Nuzzles & CO. has some stories to share | ParkRecord.com

Nuzzles & CO. has some stories to share

Nuzzles & CO. is all about change.

It changed its name from Friends of Animals Utah a couple of years ago, and it continues to change the lives of rescued animals when it places them with loving families.

The newest change is the name of its annual gala that will be held at Montage Deer Valley on Sept. 24.

What used to be called Miss Kitty's Barking Ball to signify that the nonprofit rescues and rehabilitates both cats and dogs, will from this year forward, be called the Nuzzles Ball, according to president Kathleen Toth.

All the money raised will help Nuzzles & CO. rescue and rehabilitate animals, as well as support its mission to make Utah a no-kill animal rescue state by 2019.

"We shortened the title, and we are going to share stories," Toth said.

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These aren't just ordinary yarns, according to Toth.

"The reason is because there are so many wonderful stories about the intersection of a cat or a dog and a family," she said. "I kid you not, we see this every day when people come in and adopt an animal, because part of what we want to do is create an experience for everyone."

Nuzzles staff greets and starts a dialog with people who come in to the animal adoption center at Tanger Outlets.

"Many times they are just looking or tell us they want a mellow cat or an active dog," Toth said. "So, we engage in these conversations and, inevitably, they all have stories."

Those stories range from a woman who came to the outlets to buy some back-to-school clothes and took a detour and went home with an adopted Chihuahua, to a man who was going through a divorce and had to give up his dog.

"We found a few months later that the dog had bone cancer," Toth said. "We amputated the dog's leg and we knew it would take us a few months to find him a home."

Before Nuzzles & CO. found a new home for the dog, his original owner called.

"He said his divorce was done and he's picked himself up and found a place in Montana," Toth said. "He told us the biggest regret in his life was giving his dog up. Notice he didn't say giving up his wife."

Nuzzles & CO. met the owner in Boise and returned his dog.

"The dog was over the moon to be back and this guy was thrilled," Toth said. "A few days later we get some photos of him out hiking with his dog."

Toth, her board and staff decided to dedicate the night to these stories.

"We've spent a lot of time taking pictures and writing up the stories of these animals and put them on big poster boards that will be strewn throughout the gala," she said. "So, when you come in, you can get yourself a cocktail and a delicious appetizer and, no matter where you turn, you can read these amazing stories, which are about resilience and love on both sides — the animals and the people.

"These are triumph stories about these animals who have survived injury, abandonment, starvation, homelessness and they intersect with us and the people who come in and magic happens," Toth said. "You're not just buying a new toy or video game. You're investing time, love and energy into a little being that will depend on you for the rest of his or her life."

The event will also feature a three-course dinner, and both silent and live auctions.

"People can bid on unique items that the generous folks in Park City and Salt Lake City have donated to us out of the goodness of their hearts," Toth said. "We have gorgeous original artwork, handcrafted jewelry, experiences with some of our own Olympic athletes who live in our community, vacation stays, dinners and more."

Those who can't make the event can still bid on the items online at nuzzles.afrogs.org.

Once the auction is over, the party will continue with more stories.

"We'll have some people who talk about their experiences," Toth said. "Then we'll show a video about a collaborative animal rescue at the Navajo reservation in New Mexico filmed by Claire Wiley."

In addition, the Nuzzles Ball will feature dancing to tunes spun by DJ Estes.

"He does a lot in Park City and Salt Lake City," Toth said.

One of the main highlights is the Wendy Lavitt Founders Award, which recognizes individuals who have gone far and above in serving or helping Nuzzles & CO.

"This year we are recognizing Jim O'Neill who was the board president of Nuzzles & CO. when it was known as Friends of Animals Utah in 2008," Toth said.

That was a pivotal time for the nonprofit.

"The board had committed to building the animal rehabilitation ranch in Browns Canyon, but then the economy crashed and a lot of our donors couldn't help because they also lost money or had to move," Toth said. "When that happened, it was Jim that said, 'We're not going to give up.'

"Under his direction, we were able to secure a loan that was guaranteed by the government through Mountain West Bank and the ranch was built," she said. "We're still servicing that debt, but since the ranch has been built, we have saved thousands of animals. The ranch helped us go from a mom-and-pop rescue to a place that provides rescue animals good medical care and a space to go for walks and runs."

Nuzzles & CO. will host its Nuzzles Ball at Montage Deer Valley on Saturday, Sept. 24, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting http://www.nuzzles.afrogs.org.

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