The dogcruces website aims to make a paw print on the needs of local animals and animal lovers.
By Jeff Berg
"We're big dog people," Vic Villalobos and Charissa Paskowski agree when asked about the beautiful, fun, informative and complete website they have created, www.dogcruces.com
A sort of clearinghouse for everything canine (with stuff for other four-leggeds, too) in Las Cruces, dogcruces started as "Paw Posts" on the larger www.lascrucesclicks.com website. That site is kind of like a local Craig's List, and offers events, classifieds,and community listings.
"We added Paw Posts to the Las Cruces Clicks site, and we were always looking for stuff to post," Villalobos relates. "We then talked more about it and decided to create dogcruces, and make it kind of a one-stop shop for anything with paws."
Paskowski and Villalobos both work at American Classifieds, which in itself is a part of the Dandy Dime group of shoppers and free-classifieds papers. Paskowski is the web developer and Villalobos is the sales manager. Dandy Dime is the publisher of a number of free publications and maintains several websites, and seems to be adding more all the time, including one called Las Cruces Personals, an online meet-new-folks/dating site.
But mostly the two co-workers are interested in creatures without thumbs.
"I have three Siamese cats," Paskowski offers when asked how she got into the paws business. "And to get Nacho [a newer addition to her furry family], I took him."
Took him? Although she doesn't come right out and say it, Paskowski's voice and body language and slightly moistened eyes seem to indicate that she saved Nacho from a bad owner who mistreated the animal. The dog is a pit bull, and she says that the previous owners were looking for someone to adopt him, but he, instead, adopted her.
Prior to that, she says, she volunteered at Pet Smart when her schedule allowed, and now devotes a lot of time to "trying to get readers on the website."
As Paskowski talks, a cat has been giving equal-opportunity affection to the four of us who are sitting in the small conference room. The cat, Nickel, a former animal-shelter resident, has become, Villalobos says, the "true office manager" here.
"People come in to bring him catnip — not to place an ad," Villalobos notes with a bit of resignation. "He has his own following."
Villalobos has two dogs and a cat in his home. Golden retrievers Ruby and Star are from a shelter, and are both members of Las Cruces Border K9 Search and Rescue. Cat Ratchet made friends with the dogs and was allowed to become a family member, too.
Villalobos relates how another dog from the search and rescue team had recently located an autistic five-year-old boy who was lost.
He also teaches dog obedience classes locally, and his dogs are also used as therapy dogs and utilized at the local hospice.
"We don't have any kids, so utilizing Star and Ruby has become a big deal."
The dogcruces website is still working to find an audience, Villalobos concedes. "There has been a little bit of traffic on it, and we'll have more time to promote it this year and will try and sell some banner ads, too. We've received a lot of positive comments and reviews, and we are glad to get suggestions or constructive criticism for the site."
The site is very clean and easy to read, and has a ton of information, from a sort of help line for those who have questions about their pets, to updates on the soon-to-be-ready, first-ever dog park for Las Cruces, due to open in May. Tips and bios of pooches and felines that are up for adoption are also posted.
The issue of animal abuse in the area is of great concern to both of these kind people. As I witnessed in my unforgettable ride with a county animal control officer (August 2007), southern New Mexico is not always a good place to be someone's pet.
"People need to take more responsibility for their pets, which is one of the reasons we started the website. Anything that promotes better treatment for animals in this area will help, since so many people do a terrible job of caring for animals around here. They're not killing half as many elsewhere," Villalobos says angrily.
Indeed, on dogcruces, it is noted that over 12,000 animals were euthanized in the last year. And who knows how many more are abused or neglected that never get a chance.
Villalobos hopes that one day this area is as progressive as Pagosa Springs, Colo., where he says the only animals that are euthanized are the ones that are too ill to be saved.
"We really want to push this," he says.
Referring to her own animal rescue, Paskowski says that she has been reading up on pit bulls, and wants to make sure that they are not victims of bad laws.
"I went to his previous owners and asked if I could borrow him [Nacho] for a day," she says. "That was in March of 2008. I'd never really known much about pit bulls before, either.
"When I first got Nacho, I was scared of him. I wondered if he would get a chance to change or grow up. He was tied up all the time [with his previous "owners"], but I knew he was destined for a better life."
Her three cats, Zippy, Punky and Blue, are just fine with their new companion, and Paskowski's household is at peace.
Both advocates are quick to encourage more education for pet owners, especially toward spaying and neutering, and not tethering a dog (as Nacho was).
With that in mind, Paskowski offers food for thought: "Often the punishment is on the wrong side of the leash."
The dogcruces website, www.dogcruces.com, will allow you to find tips, information or, best of all, a new forever companion.