Worth the Wait: Leo’s Story

Leo's story: black and tan bully breed missing fur stands in living room looking out patio door.

Our staff was heartbroken by the sight of Leo’s condition when he first arrived at the Humane Society of Utah in early 2022. Leo, a four-year-old bully breed mix, was severely malnourished and suffering from what appeared to be extreme allergies, which had led to hair loss and skin infections all over his body and in his ears. As a result of these infections, Leo’s body was covered in swollen red sores, pustules, and scabs. After our medical team assessed him, their number one priority became to help Leo gain weight and clear up his painful skin and ear infections as best they could.

Concerns of refeeding Syndrome

Unfortunately, due to Leo’s severe malnutrition, our medical team had concerns of refeeding syndrome, a severe and potentially fatal condition caused by sudden shifts in blood electrolyte levels. Since food deprivation changes the way one’s body metabolizes nutrients, there can be an abrupt electrolyte change when fat metabolism switches to carbohydrate metabolism in malnourished patients. To prevent this, HSU had to re-introduce food slowly. As a result, Leo’s healing process was prolonged and his energy low, but he made progress. 

Due to his severe medical issues, Leo was placed in our foster care program for a longer-than-average stay. His foster guardian and HSU’s Behavior and Training Manager, Anjela Sullenger, said, “He’s settling in with me and tolerating his new regime of taking medicated baths for his skin very well. He has become very affectionate with me and wants me  to sit and cuddle with him all day, which is very sweet.”

Leo's story: a severely malnourished black and tan dog stands looking out patio door. The dog is missing much fur and all ribs can be seen.

Leo’s true personality shines through

Anjela brings him to work with her every day to support Leo’s mental and emotional health. At our Pet Resource Center in Murray, Leo follows Anjela everywhere while hanging out at her office. If Anjela has to step out for a minute, Leo patiently waits by her office door for her to return. While at home together, their favorite thing to do is to sit and cuddle on the couch and catch up on Anjela’s favorite TV shows.

Anjela shared, “Leo gets along very well with my two dogs, although he is not interested in playing at the moment and not really up for much exercise. But I have high hopes that he will become more playful as he starts to feel better.”. 

HSU’s Resource Center Veterinarian, Dr. Meredith Bleuer, has been part of the team to help Leo recover. She adds,  “malnutrition is not only detrimental to metabolic function, but can also lead to many secondary problems such as skin abnormalities, delayed wound healing and major organ dysfunction.  It is important to ensure pets receive proper nutrients with a nutritionally balanced diet.”  

Worth the Wait

Over the next two months, Leo would require further visits with specialists to help get to the root of his skin issues. While visiting with the dermatologist veterinarians at Blue Pearl, it became apparent that Leo was suffering from an autoimmune skin disease. Luckily, he could make a full recovery with proper medication. While in Anjela’s care, Leo steadily began to gain weight, and his splotchy, scab-filled coat was eventually replaced with soft, velvety fur. 

Although Leo’s road to recovery has been long and challenging, our dedicated team, who never gave up, is happy to report that he was adopted on March 26th! He now spends his days cuddling with his new family and doggy friend on the couch. Leo is an excellent reminder that while most transformations don’t happen overnight, they are worth the wait when they finally do – and it’s important never to give up hope.  

Big Red’s Story: A Feral Cat’s Unexpected Transformation

Big Red is an unusual cat with a remarkable story. Not only is he the largest feral cat to come to the Humane Society of Utah’s clinic in St. George, but he’s also the oldest at four years old.  Typically, feral cats are much slimmer and considered lucky if they live to five due to the spread of fatal diseases. The feral cats treated at our St. George clinic are typically aged one-three. 

But Big Red’s surprising story doesn’t stop here. He was initially brought to HSU in the Spring of 2021 by Kris Neal, a woman who runs a local rescue called One More Chance. This rescue traps stray and feral cats and brings them to HSU to receive services through our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. TNR involves fixing, vaccinating, and ear-tipping feral and stray cats, then returning them to their territory. TNR is a humane way to control the community cat population and stop the spread of rabies and fatal viruses, such as distemper. 

Kris Neal was worried when she brought Big Red to HSU because he looked unwell, and she thought he might need to be euthanized. “He was badly beaten up and had horribly crusty and goopy eyes,” explains Kelsie Watters, manager of our St. George Clinic. 

Currently, our St. George clinic only provides spay, neuter, and vaccination services for the community. But after our veterinarian, Dr. Gray diagnosed Big Red with entropion, she decided to conduct entropion repair surgery since he had few resources as a feral cat.  Entropion is a condition in which your eyelid turns inward so that your eyelashes and skin rub against the eye surface, causing great irritation and discomfort. Through the surgery, the inward part of the eye is removed so the lid can lay flat. 

While at our clinic awaiting surgery, our staff got to know Big Red and fell in love with him.  “Normally, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with the feral cats we serve. But Big Red hung out in our office for some time. He wasn’t very friendly and had the grumpiest-looking cat face ever, but there was something special about him,” Kelsie shared. 

After his surgery, Kris took Big Red home to care for him while he recovered. The plan was to release him as soon as he healed entirely, but Big Red had plans of his own. Instead of running free, he stuck around Kris’s property and stayed inside a workshop on her property to let her know he now preferred living indoors. Curious if she could bond with him, Kris used protective gloves to get him used to touch, and, with time, Big Red eventually let her cuddle him.  

“This took us all by surprise,” said Kelsie. “We never thought in a million years this cat could ever be an indoor cat or would want to be held by anyone. He was very feral, so we thought he’d be much happier living outdoors.” 

Kelsie points out that Big Red’s story is unique, and so she doesn’t want it to encourage people to trap feral cats in hopes of turning them into house pets. “Handling these cats causes great undue stress, and so it’s important to recognize the majority of them do prefer living outside. TNR is our goal for these feral animals, and it’s working well here.”

Feral, stray, and free-roaming cats are the most at-risk animals in U.S. shelters as they are at significant risk of being killed if they enter shelters. As a result, many animal welfare organizations are working together to offer humane solutions for these cats through TNR.  In St. George, these cats are protected by a community of passionate and invested caregivers that feed and look after them. 

“The people here love the feral cat community, and they get upset if anything happens to them just like if they were their indoor pet,” Kelsie explained. “They are providing valuable resources and support not often highlighted, and we are so grateful for all they do to ensure these animals have the best quality of life possible.”

Today, Big Red still looks as grumpy as ever, even after his eyelid surgery. But, he’s got a softer side to him now, and he’s beginning to trust in his human friends, all thanks to our St. George staff and community partners.  And thanks to Kris Neil, Big Red is now living a life of indoor luxury with several other cat friends at his side. 

A Senior Dog’s Pawsome Glow-Up: Jagger’s Story

Jagger was 13-years-old with matted curls and severe dental disease when he came to the Humane Society of Utah in April 2021. Our SOAR team transferred this senior miniature poodle mix from an overcrowded shelter nearby to save his life. Due to a lack of resources and funding, they were unable to provide the medical treatment he needed.

Jagger wasn’t shiny or new, but we saw his value and understood that, without a doubt, this boy deserved all the love and care we could give him. So, we did everything to ensure he’d have the best chance of being adopted, which included removing his decaying teeth and the painful-looking mats in his fur.

He was severely dehydrated and underweight (weighing only 4.3 pounds) and showing signs of nervousness and fear. We decided it was best to put him into our foster program first. This way, he could recover in a calm environment and gain a pound or two before going onto our adoption floor. 

But a week later, Jagger got sick. He was vomiting, had bloody diarrhea, and he wasn’t eating or drinking. He seemed so fragile physically and emotionally that his foster mom worried he wouldn’t pull through. Our Shelter Veterinarian saw him for an emergency exam. He was immediately given medicine and fluids to help him recover.

Thankfully, less than 72 hours later, Jagger appeared to be – for the first time since coming to us – full of life. His foster mom reported that he was suddenly initiating games of fetch and eager to snuggle up to her at night. His usually tired-looking eyes were brighter and more alive.

We’re happy to report that Jagger never made it into our adoption program because, after only a few weeks with his foster mom, she officially made him a member of her family.

About her decision, she said, “What a joy it is to wake up with this sweet boy cuddled up next to me every morning. He follows me everywhere I go, and he can’t get enough of long car rides with the window down so he can look out and feel the wind on his face. Oh, and he loves a pup cup from Starbucks!”

We sure do love a glow-up story, especially when it’s a doggy glow-up story that ends with a senior pup living out his best life.

Little Dog’s Big Journey

Tiny Dog is a playful and scruffy Australian Cattle dog with an easy-going demeanor. She’s very friendly and good with kids, to name a few of the reasons why her guardians love her so much. 

But at just three years old, this sweet girl has already given birth to a handful of litters. Her guardians didn’t want her to get pregnant. However, it isn’t easy to keep this from happening since they live in a rural neighborhood on the Ute Reservation in Northeastern Utah, where access to veterinary care is extremely limited. Here the cost for spaying an animal is not only grossly overpriced, but the nearest vet clinics are either hours away or often booked to capacity for months at a time. 

“Due to the harsh conditions and a lack of animal shelters and control officers, there are hundreds of feral puppies running around the reservation at any given time,” explained Tyson Thompson, Executive Director of the Indian Housing Authority in Fort Duchesne. “

Before long, these free-roaming pups are pregnant and contribute to the animal overpopulation issue, which has troubled the Ute Reservation – the second-largest Native American Reservation in America – for years. The reservation houses nearly 3,000 Ute Tribe members and their pets, plus ten of thousands of homeless dogs and cats.  

Utah Humane first traveled to help the Ute Indian Housing Authority in March 2021. We took in 22 puppies surrendered by tribal members and set up a pet food pantry on a nearby lawn. Since our first visit, we’ve expanded our services to offer free vaccinations on-site and spay and neuter surgeries off-site on a pet retention basis. 

Our pet retention program allows individuals experiencing financial hardship to receive free or donation-based medical care without having to surrender their beloved pets. Tiny Dog is one of the dozens of tribal pets who have received support through this program. She was spayed at our facility in Murray on July 8th and returned to her family the next day.

“Currently, we’re traveling to the reservation every three weeks to host an owner surrender and vaccination event for the local community and to transport pets to our facility to be spayed or neutered,” said our Admissions & Placement Manager, Amber Henry.  “It’s a five-hour drive round trip, but there is so much value in keeping pets in their home with the people who love them; It makes the long drive worth it.” 

Our partnership with the Indian Housing Authority is in the beginning stages. But we’re working hard to collaborate with nearby neighborhoods and housing authorities and local animal control and veterinarians to develop a system of care to significantly decrease the number of free-roaming animals on the reservation and ultimately save and improve the lives of thousands of dogs and cats each year.

Tyson Thompson shared, “On behalf of my superiors and our residents, we thank Utah Humane for coming out here regularly to help us get this situation under control. Your work here has already changed things for the better, both short and long-term, and we cannot thank you enough.”

Tormund Giantsbane’s Hoppy New Beginning

Sara adopted Tormund Giantsbane, a 9-month-old male angora giant rabbit, from our Adoption Resource Center on Mother’s Day. She’d seen his photo on our billboard on I-15 and thought he was beyond cute with his impossibly long and fluffy ears.  

“I grew up on a farm with rabbits and had always been told they belonged outdoors and didn’t make good pets,” explained Sara. “I believed this until I adopted my first rabbit, Jango, years ago and witnessed for myself how incredibly personable and smart she was.”

Jango’s striking personality made Sara want to learn more about rabbits as pets. She was surprised to discover that these small mammals are generally very clean, easily potty trained, and incredibly social and playful.

When Jango passed away in 2018, Sara knew she wanted to adopt another rabbit one day but needed time to grieve. It wasn’t until Sara’s husband – after hearing his wife share all about the adorable rabbit she’d seen on our billboard – gifted her with rabbit supplies for Mother’s Day that she knew it was time.

“I drove to the Humane Society of Utah to adopt him that day, and he’s been a precious addition to our family ever since. He’s the sweetest, most curious bunny I’ve ever met. We have a dog and a new baby, but he pretty much rules the roost. We absolutely adore him!”

Sara says Tormund’s pretty silly, too. He likes to bop her with his head to signal that he wants more attention, and he will regularly dump his food on the floor to find the best bits to eat first.

As his caregiver, she makes sure he has plenty of indoor space to free roam and an outdoor run so he can play in the sunshine. In addition, she regularly grooms his angora wool to keep his coat free from mats and reduce the risk of wool blocks.

Sara shared, “both my rabbits have been very affectionate and helped alleviate my anxiety. These animals are worth learning more about.”

Let’s Celebrate Black Cats: #NationalBlackCatDay

Madame Puzzles, an affectionate black cat with striking green eyes, was just five years old when she leaped from the tallest tower in our Kitty City area and onto Aaron’s lap as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!” 

Aaron and his wife, Maureen, were at the Humane Society of Utah that day specifically to adopt a black-colored cat despite the centuries-old superstitions surrounding them. 

“Growing up, I was aware that black cats were considered to bring bad luck and were often associated with witchcraft. I was afraid of them,” explained Maureen. “Then, I met Aaron’s black cat, Yoshi, and he was so loving. He would sleep next to me when I would visit, and I started to see them in a different light.”

After Yoshi passed away, Aaron and Maureen adopted Madame Puzzles just one year into their marriage, and she’s been an important member of their family for five years now. 

“She’s so affectionate and hilarious! She loves BBQ’d brisket and goldfish crackers. And she seems to think she’s a guard dog because she’ll sit outside our daughter’s bedroom door at night like she’s keeping watch over her. She’s as loyal as they come, so don’t let those old notions prevent you from adopting a black cat.”

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. Black cats often get a bad rap from issues steeped in superstition. During Medieval times when people believed they were accomplices of witches or witches themselves who had shapeshifted to do evil acts. Nowadays, people worry about the safety of black cats during October and believe they shouldn’t be made available for adoption. It’s a misconception that shelters shouldn’t adopt black cats around Halloween time. We’ve run black cat promotions in the past years during Halloween to help bust this myth and celebrate the black cat! According to national animal welfare organizations, there is no evidence that adopting black cats around Halloween poses any greater risk to felines than adopting at any other time of the year.

“It’s time for us to come together to help repair the black cat’s reputation so we can increase their chances of living long, healthy lives and finding loving homes,” said Shannon Egan, Utah Humane Society’s Communication and Corporate Giving Manager. “This should be easy to do considering the ideas and fears surrounding the demonic potential of witches have subsided significantly since the 14th century. Why should the black cat continue to suffer as a result of these ancient and misguided beliefs? Enough is enough.” 

Luckily, in 2011, the ‘National Black Cat Day’ holiday was established to help shift the narrative. This holiday is held every year on Oct 27th, just three days before Halloween. Its purpose is to create an opportunity for black cat supporters and enthusiasts to showcase these cat’s positive qualities, help aid in their adoption, and eliminate the harmful stigmas surrounding them.  

You too can help by adopting a black cat from your local shelter or educating your loved ones about these issues.  If you happen to be a guardian of a black cat, you can show your support by sharing your gorgeous cat on social media and using the #NationalBlackCatDay hashtag. This is a great way to remind people that black cats make great pets and deserve all the good luck and fortune in the world.

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!

Approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, about 3.1 million are dogs, according to the ASPCA. By adopting a dog from a shelter, you are not only saving a life but also assisting in stopping the cruelty in mass breeding facilities called puppy mills.

And don’t forget adopting a shelter dog often comes with great benefits! When adopting a dog from the Humane Society of Utah, you receive a dog that has been spayed/neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, microchipped, and examined by our medical team. We encourage responsible pet ownership and provide follow-up check-ins with our Adoption team. If an issue arises, our Behavior team of certified dog trainers is available for help.

The decision to adopt a pet must be thought about and carefully planned. If the time is right for your family, we encourage you to visit our Pet Resource Center in Murray at 4242 South 300 West.

Will you help spread the word by telling your friends and family where to find great dogs? Sharing your story about how great your adopted dog is may encourage your family and friends to go out and adopt one of their own.