CSU student provides new homes for puppies

Off the beaten path, on a nearly-hidden street in Berthoud lies a puppy’s haven – Ruff Start Training and Rescue.

Founded by Ashlea King, a CSU master’s student, Ruff Start has provided new homes to over 60 dogs and puppies from the reservations of South Dakota.


“A lot of people on the reservations haven’t been able to really look at how to care for the dogs because there are so many human welfare issues that animal welfare kind of gets put to the wayside,” King said.

Originally from South Dakota, King took an interest in the well-being of the dogs that wander around without proper food, water, shelter or medical care. When it came time for her to pick an internship to go along with her master’s curriculum, helping the pups was an obvious choice. She worked with reservation organizations setting up adoption routes and even bringing puppies to Colorado herself.

“I kind of just put some dogs in my car and left,” King said. “I didn’t really have a plan.”

Originally, King sought help from friends and family to help foster the pups, but she later realized that wasn’t going to work.

“Eventually, we kind of exhausted our friends and family asking them to take care of these puppies and they didn’t really want to take our calls anymore,” King joked. “That’s when we realized we’d have to start doing Ruff Start a bit more formally.”

Ruff Start Training and Rescue was officially registered in November of last year, and doors opened on April 26th.

Since then, King and others have worked tirelessly to give puppies new lives.

Ruff Start arranges transportation from South Dakota and once the dogs arrive in Berthoud, they begin a seven-day quarantine where the staff makes sure they are healthy, up-to-date on their shots and spayed/neutered them.

After that they are sent to foster homes around the area.

“Fosters are super important because that’s really our limiting factor on how many dogs we can take. We can only take as many dogs as we have foster homes,” King said. “Having good foster homes means we can help more dogs.”


While they are in foster care Ruff Start provides the caretaker with food, toys and healthcare if necessary. There is no expense to the foster parent unless, as King puts it, “their shoes get chewed or something fun like that.”

Taylor Hale, a sophomore hospitality management major, has a passion for fostering dogs and said she would definitely foster with Ruff Start in the future.

“I absolutely love fostering,” Hale said. “It provides a stable place where the dogs can build social skills in a more relaxed environment.”

Ruff Start also cares for the dogs after adoption, providing free training and helping with any health or behavioral issues they may face.

“For every dog that comes in here, Ruff Start commits to them for life,” King said. “We are responsible for them.”

For those who want to help the cause, King says there are plenty of options. People can foster, volunteer with community outreach or donate items from Ruff Start’s wishlist, such as puppy food, collars or old blankets.

David Holzapfel is a volunteer with Ruff Start and describes his experiences as rewarding and overwhelming.

“The work being done here is wonderful,” Holzapfel said. “This is an organization with a different take on rescue; they have a real focus on keeping dogs in homes and keeping people connected to their pets.”

Above all, Ruff Start is about improving the lives of their dogs.

“Obviously they’ve all had a rough start, which is where the name comes from,” King said. “But we really want to change that and give them all happy endings.”

Collegian Reporter McKenna Ferguson can be reached at news@collegian.com.