When my (now) husband and I moved to Jackson 3 ½ years ago from New York City, we were anticipating a fun, short lived adventure out west that would culminate with us moving back to the big apple. We arrived in Wyoming, knowing nobody, with our new 10-week-old puppy Lola. Lola is a pure-bread (gasp, the shame of it!) Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. We got her from a breeder back east. Both my husband and I had grown up with dogs in our homes. We liked dogs enough and figured we should get one. I think we liked the contrived idea of living in the “wild west” with a dog running freely in the mountains, or something like that. We were certainly animal lovers to an extent, but I would not have categorized us as crazy-obsessed-animal-lovers (there is a difference…) Alas, I did not anticipate how attached I would get to Lola during our move across country and subsequent transition into Jackson life. In Jackson, Lola and I did everything together. I worked from home and she sat by my side every single day. She accompanied me on all my skiing adventures, hikes, long walks, river trips and more. I went as far as getting her registered as my “emotional support” animal so she could fly home with my every single time I went back to visit friends and family in New York City. I created an Instagram account for her called @tetontoller and made her a celebrity overnight. What had become of me?! As pathetic and eccentric as it sounds, she was my best friend in Jackson for the first few months we lived here, and she helped me assimilate to a new life tremendously on an emotional level.

The reason I start my story with our move here and Lola (who I know isn’t an adopted dog and I am sorry to all you haters out there, please bear with me!) is to express how getting and raising our own dog so completely changed me as a person. I was shocked at how much companionship, purpose and emotional support a dog provided. Lola made me more mindful, more reliable and more patient. Lola’s appreciation and need for the outdoor-focused, energetic lifestyle in Jackson certainly fostered my love and gratitude for what Jackson activities had to offer. She got us outside. She forced us to explore. She taught us the importance of open space, quiet mountain runs to clear the mind and how much a dip in a glacially cold lake can cure a hangover. She helped both my husband and I realize that we actually did not want to make Jackson a short-lived stint out west.

Flash-forward to early 2018. Tufo party of 3 had decided to stay in Jackson and make a life here. We had gotten married, we bought a house, and we had both started working for local, small businesses. Lola was doing great, not a puppy anymore and loving the only-child-life. Having been completely sold on the importance of having an animal in our lives, my husband and I had begun to discuss potentially getting another. We had admired the Animal Adoption Center in downtown Jackson since moving here. They did an amazing job of not only marketing their services but also the deeper importance of animal adoption. We would foster here and there and sometimes would just stop by to see their cats and dogs. These experiences prompted my research into the importance of adopting. Honestly, this was something I had not been very knowledgeable or educated on up until this point. The staggering statistics and heart-wrenching stories were enough to convince me that this was very much the right thing to do now (and going forward, always). I want to be clear that we have never and will never regret “buying” Lola from a breeder 3 ½ years ago. Having her in our lives is the reason why we were encouraged to expand our knowledge on the importance of adopting and subsequently adopt two fur babies in one year from the Animal Adoption Center. Everything happens for a reason.

First there came Leonardo DiCatrio (formerly Laz). It was a freezing day in early 2018 and I was sitting alone on the ground of Kitty City, the cat section of the Animal Adoption Center. I had spent the last few months being convinced by my cat-loving friends that cats are truly a necessity in any home. “You just do NOT understand how wonderful they are until you get one”, they would tell me. I was not very familiar with cats up until this point but was open to the idea. My husband, however, was not sold. He did not like cats. He did not see the benefit of having a cat. He did not want a cat. Anyways, without my husband knowing, there I was on the floor of Kitty City. There must have been 10+ cats in that giant, two-part room and they all were keeping their distance. I just sat there waiting. Finally, 10+ minutes later, a very fluffy, extremely furry blonde haired, green eyed cat marched right up to me, size me up and curled up on my lap. My heart melted, of course. I had to have this cat. His name was Laz and he had previously been adopted by somebody else in town. They had had another cat who ended up not liking Laz. Unfortunately, the family had had to return Laz to the Adoption Center. I was sold. I would of course change his name to Leonardo DiCatrio, I just needed to get my husband onboard with the adoption. Over the next few days I would go to Kitty City alone daily, walk to the middle of the room, sit down, and await Leonardo DiCatrio. Each time he would be the only cat to approach me, size me up and curl up on my lap. A week later I finally took my skeptical husband to Kitty City to meet him. Thankfully, the same thing happened to him. I instructed him to sit where I had sat and there was Leonardo DiCatrio on his lap. Truthfully, I think my husband knew before going into Kitty City that day that we were in fact, going to adopt this cat. The first few nights with Leonardo DiCatrio at home were very different than when we had first brought Lola home year before. I had only known dogs up until this point and didn’t yet understand and appreciate the particular ways of the cat. Leonardo DiCatrio ran upstairs to a small room and refused to leave it. He hardly ate. I was of course, worried. But everything I read said that cats need time to assimilate and get comfortable in new settings. Over the course of the next month Leonardo DiCatrio totally made himself at home. He began to explore downstairs. He made friends with Lola. He started going outside and hunting at night and bringing us dead mice in the mornings (apparently a compliment)! He also proved to be significantly more snugly than I thought cats could be. Ironically, especially towards my husband. I would get home to find my husband lying on the couch, watching TV, with the cat sitting on his head. Or I would look over to the other side of the bed at night and see my husband spooning the cat. I think the biggest surprise of all was his unforeseen obsession with Leonardo DiCatrio. Our cat has taught my husband not to judge a book by its cover or reputation. He is independent, low maintenance and extremely loving. He is such a joy. And by the way, what all my cat-loving friends said about the fact that “You just do NOT understand how wonderful they are until you get one” is true. I am now one of those cat-loving friends, spreading the good cat word daily.

Second there came Rufus (formerly Dumpling). Flash-forward to fall of 2018. Tufo party of 4 was getting on very nicely. Call us crazy, but my husband and I had begun to discuss potentially getting another dog. Lola was almost 3 at this point and we really wanted her to have a playmate. We asked the folks at the Animal Adoption Center to keep us posted on any puppy litters that were coming in. Then we got the call-three baby chow-mixes had been rescued from the Wind River Reservation. I first saw them in an Animal Adoption Center Instagram post where they were each inside a pumpkin to celebrate Halloween. Both Peter and I went to meet them one morning. We immediately were drawn to the smallest one, Dumpling. He looked to be some sort of lab, chow, pit, husky mix. I don’t really understand how somebody fosters a baby puppy and then doesn’t adopt it…so of course, we adopted 8-week-old Dumpling. We changed his name to Rufus. Rufus has been such a joy, but also so much work. The Animal Adoption Center did a great job preemptively warning us how much work chow-mixes can be and we welcomed that challenge as we fell in love with Rufus. Chows by nature are very loyal, yet also very territorial and particular He has an alpha personality and rules our house. Adopting Rufus has taught us how important it is to research and train your dog accordingly. He is teaching me even more about  the importance of patience than Lola ever did. He is also teaching us to except certain unchangeable breed qualities and make the best of them. Take what you are given and work with that for the best possible outcome. A great life skill. We are learning to love his “chow” tendencies and to work with them. He is unbelievably loyal and one of the snuggliest dogs I have every met. He is eager to learn and already 6 months old! He absolutely adores Lola and Leonardo DiCatrio (they aren’t completely sold on him yet…but they are very patient).

And just like that, thank you mostly to the Animal Adoption Center, we have come to be Tufo party of 5! We sleep 5 in the bed every night. We have now, undeniably, crossed the threshold into the crazy-obsessed-animal-lovers (I told you there was a difference…) Our house is always covered in fur and we are very overwhelmed at times…but we absolutely love all 3 of our animals unconditionally. They are all so different and having them has taught us so much. Of course, we are very grateful that Lola originally came into our lives and sparked our passion and love for animals. We are also so appreciative to the Animal Adoption Center for bringing Leonardo DiCatrio and Rufus into our lives. And, of course, for teaching and educating us on the importance of adopting. We often get home and find all three of them (yes all three) curled up, snuggling with each other. I think back to when we first arrived in Jackson 3 ½  years ago and how much our lives have changed for the better. For my husband and me, moving west, creating a new life together and learning so much about ourselves in the process has all been so deeply complimented by these three fury-tailed, loving additions to our lives.