Every organization needs a face – that special someone who embodies the spirit and mission of the people who work toward a brighter future. For the Park County Animal Shelter, that face was an elderly white pit bull named Skillet.
Skillet, who passed away last weekend at the age of 13, had been rejected by families twice before becoming a permanent resident of the Park County Animal Shelter in 2017 – the same year he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Executive Director Megan McLean said the shelter decided to keep him as its mascot in order to give him the best life possible.
“Instead of trying to adopt him out for the rest of his life and have him face rejection, because he had been failed so many times before by previous adopters – we didn’t want that for him,” she explained.
Skillet was so popular at the shelter that the staff there decided to put together a “bucket list” for the dog – experiences such as a ride in a fire truck, a trip to Yellowstone National Park, and an appearance in the Cody’s Fourth of July parade.
“It was hard to not fall in love with Skillet,” McLean said. “And so, once people started interacting with him, and they developed that rapport with him, they wanted to follow his story and they wanted to contribute to our project and to our work here.”
About the time that Skillet became a permanent resident, shelter officials had begun a major fundraising campaign to replace their dangerously dilapidated building.
McLean observed that media attention to Skillet’s bucket list helped to raise the profile of the animal shelter during the fundraising for the new building, which was necessary because the existing building has mold in the walls and not enough space to safely quarantine sick animals, among other problems.
“Skillet became a permanent resident of the shelter right around the time that our fundraising campaign really picked up speed,” McLean noted, “and so he really drove that home for us.”
But mostly, Megan saw Skillet as a unifying force in a tumultuous year.
“It was more like Skillet was everybody’s dog – everybody sort of felt a connection to him,” she said. “He really brought the community together.