She carries many names—lawyer, Buddhist, aging animal advocate and intelligent and intriguing woman. Montrose’s Peggy Carey is all that and more.
She went to law school in the mid-’70s when only 11 percent of her law class were women. She chose to study law after attending a trial assigned by her progressive high school. At the height of the Vietnam war protests, an Episcopalian priest had made homemade napalm and poured it over the files in the San Jose Selective Service office, then set the files on fire. He stayed there and helped everyone out of the building and waited to be arrested.
“It was a very interesting trial and, of course, was a very dramatic thing to have happened,” she recalled. “I was watching these two lawyers who were quite good at the law but they didn’t appear to be watching the jury. They didn’t seem to be paying attention to how the jury was reacting to them or to the way they were questioning. And I thought, you know what, I could do a better job than this.”
She arrived in Montrose in 1980. “I was raised in a small town and I had spent all my spare time as a mountain climber–every summer for 14 years climbing in the Tetons. Although there was no obvious climbing in Montrose it was so beautiful and it reminded me of Jackson, Wy.—a big mountain range and a small town.”
Her first job in Montrose was at Brooks, Miller and Brooks. She had been having a tough time with some pretty challenging interviews. The lawyers here were not used to interviewing a woman, asking her if she was going to quit in two years to have a baby and questions along those lines. But Ted Brooks’ daughter was a lawyer so it wasn’t a big shock to him to deal with a female lawyer.
Carey practiced law for 40 years—criminal law, bank law and personal injury. In 1992 she did a turn as Montrose’s mayor.
At the 40-year mark Carey “tried to retire”. She had planned on a job for Homeland Security, but it fell through. “I went to Seattle to spend time with my daughter and take this job. So when it fell through I took a job at Starbucks.”
What!? you say. But Carey says “it was a blast! Best job I ever had. It’s a great company, contrary to the negative things written in the press. For 20 hours a week you are entitled to health insurance, stock options, free college tuition. Very flexible on hours, lots of college kids. She worked two years in Seattle and two years back in Montrose.
She didn’t come back to practice law. “I started to gather animals. I usually had dogs and cats and horses when my daughter was little. Then I inherited two donkeys who came to graze my pasture and no one came to pick them up.”
She’d heard about a 15-year-old dog at the Rifle Shelter who had been abandoned by its owner. Carey couldn’t believe someone would abandon a pet they’d had for 15 years. She went up and got him. “He was a goofy little dog. He lived three more years.”
She became a non-profit corporation when the animals began increasing and vet bills were accumulating. The name of this small organization is Solas which means light in Irish Gaelic. Currently the Solas population includes five dogs, eight cats, two geese, six bunnies, three donkeys, a sheep and a llama.
Carey does part-time work as a lawyer and manages the menagerie.
Her spiritual life is important to her. She was raised in an Irish Catholic family in New Mexico. “My mother was first generation American,” she said. “Her parents were from Ireland—very, very Irish Catholic. So it was natural for me, once I had a child, to go back to the Catholic church, thinking it would provide a certain structure for her, and it did. The youth group provided her a really good peer group.”
But Carey found herself withdrawing from the Church. When she was in Seattle she went to a Zen Buddhist temple several times and started studying again. Montrose no longer has a Buddhist leader, but she follows a teacher online.
When I ask her who she really is, she replies, “I’m much more introverted than people think. I can spend a lot of time alone.”
If you’d like to assist Peggy and the animals she takes care of at Solas, Peggy has set up a “gofundme” page and has begun receiving donations to defray some of the cost of medication and feed. The feed bill exceeds $150.00 a month, and two creatures need medication. “I have never been one to ask for help, but there’s a first time for everything. Please help me care for these loving creatures at the end of their lives.” Peggy’s gofundme page is: https://www.gofundme.com/r7zby75s