Meet Cathleen Timmons

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

She may be filled with anxiety, but you wouldn’t know it. With two small service dogs in tow, Cathleen has learned what keeps her anxious moments to a minimum.

Panic attacks – a way of life for her – caused her to avoid crowds and busy places like grocery stores and Walmart, knowing they could cause her to break out in hives.

Having a job that had her in and out of airports every week for 15 years posed a real problem. “It wasn’t the flying. I was fine once I was in a seat. It was the getting thru the terminals,” she explained.

As an auditor for call centers, Cathleen Timmons traveled extensively; but her employer understood her issues and worked around them, arranging for team members to meet her at airports to dispel her fears and travel with her to a variety of destinations. When team members weren’t available, her retired husband often accompanied her – or at least talked her through the troublesome terminals via cell phone.

Once on location, things were different. “Just give me a clipboard and a job, and I’m fine.”

The service dogs – Timmy and Tawnee – bring her comfort and keep her focused. She now ventures into a grocery store with the dogs contained in a baby buggy or drives into town more than she did before, knowing the dogs will sense her elevated stress and calm her down.

Both dogs had been destined to be euthanized until Cathleen agreed to foster them, never really liking small dogs. Timmy arrived on a van from Kansas with a number of other dogs through Hope for Animals. “He was about four pounds and had no hair,” she said of the small terrier mix. Along with Timmy, Cathleen accepted another small terrier mix –Tawnee – from a Denver shelter. “They were both so sick and scared.”

Despite the fact that she’d always wanted a big dog when the time came that she’d be home long enough to raise one, she soon became attached to the two love-starved pups and asked to adopt them. She nurtured them, and she learned they had a calming effect on her.

Timmy, in particular, notices when she’s stressed driving. He’ll touch her, paw her. If tearful, he will climb onto her lap. “He senses my anxiety,” she says. A doctor recently wrote a prescription for Cathleen to have the two dogs labeled emotional support service dogs, which enables her to take them with her into public places where dogs might not otherwise be allowed. They accompany her to meetings and into restaurants and have opened up Cathleen’s world somewhat.

Cathleen and her husband relocated from California in 2007, a move that represented a lifestyle change for both of them. She was a mountain girl at heart who liked small towns. He liked cities. He was a minimalist, and she was just the opposite, accumulating lots of “stuff.” There was lots of room for compromise. They settled on three acres on Conifer Mountain, living at nearly 10,000 feet. “I love the birds, the pine, the sap – and I LOVE the snow!” she exuded. Being away from the crowds spells tranquility.

But when her employer shut down her division and laid her off during the economic downturn, she found herself bored to death, wondering what she was going to do. She called the Evergreen Animal Protective League (EAPL) saying, “I’m an ex-call-center service person … I could do phone calls for a couple of days,” and that was the start of her new career as a volunteer.

In four years’ time, she’s become Jackie Bell’s right-hand person with EAPL. She reviews applications for adopting pets, answers phones, helps coordinate adoption events, and coordinates much of the fundraising for the organization as well as helping with transports of pets brought in from other locations, most of which she can do without leaving home.

From OktoberPets to Barks & Belts and Wine & Washes, Cathleen’s been a godsend when it comes to working on fundraisers that keep EAPL operational. She’s reconfigured the use of her house, and much of the upper level is devoted to EAPL usage and the “stuff” that makes her comfortable.

She’s built ramps so her dogs can get up on the desk while she’s working, and she just settles into her office filled with dragons and dinosaurs, dog beds, chotskies and a cushy sofa, and enjoys listening to the birds sing and – during the winter months – watching the snow fall peacefully outside the window.

“Give me a clipboard, give me a job,” is her mantra. It’s what keeps her mind off the anxieties she’s had to deal with in the past, and helping pets and their owners in the mountain area is what has filled her days with purpose.