(Lander, WY) With four large tote lockers filled with pet food, toys, and blankets and the playful yips and barks from the dogs of Riverton’s PAWS for Life Animal League and Animal Adoption Center, the Wyoming Army National Guard hosted their “Guard the Paws” adoption event at the Armory in Lander last Saturday.
The project was coordinated by SGT Madison Sullivan, SSG Spencer Muller, and SGT Austin Krueger. The WYARNG had been receiving donations from the community at the Armory and locations in Riverton, Lander, and Laramie since the beginning of March.
“The biggest thing with the Guard right now is ‘Community first’…” said SGT Krueger, “…and the communities of Fremont County have been awesome. There used to be a lot of community involvement in the last couple of years, but we’ve been so busy with deployments and with everything happening in the world…we do Federal stuff, but there’s a reason why we’re the Wyoming Guard and the reason why we have armories. We’re here to serve the communities we’re in.”
The Guard had a holiday toy drive last year and received about $10K worth in toy donations. “A lot like the Marine Corps does with Toys for Tots,” Krueger said. “We saw the success of that and thought, ‘What is something else can we do?’ So we looked through Instagram and Facebook and saw that PAWS could use a tad bit of help in keeping animals out of the shelters right now. So we said, we’ve helped humans…let’s also help our furry friends.”
The ask for donations and prepping for the event came at a difficult time, “…especially in the charity world,” Krueger said. “It’s difficult for folks to donate, but then we came to find out from the stores that there was actually a national shortage of dog and cat food. So we’re like, ‘great, perfect timing’…but it actually made us think: If there’s a national shortage for people to support their animals, imagine what the shelters are dealing with right now. So that was when we said we definitely need to do this. The fact that people were able to supply from themselves and help the local shelter is a huge accomplishment.”
“I came from Washington (state)…we all came from somewhere else,” Krueger continued. “You don’t see this in other states…you don’t really see this with the counties in the cities. It’s awesome that people come together just to support something local, so it’s really been a blessing. We look at all these donations, and we’re like, ‘This is your community.’ We’re not really doing anything here…we have the facility; we’re just hosting and helping out. It’s really the community that is having an impact, and it’s cool that we can be a part of that in some small way.”
Shelter Manager Brittany Martin said that they are appreciative of the Guard and other organizations that hold events for PAWS. “We bring out as many animals as we can,” she said. “We know the animals, their whole story, who they get along with…the goal is ‘adopted out’, and it helps a lot if we can get them out into the public, get them to the events like this one, and have people actually looking at them and playing with them.”
PAWS will be having adoption events at the Riverton Community Party at the WYRiverton Chamber and Visitors Center on Friday, May 26, and at the Paws and Pups Auto Show on Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day) at CarQuest in Riverton.
Kreuger said that they plan on doing the toy drive again, and hopes to host Guard the Paws again next year. Across the state and as a whole, the Guard has been seeing what Lander is doing, and “is starting to push this around to other communities,” he said, referring to holding outreach events such as 4H events, movie and pizza nights, or helping out at local food banks and drives. “I work here, but my unit is in Laramie. The Major General saw what we were doing here, so now they’re making this a thing…as in, [everyone] picking a weekend out of the year and doing community outreach where they are. So it was cool to see how we started a simple thing that we really wanted to do, but now it’s spreading across Wyoming.”
“People are willing to help the kids, but also help out the local animal shelters,” Kreuger continued. “With these two kinds of events that we’ve done, it shows just how much Fremont County cares. It’s going to benefit the state as a whole, because we’re all about the state and communities first, and we want people to know that we’re here for you.”