outdoor activities in every season, and dogs tag along to share the fun. In the course of the weekend I meet dogs and their owners from all around Steamboat Springs, but also from across Colorado and the U.S., and one little puppy just rescued from a Caribbean island.
Taking a break from a hike near the ski gondolas stands towering Bo, a big black Great Dane-Labrador Retriever mix who is a regular visitor to Steamboat Springs with owner Patrick Sheridan of Boulder, Colo. “We come here all the time,’’ Sheridan says of Bo, a 9-month-old puppy he got from Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue. “He just loves this place – and getting to meet all the other friendly dogs.’’
And there is no shortage of friendly dogs and owners. As a free Friday night mountainside music concert kicks into gear dogs and their owners spread blankets on the ground for picnic dinners and fill the Mount Werner mountainside. In every direction dogs fetch balls across the broad lawn, chase disks, and wade with children in water from a natural spring cascading down the mountain.
Catering to a throng of dog-loving travelers is a labor of love for the staff at the Sheraton Steamboat Springs, says Kristal Eckley, director of sales and marketing. “We are all dog lovers so we especially enjoy having all these furry guests.’’
Getting back to Nature is not reserved for just big dogs here. I met fluffy little Fanny in the hotel lobby, where she was sporting a bright pink dress and hairbow. But as with people, sometimes looks can be deceiving with dogs. Her owner says that Fanny is a city dog when she is at home in Denver. But when they visit a friend’s ranch in Steamboat Springs Fanny ditches the fancy outfit and loves to run the fields nonstop with horses.
Dogs seem to be everywhere here. I wander into an art gallery adjacent to the hotel and there stands a beautiful puppy, named Mango, who looks very much like a young Greyhound. But this gentle, happy and very obedient little one is a 4-month-old feral dog, recently rescued by Royal Potcake Rescue USA from the fearsome life of a homeless stray on the streets of the Bahamas. The young woman from Atlanta who adopted Mango explains that she brought him along while she works a summer job in Steamboat Springs.
Early Saturday morning I hit the Yampa River Core Trail, which winds 7 miles along the swirling river, cascading through the historic downtown and a favorite for tube floating. Dog walkers are up early to enjoy the cool, sunny morning and watch a hot air balloon soaring over the lush, green mountains.
The popular Rita Valentine dog park is the setting for the big DogTown USA awards ceremony, and local dog lovers fill the hillside. On hand are volunteers with the local Heeling Friends therapy dog teams, and as we all pose for a picture I get a big wet kiss from therapy dog Kandu, who makes up for missing front legs with a “can do’’ spirit and a huge heart full of dog love. (The work of Kandu and owner Ken Rogers is profiled in the October issue of DOG FANCY.)
Like that brilliant rainbow, Steamboat Springs shines as a friendly, happy place for dogs and dog lovers.