Recent posts in the Classes, News category. Click a title to view the full post.

Obedience Classes Offered!

Tony ClassStafford Animal Shelter in Livingston Montana is now offering basic dog obedience class instructed by Tony Marcuzzo, our staff Canine Behavior Consultant and Evaluator. Most of you who have adopted a dog from the shelter have probably had the pleasure of meeting Tony or have seen him at outreach events or at “Downtown Dogs” with adoptable pets. He conducts behavior assessments on all of our dogs to determine their level of safety before adopting them into the community. He also offers continued post adoption behavior support for all of our alumni. He comes to the shelter with 7 years experience training and handling animals in kennel and shelter environment as the behavior assistant for 5 years at Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter in Bozeman, MT where he honed his training and evaluating skills. He also has guided sled dog rides for two winters where he was responsible for up to 18 dogs and 5 guests at a time in remote locations.  Not only is Tony experienced with canines,  he is the resident volunteer caretaker of horses and goats at M.A.E.R.A. Ranch (Montana Awareness, Education and Equine Rehabilitation Association) in Paradise Valley.   Tony is an excellent resource for the shelter & the community and we’re happy to have him teach the course!

To enroll,  please download the registration form here, complete and email back to, fax to (406) 222-8752 or drop off at the shelter during business hours.Enrollment for our classes are open to the public. Class size is limited in order to give individualized attention to you and your dog (so sign up soon).

The first course begins on Thursday June 15th.  This course is 4 weeks long, 1 hour each. Cost for the entire course is $40 for Stafford alumni, $60 for altered dogs and $80 for unaltered dogs. Proof of vaccinations is required (rabies, kennel cough, and parvo/distemper vaccinations) and (human) participants must be at least 18 years of age.

Tony will contact you to approved your dog.  Once approved,  you can pay in person at the shelter,  via credit card over the phone or online by clicking “donate” button here.  You do not need to have a PayPal account to pay online,  click the “donate” button and be sure to leave a note at check out that you’re paying for classes.  $40 for alumni, $60 for altered dogs, $80 for unaltered.  Please wait to be approved to pay for your spot in dog training class.  All classes must be paid for before the night of class.

If this session doesn’t fit into your schedule,  be sure to sign up for our next session.  Feel free to email Tony at or call (406) 222-2111 with any questions.  All proceeds from classes benefit the shelter, thank you for your support!

Stafford Ski Day @ B Bar Ranch Jan 14th 2017!

bbar-ranch-ski-trailLocated in the beautiful Tom Miner Basin in Emigrant, The B Bar Ranch is graciously hosting a Cross Country Skiing day to benefit Stafford Animal Shelter. Join us Saturday, January 14th, 2017 to ski on some of their 20 km of groomed trails. They have both classic and skate skiing covering varied terrain, something for every level of skier (even telemark skiers can find a couple of sweet spots for cutting turns). Cost is $25.00 for adults and $10.00 for children
under 12 (6 and under are free). Price includes skiing and lunch (soup, sandwiches & cookies – vegetarian options available). Skiing is from 9-4 with lunch served from 11:30 to 1:30 in
their Nordic ten
t. 100% of the admission is donated to Stafford Animal Shelter! Please bring yourbbar-ranch-skiiing own skis. If you don’t have them you can rent from our local, shelter supporting shop in Livingston – Timber Trails 406-222-9550. Northern Lights & Bangtail Sports
in Bozeman also rent skis. Please RSVP to B Bar Ranch at 406-848-7729 so we can plan ahead. They will provide you directions to the ranch at 818 Tom Miner Creek Rd. Emigrant, MT. B Bar Ranch
We look forward to you joining us for a fun day to help raise lots of money
for the animals! (sorry folks, we all love dogs, but please leave your dogs at home for this event)b-bar-ski-day-poster

Cesar Milan Meets “Montana” Gang!

Bozeman, MT – March 6th, 2016

cesar collageWhen we found out that world renowned dog trainer and TV personality Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer” was coming to Bozeman we were excited at the chance to hear him speak. Cesar is famous for taking the most hard to place dogs and rehabilitating them.  He is especially drawn to misunderstood “bully breeds” like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers and works with them at his Dog Psychology Center in California.


Our Development Director, Alicia Davis,  took a long shot and emailed his company asking them to come visit Stafford when they were in the area and help us with our long term stay a Pit Bull named Montana.


Assuming he receives thousands of emails a day from people asking him to help,  it was no surprise we didn’t receive a response. That is until Alicia opened her email the day before the show and was pleasantly surprised to find a response from Cesar’s assistant dog trainer. They would not be able to visit the shelter,  but they did invite us to the show and asked us to speak about our shelter and highlight some of our adoptable dogs.  We were thrilled for the opportunity and quickly put together staff, volunteers and suitable dogs for the show the next day.   We all got to meet with Cesar before the show and introduce him to the dogs and talk about Stafford.  He was very interested in our Rez Dog Program, our high placement numbers for dogs in our community and he suggested that we help him transport eligible dogs from overcrowded kill shelters in California and rehome them in Montana.  He also had his crew send us information on recruitment for Search and Rescue dogs in California as they are looking for sporting dogs and working dogs that we tend to have in Montana (ex. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Retrievers etc..) Caesar is an outspoken advocate for “Don’t Shop, Adopt” and was very supportive of our work and spoke about it before he introduced us on stage.  He demonstrated corrections on our dogs for exuberant puppies, hyper active adolescents, overexcited walkers who pull on the leash, food snatchers, toy obsessed dogs and those with a strong prey drive.


The highlight of the evening came when he met Montana.   Montana’s handler brought her out onstage with Cesar’s Pomeranian named Benson. Montana could not focus on anything but going after Benson’s fluffy little tail.  The front clip leash and gentle leader were not working well and Montana was very anxious and pulling to reach the small dog.   Cesar then had his turn at our girl. With a very simple leash technique and his calm and assertive energy, he had her sittcesar collage 2ing and lying down as the Pomeranian pranced in front of her.  She was content. For those of us that know Montana, it was a true joy to watch and it inspired hope.  Hope that in the hands of the proper owner,  she will make for a happy and healthy pet.  Our experience with Cesar and his crew was one we will not soon forget.


(Montana is our longest term stay at the shelter.  She was found at Alberstons as a stray and has been with us since Dec 2015.  She is a 4 year old American Pit Bull Terrier who adores people and attention,  but is not fond of other dogs or cats. She is one of the staff favorites and can often be seen in the office hanging out, playing ball in the yard or pulling our volunteers on a scooter. Come meet her today!)


Adoptable Dogs – Lucy & Duncan – Snow Buddies

Stafford in the news: People Magazine-Dog saves owner from bear








Dog with Chronic Injury Saves Owner From Grizzly Bear Attack

kate-carmen-768Photo: NANCY DUNHAM

NANCY DUNHAM @@NancyDWrites 10/20/2015 AT 4:13 PM ET
When a grizzly bear threw Kate Cholewa, 53, to the ground and jumped on her, his teeth ripping into her head, Cholewa’s black lab mix leapt into action and saved her life.

The attack came suddenly during the pair’s regular walk through their favorite place, Point of Rocks Fishing Access Site, not far from their home in Emigrant, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park.

“We were walking along enjoying ourselves,” Cholewa recounted to PEOPLE.

The Chicago native, who moved to Montana to attend graduate school in 1987, had never encountered a bear or even seen tracks during her walks with Carmen the dog, who she adopted as a pup 12 years ago and now weighs about 90 pounds. Like all area residents, though, Cholewa is well aware that bears are prevalent. The best way to avoid bear encounters, as signs throughout the area warn, is to ensure the animal hears your approach.

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So it wasn’t unusual that Cholewa sang as the two walked during the early afternoon of Monday, Oct. 12. She was actually midway through a rendition of Dido’s part in the Eminem song “Stan” when she glanced over and saw the hair on Carmen’s back standing up in a way she’d never seen before.

Until recently Carmen had always led the way on their walks. But after she was diagnosed with a torn ACL a year ago, Cholewa started taking the lead to protect Carmen’s delicate rear left leg. Though surgery could repair the tear — which vets predicted would result in Carmen’s death within six months of diagnosis — Cholewa sought alternate treatment so Carmen wouldn’t be traumatized by months of confinement in a kennel. Carmen continues to thrive.

“I was about two steps ahead of her when I turned and was face-to-face with a bear,” says Cholewa, who estimates the bear weighed about 500 pounds. “I have no idea if it jumped on me or hit me. All I know was that I was suddenly on the ground with a bear on top of me. I remember thinking ‘I’m going to die.’ “
Cholewa couldn’t see past the bear but felt Carmen’s presence and thought she heard her barking. Suddenly the bear stood up.

“I knew I was supposed to play dead, but I just couldn’t stop from scrambling away,” she says. “All I could think was that my dog was still there, probably being ripped apart.”

And that thought tore her heart apart.

Cholewa adopted Carmen from the Missoula Humane Society when the canine was just a puppy, and it didn’t take long for the duo to bond.

“I wanted a dog that loved hanging out, was content to just be with me while I worked,” says the author of the novel of Shaking Out the Dead, who is midway through her next book. “We bonded right away.”

Of course there’s no way that Cholewa could have known the extent to which that bond would be tested.

As she scurried from the attack, her heart pounding with fear, she grabbed her cell phone and called 911. As the operator asked if the bear followed her, Cholewa heard a rustle and turned to see Carmen bolt to her side.

“The only time I let go of my head [that was gushing blood] was when I was helping Carmen into the car,” she says. “Usually I help her because of her leg, but we both jumped in the car and waited” for the police to arrive.

As the ambulance transported Cholewa to the hospital, she told rescuers of her concern about Carmen. They assured her that Carmen was at Stafford Humane Shelter in Livingston, where she was cared for until Cholewa brought her home.

“It meant so much to know she was cared for and not alone,” says Cholewa. “I think it’s wonderful there are such places where I could adopt her and then would care for her when I couldn’t.”

Cholewa and Carmen are working to return to everyday life, though Cholewa doubts they ever truly will. That’s not because of the scrapes, cuts and bumps on Carmen or Cholewa’s facial bruises and head lacerations.

“I actually believe this was a sacred event,” says Cholewa, who awaits a copy of her 911 call to retrace the details of the incident. Various aspects of my professional life “made me cynical and I thought I would have to write my way out of them in my next book. But this encounter brought me out of that cynicism. I looked a grizzly in the eye – my dog looked a grizzly in the eye – and we both got out alive. This incident didn’t change the world, but it truly changed something in me.”


Many people don’t know that Stafford Animal Shelter’s resources and services extend well beyond surrenders, adoptions and stray reclaims.  We provide valuable services to the community through our special funds such as the “Guardian Angel Fund” which allowed us to help “hero dog” Carmen and her owner Kate when they were faced with this emergency situation. We also offer safe haven and care for animals in domestic violence households,  emergency evacuations (such as wildfires and floods) and cruelty/hoarding situations.  We could not offer these resources to our community without the help of individual and business donors.  We can be there for the animals, because you are there for us! Please consider donating in honor of Carmen and all the other dogs who are helped by Stafford Animal Shelter in their time of need!

A very special thank you to Kate Cholewa for the shout out in People Magazine! Carmen has certainly brought the spotlight to senior dogs and shelter dogs…two of our favorite things here at Stafford Animal Shelter! We’ve always known how special these dogs are, but thank you for sharing your story and influencing others to give shelter dogs a chance! They’ll save your life in ways you never thought possible…

Give securely online with the form to the right, or send your check to: Stafford Animal Shelter, 3 Business Park Road, Livingston, MT 59047. All donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.