Alamosa’s Test, Part II

By Robin Leist
Executive Director of La Llave Family Resource Center in Alamosa, CO.

JVA: This is the second story written by the La Llave Family Resource Center ED about the aftermath of the recent salmonella outbreak in Alamosa (to read the first, click here). Just when they thought the water was safe to drink, they realized there was more to the water crisis than they originally feared.

Recently, we shared some of the personal stories of Alamosa and San Luis Valley residents who struggled together with the salmonella crisis. As we thought then, the impact is ongoing and far-reaching.

On April 12, the ban on using water was lifted entirely and Alamosa residents were assured that the water was safe. Around the same time, authorities revealed that the water had tested positive for giardia and cryptosporidium parasites as well.

One statement was that the just-completed chlorine treatment would kill those organisms. Another statement was, well, maybe not.

Last Tuesday, one of our clients called and said the water running out of her tap was dirty, and so was the water in all her neighbors’ water taps. The city was contacted by the manager, and the spokesperson said it was safe to drink that water.

Thanks to a generous contribution from our JVA [Consulting] friends in Denver, within 30 minutes she had six gallons of bottled water on her doorstep. She has four children. We are all big water, coffee and tea drinkers, both staff and clients. Those of us who live outside of Alamosa haul water to the office. We still do not drink city water, nor will we for some time to come.All the water donations and community support efforts have dissipated. We are on our own.

And a sidebar…

Frank Frank

A dear friend, Frank, manages the Conour Animal Shelter in Monte Vista, 15 miles west of Alamosa. Frank is a simple man. He is a “Dog Whisperer” whose connection with animals is nearly mystical. Warm, competent. He can handle the most frightened, the most angry animal. He gives each one a name when they come in. They all have personal time with Frank every day. They look to him for direction, support, and affection during a very sad, frightened, lonely time in their lives.

We visit the shelter frequently, and occasionally take home a dog or puppy to foster for a short period of time. We have three dogs of our own…plenty, really, and we know it.

Recently they experienced an overflow of animals, so on Friday, April 4, we took a puppy home for the weekend. Cute, tiny, five-week-old little girl puppy with a runny, scratched eye, dropped off on Frank’s doorstep at the shelter in a box with her fur-ball sister. Her sister had been adopted and she was lonely.Our dogs are always willing to welcome a stranger.

We planned to give her a wonderful weekend and take her back to the shelter on Monday. Kind of a puppy sleep-over vacation. Over the weekend, her runny eye didn’t get better and we wanted to talk to Frank about it before we took her back to the shelter. We called Monday morning and he was home sick.We kept the puppy. Tuesday morning. Frank was still sick. We kept the puppy just one more night. Wednesday morning. Same story. Thursday morning, same story. Thursday afternoon, the puppy starts to vomit. Then through the night she has severe diarrhea.

Friday morning, April 11.Frank is back at work.He has giardia. He is very sick. Puppy is very sick. Her head lolls to one side. We give her droppers full of water every ten minutes to keep her hydrated. Then after a couple of hours, we add rice water. Very, very sick puppy. I give in and take her to the vet. She has parvo.

Frank can hardly stay at work. I can’t take a sick puppy to the shelter. The shelter can’t pay for her treatment. So we say go ahead, treat the puppy. Monday morning, April 14: Frank is at work. Feeling just a little better, but sickness comes and goes. Puppy is just fine. I pick her up and take her to the shelter. She’s thrilled to see me, entirely excited and surprised to be alive and well.

Frank talks about his giardia. He’s not well. Weak, in pain. The treatment isn’t entirely successful. He got giardia from a batch of sick puppies dumped on his doorstep three weeks ago. They were diagnosed with giardia two weeks ago. Puppies can transmit giardia and worms to people.

Frank is having liver trouble. May need surgery because giardia can create an abscess on the liver. Nasty stuff. He’ll know today. Surgery means 4-5 days in the hospital. One month off work. The animals will suffer so without him. He is a one-man superhero to them.

He can’t afford this financially, but workers’ comp will help. The shelter insurance will help a little, as much as possible. People in the San Luis Valley don’t give much money to support stray, unwanted animals.

The shelter will be run by part time help and volunteers. They will try hard.
Giardia? Wait a minute. Where did those sick puppies come from? I call Frank. Did they come from Alamosa? Well, maybe, Frank says. In fact, likely.The impact continues.

Want to help? Send a check to the La Llave Family Resource Center at PO Box 508, Alamosa, CO 81101, or e-mail Robin at if there are other ways you want to help out.

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