By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Hot Toddy owes his life to a woman he’s never met.
The husky pup was born to a stray mom under the porch of a woman in Arapahoe, who noticed that the little one was unable to walk. So she contacted the Lander Pet Connection, which was able to take him to a veterinarian for testing and medication – thanks to one of the largest gifts in the non-profit’s history.
Lander resident Claudia Pearson passed away in November and gave a substantial part of her retirement fund to the private animal rescue operation, specifically to help animals in need of medical care.
“In the past, we were able to work with the animal adoption center in Jackson Hole and the Red Desert Humane Society in Rock Springs,” said Marta Casey, executive director of the Lander Pet Connection. “We were able to normally get animals to those places and then they could treat them, but we did lose a few to medical issues. So now, instead of shipping them off or transporting them, we can treat them immediately here.”
In just three months, the shelter has been able to help 132 animals, Casey said.
“In the past, the Pet Connection has taken in 200 to 300 animals annually – this year, with Claudia’s gift, we are able to save many more lives,” she said.
In the case of the little husky pup, Casey noted the financial gift helped keep him close to home, paying for medications that allowed a staff member to foster him. Now Hot Toddy is sitting up and walking with the help of a sling.
“Hot Toddy’s only option in the past would have been to be transported to another facility,” she said. “Now the Pet Connection is able to expand lifesaving for the neediest of animals; this is a sacred part of our job, and we are so happy to honor Claudia’s life in this way.”
Claudia herself was a horse and dog owner and had adopted barn cats from the Pet Connection. A longtime friend, Maryann Pryor, said that Claudia had originally thought of donating her retirement fund to an international organization, but then realized that the impact locally would be much greater.
Casey said that currently, the shelter is hosting nine dogs and five special needs cats. But she added that its foster program is thriving.
“We have 18 functional kennels right now for dogs, and we can take five to 10 cats, depending on their issues — sometimes they have to be in completely separate rooms,” she said. “But by fostering, we can take many more animals in. And we also have a new adoptions program, although we’re doing extensive return-to-owner efforts.”
And Casey reported that people are coming from all over the region – and beyond – to adopt pets from the Lander Pet Connection.
“People are coming from all over to adopt, which is awesome,” she said. “We’re getting adopters from seven hours away. It’s pretty cool to see how lander is becoming a destination for adopting pets.
“In the past we were known as a supply shelter, which is a shelter that’s usually not well funded, and they just take in animals and move them to other areas.”
But now, she added, it has the ability to save more lives.
“We’ve pulled from some Wyoming, and other, high-kill shelters, so we’re helping save these pets too that we wouldn’t have been able to in the past,” she said.
And with the Pearson gift, Casey says that the non-profit can do more locally for animals in Lander, as well as on the Wind River Reservation.
“We’re able to now save the animals here, treat them for medical issues with our partner veterinarians, and find them homes,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Gifts in honor of loved ones or to help medical cases through Claudia’s Fund can be given online at landerpets.org/memorials or by check with a note specifying the donation.