Pet adoptions across the country have increased since the start of the pandemic, leading to more animals finding forever homes and people finding companions.
In Billings, this increase in adoptions still stands to be true.
Amanda and Zack Quiroz of Billings are recently engaged, and they said Tuesday afternoon they knew they wanted to adopt a senior dog, specifically a pug.
“There's so much demand for puppies but you know a lot of the time, older dogs get forgotten about,” said Amanda Quiroz.
The Quirozes said they wanted a more relaxed dog with lower energy, that they could cuddle.
After moving into an apartment, they started actively looking for senior pugs nationally, scanning pug rescue organizations and adoption facilities.
“One day, we were looking at YVAS (Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter), they had just posted ‘senior Pug mix Tater Tot’ and they hadn't even posted a picture yet. Zack called right away and they just started laughing,” said Amanda.
Zack said the listing had only been posted five minutes before he called.
They went to the shelter the next day, an hour before the shelter opened and were first in line to meet and Tater Tot.
Due to the pandemic, the shelter's adoption policies had changed. Potential new owners were only able to see one animal at a time, and they have to make appointments ahead of time.
“We went in there and sat down to meet him and he walks up and immediately licks Zack’s face,” said Amanda.
At that point, they knew Tater Tot was coming home with them.
“I melted,” said Zack.
The Quirozes said Tater Tot has been a joy to have around since they brought him home that day, and he has been comforting during the pandemic.
“We had a big wedding planned for last September and unfortunately we had to postpone that...But just having Tater Tot around really grounded us. There could be a hundred different things going on but at the end of the day, you know Tater will just kind of nudge you and he just wants to be petted. Everything else just seems so, like, good compared to that,” said Zack.
The Lunder family also adopted a year and a half old Golden Retriever named Storm, along with two cats, Sully and Striker.
Cassie Lunder has been fostering animals for locals Montana shelters for years. She said they recently had two foster dogs staying with them for three years. One of the dogs would go to therapy and doctors' appointments with Lunder’s son Zach to help him stay calm.
“They went home to their owners, so we had some pretty upset kiddos,” said Lunder Tuesday afternoon.
Lunder decided to seek out a new dog to find a new dog for her son and found Storm at Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter.
Lunder also sought out to find a companion animal for her daughter Peyton, for the days when she is stressed and may need emotional support. Striker was the perfect candidate.
Lunder said that Sully was a foster cat they took in last October. Sully was underweight but veterinarians were not finding any signs of disease or medical conditions.
“Even though he was eating, drinking, gaining weight, they just couldn’t be sure that there wasn’t something genetically wrong with him. He wasn’t really a good candidate for adoption...Since he was doing fine here, we just decided he could stay,” Lunder said.
Lunder said that the training process for her son’s golden retriever will likely take 3 years. She said Storm is still very energetic and they are still working on the basic commands such as sit, stay and come, which need to be learned before she can accompany Zack in public.
Lunder says that at home, however, Storm provides Zack with comfort and companionship.
“She still will seek out him more than anybody else in the house. The golden retriever will lay on my son and provide pressure and that pressure is a good stress relief,” said Lunder.
Striker provides the same comfort for Lunder’s daughter.
“I have been a lot happier and when I get mad, he is able to calm me down a lot quicker,” said Peyton Lunder.
Both the Lunder and Quiroz family say that it is important that people adopt a pet, especially locally.
“Take a look at some of the animals that are traditionally a little more unloved. If they're the ones that can really give you a lot of happiness and fulfillment and you're really doing a service for them too,” said Zack Quiroz.
For more information on where to adopt a furry friend, contact your local animal shelter.