A tiny dog with big ears and a big heart can save lives.
West Jordan resident Tonya Ostrander is certain that she and her daughter Chehala Moore would not have survived a recent cold December night were it not for the insistent barking of Snow, a 4-year-old Chihuahua they had acquired from the Humane Society of Utah's Murray shelter.
Chehala, 9, is legally blind, and Ostrander had obtained her landlord's permission to get a companion animal for her daughter.
"We went to the Humane Society and looked at several dogs," Ostrander said. "None jumped out except for Snow. It was an instant bond. We took her home on a seven-day trial basis."
Living in an apartment complex, Ostrander worried about 'Snowy' her new nickname barking too much and disturbing neighboring tenants. That protective instinct helped turn the petite canine into a superhero and permanent family member.
"On Dec. 10, we were both sleeping on the couch, and the dog started barking a lot," Ostrander said. "It woke us both up. We were real sick and I realized we both had the same thing. [Snowy] settled down right after that."
According to www.dogtrainingsite.net, dogs live in a world filled with smells, and their noses detect and classify scents that humans easily miss. Coupled with that innate ability is a strong instinct to protect the people with whom they live.
The warning that Snowy barked out that night spurred Ostrander into action.
She called for an ambulance and left Snowy with her brother. Ostrander and her daughter were transported to a nearby hospital, where tests revealed high levels of carbon monoxide in their bodies.
"On Dec. 14, we adopted her permanently," Ostrander said of the tiny powerhouse of a dog who has her own history. Snowy was first rescued in Los Angeles, where she'd been found pregnant and stuck under a fence.
"She was brought here, had her puppies, then got spayed," Ostrander said. "She has a scar on her back my daughter says she's imperfect like her."
In a short time, Moore and Snowy have become the closest of friends.
"She can't wait until Chehala comes home from school," Ostrander said of the gleeful reunions that occur each afternoon.
Carl Arky, a spokesman for the Humane Society of Utah, summed up the heartwarming tale as "dog rescues family family rescues dog," a story that could be repeated often.
"We're still full at the inn," Arky said of the Humane Society of Utah shelter at 4242 S. 300 West in Murray. "At any given time, we have close to 100 dogs available for adoption, then dogs in the back who are waiting for kennel space in the front. The river keeps flowing."
Rather than purchasing a high-priced puppy elsewhere, Arky suggests shelter-shopping first.
"Buying a dog doesn't save a life," Arky said, "but adopting a dog does."
The Murray shelter is open for pet adoptions Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The facility will close at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 and 31 and will not open on Christmas or New Year's Day.
To learn more about adoptions or opportunities to donate or volunteer, call 801-261-2919.