Senior Pets for Senior People


By Kathryn R. Burke.  [Montrose Daily Press, January 20, 2019] I am a senior and I have a senior cat. She is my roomie, my dinner companion, my BFF. She’s waiting at the window when I drive up to the house and is my enthusiastic ‘greeter’ when I walk in the door. And, she watches, with slumped shoulders and sad eyes, when I leave. She lies on my lap, purring, as we sit by the fire on a cold night or lounge on the couch watching movies. She sleeps next to me and keeps me company in my office. We play ‘hide and seek’ (albeit more slowly now, since we both have arthritis). She graces my FB and Instagram pages, and everybody who knows me, knows her, and always asks, “How is KitKat doing?”

Like for many of my senior friends, having a furry friend provides wonderful companionship. Yet, some who long for a pet may be afraid to get one lest they outlive it. That’s where fostering or adopting offers a perfect solution. You can age together. Senior canines and cats share calm camaraderie with us—a blessed gift as we age. They offer unconditional love and alleviate loneliness. Seniors become increasingly isolated from family, busy with their own lives, and friends, suffering from loss of mobility and slowly dying off. Adoptable senior pets have often lost family, too, and are lonely and need love just as much as we do.

Why pair a senior human with a senior pet? One main reason is energy levels. We’re not as zippy as we once were, and they aren’t either. Puppies and kittens are so cuddly and fun—and so busy! All that non-stop, wiggly energy. Trying to keep up with it is exhausting. And often destructive if you don’t.

Older pets have outgrown the need to chew up your underwear, pee on the bedspread, climb the curtains, or poop in the middle of the kitchen floor. They are already trained. They can still learn new tricks and routines, but with a greater attention span than a rambunctious puppy or kitten.

Senior pets are less likely to get underfoot, cause falls, or tear tender skin, a curse of the elderly. They tend to be mellow. Accustomed to being around people, they are less likely to hide or run off, and (usually) come when called. Their personalities are already established, so you know if you’re a match before you adopt one.

Spending time with your pet helps improve mental and physical health. Benefits include lower stress levels and blood pressure, reduced depression, and improved exercise—for you both. Pets open opportunities for interacting with others—take the dog for a neighborhood walk, and many people will stop to ask you about it. Post pictures on your FB page, like I do, and start conversations with other pet owners and make new friends.

For seniors not living at home, many residence facilities encourage pet ownership. Nursing homes allow pet visits. Facilities often have their own resident cat or dog companions. Some, including the hospital, host service animal visitations.

If you want to become a senior pet companion, where do you start? Senior Pets for Senior People FB page is dedicated to matching people who want to adopt or foster a senior pet. They also help to match shelters with rescue organizations. Many rescues have medical funding and just need a safe haven for these pets to live out their lives with love and compassion. Check in with and search (by zipcode) for pets near you available for adoption.

Second Chance Animal Shelter in Ridgway has a robust re-homing program for lost or abandoned pets. Like Montrose Animal Shelter and Waggin’ Tails Delta Humane Society, they have fee-based adoption programs that include spaying and neutering. Local vets know of pets needing to be re-homed and can help match pet to person, finding ‘forever homes’ that suit both.

Senior pets for senior people—compassionate companionship that benefits both.

Kathryn R. Burke also writes and speaks on caregiving. More here,

Senior pet resources, SW Colorado


MEDC Russell Stover Candies

Feature article.

dawning of a new era

Russell Stover Candies


Story and photos, Kathryn R. Burke

Russell Stover Candy Plant“When Russell Stover Candies came to Montrose in 1976, it marked the dawning of a new era,” said MEDC Executive Director, Sandy Head. “Providing a second income for farm families, the successful establishment of the candy company proved to the community that Montrose could be home to a large manufacturer. Two years later, when Holly Sugar pulled its sugar beet processing out of the valley, it took with it one of the largest income crops on the Western Slope.The 200-plus jobs that Russell Stover provided proved even more valuable.” Today, the company employs more than 600 people here.Russell Stover Candy Plant

It’s a sweet operation, and now one of the biggest in western Colorado. Three shifts working in a 300,000 square foot facility produce more than 15,000,000 pounds of candy for what amounts to a five-month selling season. “Most of our product is sold for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter,” explained Plant Manager Paul Minerich. And much of that is made ahead of time to meet a growing national and international market.

Successful establishment of the candy company proved to the community that Montrose could be a home to a large manufacturer.

The Montrose plant—the others are in Kansas and Texas—and candy-making process are huge. Sugar arrives by rail car, the contents “blown” into 137,000 pound silos. Chocolate, shipped in as ten-pound cakes (1,800 pounds per palette) is stored, tempered by heating to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, blended to a special formula, then cooled to below zero and stored in a vast refrigerated room the size of a football field. Nuts and dairy products (both possible allergens to employees) have their own storage and processing areas. Mixers bigger than a six-foot tall man whip up cremes and fillings. In-progress candies travel along conveyer belt-assembly lines that crisscross the plant like a slow-moving roller coaster, as ingredients are added, confections coated or hand-dipped in chocolate, then tempered, cooled, tooled and packaged, and stored in temperature-controlled rooms. The plant even has its own box-making facility.

And all this from the Eskimo Pie (invented by Russell Stover’s business partner in 1921) and Clara Stover’s “Bungalo Candies,” first produced in 1923 in Denver when the Stovers became a privately held candy manufacturer. Today, run by the Ward family, who acquired it in 1960 and now also own Whitman’s and Pangburn’s, Russell Stover produces a variety of products including Weight Watcher, Net Carb, sugar-free candies, and their long-standing favorite, boxed chocolates. The company is the nation’s leading manufacturer of boxed chocolates.

This article appeared in the Montrose Economic Development Corporation, 50th Anniversary Publication, 2007, which we published for them.  During that time, I had an office in the MEDC headquarters, so my staff and I could work closely with Sandy Head, MEDC Executive Director.


MEDC Aerospace and Aviation

Feature article.

up up and away

Aerospace and Aviation

Story and photography by Kathryn R. Burke
Western Skyways Turbo shopIn 1993, Al Head, and David Leis came together along with two additional partners to create a piston aircraft engine shop—Western Skyways. The company’s first location was in the Stryker Industrial Park on North Townsend, not a likely place for an aviation business. It wasn’t long before they outgrew their 4,000 square foot facility.

With encouragement from MEDC’s Joe Whitley, Steve Glasmann, and Steve Savoy, the partners wound up knocking on MEDC’s door. Soon they were the second tenant in the Aerospace Research Park. “The lot we are on was slated for a bigger operation,” Head says, “but we took it and soon grew into it. It was a dream come true!”

Western Skyways, which employs 79 people, continues to grow, with a piston engine shop at their main location and a turbine engine shop in space rented from JetAway Aviation in an adjacent building.

Why two locations? “Piston and turbine engines don’t mix,” Head says. “The mechanics don’t run in the same channels, so we keep them in separate buildings.” Over the years it has been recognized that the customer base has changed to turbine powered aircraft. This created an incentive incentive was created to advance and expand into a turbine engine repair shop. They purchased the assets of an existing shop in Georgia and relocated it to Montrose.

Both shops in the Aerospace Research Park are well situated, with enclosed hangar space and runway access. Mechanics can work inside or out, and clients have fly-in fly-out access if they need it. “Planes come in from all over the country, even around the world, for repairs,” notes company president, Head, who along with David Leis, VP of Sales is one of the two remaining partners of the original four.

JetAway, which currently rents space to house the turbine shop, was originally built by Scaled Technology Works (see related story). The company closed the facility in January 2003 and it sat empty until November 2004 before Steve Stuhmer purchased it with the intent of putting a resort condo community for pilots on the site. At this time his plans are still pending. Currently MEDC has two lots left at the park, all with prime runway frontage and good highway access.

Top left: Engine undergoing repair at Western Skyways turbine shop.
Right: Master Mechanic Melanie Medina, a graduate of Montrose High School’s School to Career program works on engine in Western Skyways ‘prop shop”.
MEDC photos by Kathryn R. Burke.


This article appeared in the Montrose Economic Development Corporation, 50th Anniversary Publication, 2007, which we published for them.  During that time, I had an office in the MEDC headquarters, so my staff and I could work closely with Sandy Head, MEDC Executive Director.