Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photos
The Valencia County Animal Shelter currently has more than 100 animals up for adoption. They reached 100 percent capacity earlier this month, a state which they hit frequently.

Finding forever homes & sharing your love


LOS LUNAS — Debbie Kmichik described what adopting a new dog from the Valencia County Animal Shelter added to her life in three words: “I cry less.”

Debbie and her husband, Keith, lost two dogs in the summer of 2021, leaving their 14-year-old Corgi-mix, Barley, an only pup in their Rio Rancho home.

“I still cry a lot, but I don’t cry as much since I got Dancer,” Debbie said.

The Kmichik’s brought home Dancer in mid-January after seeing his photo shared on the Volunteers of the Valencia County Animal Shelter Facebook page with a message they had again reached capacity, putting some of the animals at risk of euthanasia.

Submitted photo
Keith and Debbie Kmichik said Dancer was underweight when they brought him home at 53 pounds. Although they still think he has a little more to go, he is happy and healthy in his new home with his brother, Barley, a 14-year-old Corgi mix.

In the picture posted, Dancer can be seen licking the face of Patty Mugan, the Valencia County Animal Shelter’s rescue and transfer specialist.

“I went to the shelter to meet him,” Keith said. “I was just supposed to go and visit him, but I couldn’t leave him.”

That day, Keith brought the underweight, 7-year-old Black Mouth Cur home, saying he reminded him of another dog the couple had years back. As they left the shelter, he remembered the gratitude of some of the shelter employees, noting his age as a reason he had not yet been adopted.

“We weren’t sure he was going to get out of here,” Mugan said, adding Dancer had been in the shelter for more than a month before finding his forever home.

Barley and Dancer became quick friends, now not even going on their morning bathroom break outside without the other.

“He seems to be happier,” Keith said. “At first, we weren’t sure, we thought maybe he was happy being an only dog because we would give him more attention. Then, when we got the other one in here, once we got Dancer in here, he seemed to be happier.”

Debbie laughed about how Barley patiently waited for Dancer to come home during his last veterinary clinic. Dancer, now weighing in at 78 pounds according to his last vet visit, is adapting well to his new Rio Rancho home. Both Debbie and Keith sang their praises about their experience with the shelter.

“As far as I’m concerned, the shelter was great — nice and clean; the people there really did care about the dogs.” Keith said. “They seem like they’ve been really working hard to make it a good place.”

Dancer, above left, a 7-year-old Black Mouth Cur, found his forever home with a Rio Rancho family on Jan. 14 after spending more than a month at the Valencia County Animal Shelter. Betty White, above center, was named after the animal-lover who passed away around the time this pooch was received at the shelter. Betty has been returned twice since other dogs make her anxious. She is one of 100 animals at the shelter looking for a forever home.

Adoptions at the Valencia County Animal Shelter in Los Lunas are $150 for dogs, puppies and cats. The fee includes a voucher to get the animal spayed or neutered within the first month or so of owning the pet, as well as a shelter exam, a rabies vaccine and booster. Animals that have already been fixed can be adopted for a $15 fee. The shelter currently has several litters of puppies up for adoption.

As of the first week of February, the shelter again reached 100 percent capacity, a state it reaches frequently between animal surrenders, strays and any other intakes received by the county’s animal control.

Strays without known owners are kept for three days before they are put up for adoption if they go unclaimed. Owner surrenders are immediately put in the adoption area of the shelter.

According to Mugan, the front area of the shelter housing the adoptable pets is essentially always full.

“It’s very important that we keep our adoption number up with the amount of intake,” she said. “Just Wednesday (Feb. 2), from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., we took in 54 animals. One day.”

While there are more than 100 dogs at the shelter who are in need of a home, Mugan said they still work to make sure the adoptions are a right fit, such as ensuring they can provide the correct medical care for a pup that has certain skin issues, for example.

“We get some people once in a while that come on back and are like, ‘I want that dog,’” she said. “Like, no, you need to go and take the dog out, spend some time with him to make sure that’s the right fit.”

Adoptions at the shelter are $150 for dogs and puppies, and $150 for cats. The fee includes a voucher to get the animal spayed or neutered within the first month or so of owning the pet, as well as a shelter exam, a rabies vaccine and booster. Animals that have already been fixed can be adopted for a $15 fee.

Prior to adopting a pet, Mugan recommends ensuring your other pets will do well with another dog in the home, and children and other family members living in the residence during the pet adoption process.

“Most of our dogs here, they are good with everybody that is up for adoption, but sometimes we don’t know.” Mugan said. “I have a 5-year-old little girl and I’ve brought her through here before. Dogs that are wonderful, they see her and they like, you know, and it’s random.”

The Valencia County Animal Shelter, 1209 N.M. 314 in Los Lunas, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, with no appointment needed for anyone inquiring about adoption.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.