A Home for the Holidays

One warm August day, the phone rang at the Lander Pet Connection. On the other end, a caring local woman explained that a stray mother dog had taken up residence under her porch. She’d been feeding the dog, who was still nursing her somewhat scraggly puppies. As they grew, she explained, there was one who didn’t seem to be walking quite right — he struggled to keep up with the romping antics of his siblings.

“We brought the whole family in and got the struggling puppy to a vet right away,” recalls Claire Buchanan, Development Associate at the Lander Pet Connection. “He underwent many tests to find out the cause of his mobility issues. He was eventually taken to Colorado State University’s Veterinary Hospital where it was determined that his issues were caused by a congenital malformation of the cerebellum.” The brain development issue had impacted his ability to move his hind legs.

The Lander Pet Connection is one of only two shelters in Fremont County. LPC plays a critical role in animal welfare in our area and fulfills the roles of both rescue and shelter, as well as providing food and veterinary support. We are often the only option for pets and owners looking for help,” continues Claire.

In this puppy’s case, there was no owner to oversee his medical care, so the Lander Pet Connection stepped in. And thanks to their compassion, dedication, and deep love of animals, Hot Toddy (as he’s now known) is doing very well.

“Toddy is now making great strides through physical therapy and has a great chance to regain some mobility with the help of a wheelchair once he is fully grown,” Claire explains. Thanks to the organization’s exceptional care (and Toddy’s painfully-adorable face), he’s become something of a local celebrity. “Throughout his journey, Hot Toddy has been loved and supported by some of our amazing foster families, including one of our dedicated staff members. Our community has been incredibly supportive and eagerly following his story. We’ve been able to provide him with the best veterinary care available through Claudia’s Fund, a memorial fund established to be used for veterinary care for special cases like Toddy.”

In addition to caring for cats and dogs who may not have others to look after them, The Lander Pet Connection seeks innovative solutions to help both pets and owners. They reunite lost pets with owners, rescue and find homes for abandoned animals, assist in rehoming pets that cannot be supported, and provide resources to owners to better care for their pets.

“We have helped over 400 dogs and cats so far this year, surpassing last year’s total by nearly 100,” says Claire.

It’s clear that the Lander Pet Connection is working hard to find creative solutions to help the community around them — those with two legs or four,” says Molly Hughes, Executive Director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation. “Animals are an important part of families and of our quality of life. They bring a great deal of joy, and they’re a key piece of our Wyoming culture. The team at Lander Pet Connection is committed to honoring and celebrating that bond, and offering support when it’s needed.”

“The support of the Hughes Foundation has allowed us to transform our organization, creating new programs and building for sustainability,” reflects Claire. “For the first time we have been able to hire staff members to manage adoptions and development. This has had a huge, positive impact on our operations and long-term sustainability: adoption numbers have increased, our foster network is growing, community engagement is high, and donations are on the rise.”

As the Lander Pet Connection looks ahead, there’s plenty of opportunity for growth on the horizon. “Our goal is to find innovative ways to help people and pets, and to continue adapting to meet the needs of our community. This year we’ve set the groundwork to move beyond the traditional shelter model and to begin to address the reasons animals are surrendered or abandoned,” says Claire. “Rather than simply taking animals that cannot be provided for, we work with and support owners and facilitate home-to-home adoptions. Our long-term goal is to ultimately reduce the need for our services through education on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of having pets spayed/neutered and keeping them up to date on vaccines.”

Throughout the holiday season, the Lander Pet Connection is running a campaign called “Foster Home for the Holidays.” The program seeks to reach potential foster families who may not be able to foster long-term, but may have some extra time and extra family members (read: extra legs for walks and hands for all the belly and ear scratches) during the season. “It gives our animals the chance to experience living in a home and more one-on-one attention than we can provide in shelter and give staff a break and spend the holidays with family.”

So, if you’re in the Lander area and in the spirit to share some extra love with a four-legged friend during the holidays, reach out to the Lander Pet Connection and let them know. Or, perhaps your family is looking to add a fur-ever friend? If that’s the case… there’s nothing that will warm your heart and soul on a wintry day like a Hot Toddy.

“Hot Toddy is still looking for his forever home, one that has the time and resources to continue his physical therapy and frequent veterinary appointments, but we are determined to find his perfect match,” says Claire. “If you think that might be you, let us know!”