SUPERIOR, Colo. — Donelle Slater is the owner of Dog Tag in Superior, but her love of working with animals started much earlier.
“I've always loved working with animals, and so this is just kind of a dream for me to have my own business,” said Slater.
That dream almost disappeared in minutes the day of the Marshall Fire.
“When I stepped outside for a moment, I did smell the smoke, but we just couldn't see anything,” Slater recalled.
As the fire approached, Dog Tag staff started their evacuation plan, which included getting all of the dogs inside a trailer. But time was running out.
“By the time we hooked up the trailer and turned to position the trailer, the fire was already there,” said Slater.
Staff put as many dogs as they could into their personal cars but there wasn’t room for all.
“I finally went back in and just made sure, double sure, that every dog was out of the kennel," Slater said. "There was about 10 that we couldn't fit into the cars, so we ended up [with] plan Z — open the gates."
Video captured the moment Boulder County Animal Control arrived to Dog Tag. Some of the dogs that had been freed followed Animal Control back inside. Eventually, all dogs were found safe.
“I think animals are really instinctual and they have a much better chance of survival if they're out than locked into a kennel,” said Slater.
Slater’s business lost a barn and fencing to the fire. Ash and soot also covered the gravel the dogs used to play on.
Everything insurance wouldn’t cover was replaced thanks to community fundraising.
“I had a lot of support from family and friends. My employees were amazing — reaching out, sending "thank you" cards,” said Slater.
Slater says reopening her business comes with a sense of pride.
Their former entryway sign damaged by the fire. It now sits inside their office, reminding them of what could have been lost.
“It tells its own story of resilience,” said Slater.