Puppy found in trashcan thriving

'Rambunctious' Lilo was among dogs abandoned in Highlands Ranch

Jane Reuter
Castle Rock husband-and-wife Morris Hansen and Denise Waggoner hold Lilo during one of her rare still moments at Highlands Ranch's Heritage Regional Park.
Jane Reuter
Lilo, a puppy found abandoned in a trash can, is thriving since being adopted by Castle Rock husband-and-wife Morris Hansen and Denise Waggoner.
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By Jane Reuter
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Lilo squirms in owner Morris Hansen's arms, wiggling out of his grasp and into the waiting arms of Denise Waggoner, who stands next to her husband.

"She's kind of rambunctious," Hansen said, smiling.

At almost eight months, the 12-pound puppy's energy level is about normal. She's come a long way from the first hours of her life, spent in a trashcan in Highlands Ranch's Heritage Regional Park. Lilo was abandoned there with her four Shih Tzu-mix siblings, one of which died before the newborns were discovered on May 21.

Just before Christmas, Lilo's adoptive owners brought her back to the park for a pre-holiday romp. She ran and played within sight of the very trashcan in which she and her siblings nearly died.

Lilo and her three surviving littermates, estimated at between three and seven days old when they were found, spent several weeks in foster care before they were made available for adoption in July.

Castle Rock residents Hansen and Waggoner aren't sure why they were selected from among the dozens who wanted to adopt.

"We were told 60 people applied for the four puppies," Waggoner said. "We don't know how we got so lucky."

While in adoptive care, the helpless puppies grew into brown balls of fluffy fur. Lilo since has exchanged her dark puppy coat for a buff color; the fluffy fur remains.

Waggoner said both the story of the puppies' harsh beginnings and the sight of Lilo's fluffy face in the newspaper compelled her to suggest she and Hansen adopt the puppy.

"It's a touching story, but quite honestly, we saw her little face and thought, 'She's speaking to us'," Waggoner said. "When the humane society posted little descriptions of their demeanors, we thought she'd fit in well with us. It's just the two of us."

Douglas County Animal Control Officer Caitlyn Cahill, who fostered the puppies, had previously described Lilo as a loner.

With Waggoner and Hansen as her human pack, she's not a loner now. While they don't see any signs of lingering trauma, her owners said Lilo prefers having them in her sights.

"She wants people around," Waggoner said. "If you're not around, she's coming to find you."

Because Hansen works from home, Lilo rarely is alone. Though the couple's home has a yard, Lilo prefers to have company even there.

"She likes to play outside and wants to go out, while I'm trying to work inside," Hansen said.

"She keeps us young," Wagonner said. "She's our kid."

During a recent visit, a veterinarian pronounced Lilo "perfectly healthy." Regardless, Waggoner still hopes the person who abandoned the puppies comes forward.

"But mostly, they should know there are options for puppies you don't want," she said. "We just don't want them to do it to other dogs."