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Colorado Edition: Revisiting favorite interviews, from a Fort Collins veterinarian helping Ukrainian refugees to a renowned ski map artist

Refugees arrive with pets at the Ukrainian border clinic. courtesy of Dr. Jon Geller
Courtesy of Dr. Jon Geller
Ukrainian refugees arrive at the vet clinic set up at Isaccea, Romania

In the months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, millions of Ukrainians have fled the country -- many of them refusing to leave without their beloved family pets. Seeing those images prompted Dr. Jon Geller to hop on a plane and head overseas to the Ukrainian border to help. Once there, the Fort Collins-based emergency veterinarian helped set up a clinic providing necessary care to ensure families' pets are cleared to travel with them to other European countries.

In 2015, Geller founded the Street Dog Coalition, a nonprofit based in northern Colorado that helps people experiencing homelessness get free vet care for their companion animals. He quickly discovered that his mission assisting Ukrainian refugees wasn’t all that different from helping unsheltered people care for their pets here in the U.S. He spoke with Colorado Edition on April 1, shortly after he’d returned home from the Ukrainian border.

There’s a long history in the U.S. of people creating guides to help others find safe, inclusive spaces. In the 19th century, safe houses along the Underground Railroad displayed quilts with coded messages to help people who escaped slavery find safe passage. In the 20th century, Black travelers used the Green Book to navigate as safely as they could.

Now, in the 21st century, two Colorado women have created a website that aims to do something similar. The Inclusive Guide, allows users to rate their experiences at businesses and other spaces. Those ratings give insight to users about how others with a similar identity have been treated, and whether they will be welcomed at a given business. Crystal Egli and Parker McMullen Bushman are the co-founders of Inclusive Journeys, a tech startup that created Inclusive Guide. They spoke with Colorado Edition in January.

One Monday morning in August of 2020, host Erin O’Toole started getting a flood of new Twitter mentions and followers – from Canada. A quick search of the news revealed there is another Erin O'Toole, north of the border, who was just elected leader of the Conservative Party in Canada.

Lots of social media merriment ensued, and when news of the mix-up reached the offices of the Canadian Erin O’Toole, the Conservative Party politician was kind enough to join his newfound American doppelganger to discuss their unlikely connection.

Legendary ski map artist James Niehues recently announced his retirement from hand-painting ski trail maps. Niehues, who lives in Parker, Colorado, has painted more than 200 ski trail maps in multiple countries over his 30-year career. Those resorts include Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park here in Colorado. Some of his work has been published in a coffee table book called The Man Behind the Maps. Colorado Edition first spoke with Niehues in 2019.

Colorado Edition is hosted and produced by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1). Web was edited by digital operations manager Ashley Jefcoat. The mission of Colorado Edition is to deepen understanding of life in Northern Colorado through authentic conversation and storytelling. It's available as a podcast on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music in the show by Blue Dot Sessions.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.