By Erin Ellis

Nearly everyone has an animal story to share. A story about deep connection, love, and devotion. For many, pets are considered a part of our family and play a dynamic role just like each of us. This holiday season, those of us at the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe would like to share one very special story of just how important pets can be and the bond we can share.

Raphael came to HSTT in 2020 with a few of his litter mates. They were all adorable little guys, named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, Raphael was a bit different from his brothers because he was born blind in his left eye. His eye was obviously underdeveloped and much smaller than his right eye. At 4 months old, and only 9 pounds, this little puppy desperately wanted love and safety. The little cream-colored pup caught Liz Alstott’s eye.

I searched for years, trying to find the right dog to add to my little family. My son, Luke, and I had been going through life, just the two of us, since he was born and I knew a dog would be the perfect addition. Luke was also born blind in his left eye and that eye is noticeably different from his right. I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about how this difference would affect his self-esteem and confidence. I wanted to find a pup that Luke could bond with and find comfort in after a hard day.

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When I saw Raphael on the HSTT Facebook page, with his one blind eye perfectly matching Luke’s, I knew instantly that he was meant for us. We brought him home, renamed him Dobby, and have been obsessed ever since. I am still overwhelmed with how perfect Dobby has blended into our lives. Luke refers to Dobby as his “brother in a dog costume” and finds so much comfort in their shared visual impairment. They wrestle on the couch every morning, chase each other around the house after school, and snuggle in bed at night.

Every pet deserves love and every family deserves to find their own Dobby.

Liz’s story, like so many others, is why HSTT’s important work to help animals near and far doesn’t just stop with the animals. People and the relationship they have with their pets, and the joy their pets bring to their lives, are just as important. That is why at HSTT, we are committed to helping in more ways than one. From adoptions and low cost spay/neuter and vaccine programs to humane education and pet loss support, HSTT does more than find animals safe and loving homes. HSTT is committed to identifying community needs and helping fill them. Our goal is to help keep pets in their loving homes whenever possible.

Below is a list of programs we’ve developed to support our human and animal communities. We serve Truckee, the entire Lake Tahoe Basin, and Sierra County.

Community Spay/Neuter*

HSTT offers low-cost spay/neuter surgeries and vouchers for dogs and cats, to income-qualifying community members. Through the spay/neuter clinic at the shelter and partnerships with veterinarians in the region, HSTT is able to help stop unwanted litters from adding to the homeless pet population.

Community Vaccine and Microchip Clinics*

HSTT hosts quarterly free vaccine and microchip clinics for dogs and cats in our coverage area. The primary goals are to reach and support community pet populations facing barriers to veterinary care as well as raise awareness for the services offered through the Truckee Animal Shelter and South Lake Tahoe office.

Community Pet Pantry Services*

Started in 2010, HSTT has offered a free pet food program to help keep pets with their owners despite financial hardships. HSTT believes it is in an animal’s best interest to stay in their loving, responsible home rather than enter the shelter system, whenever possible. HSTT accepts unopened, unexpired, non-prescription pet food donations. The Community Pet Pantry donation wish lists are available on Chewy and Amazon, or through Nature’s Select of Northern California. Food can be dropped off at the shelter located in Truckee or the South Lake Tahoe office.

Community Pet Care Assistance

HSTT is here to help guardians keep their companion animals through difficult times by offering financial and support service assistance to residents of their coverage area with the cost of necessary, yet financially unattainable veterinary care. The goal is to fill the gap in funding to low-income, elderly, and disabled pet caretakers that is keeping an animal from receiving necessary/urgent care.

Neighborhood Cat Assistance: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

HSTT’s Trap-Neuter-Return services drastically improve the lives of cats living outdoors in the region’s neighborhoods and supports their compassionate caretakers. If you see a cat outdoors, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Please call HSTT for assistance with creating the best plan of action when you find a cat or a kitten outdoors.

Pet Loss Support Program

HSTT’s Pet Loss Support Group is designed to help grieving pet parents cope with the anticipated loss or the death of their furry friend. In a supportive and understanding format, participants can share and explore their difficult and sad feelings, in the comfort and safety of a private group. It has been shown that group support can aid in the healing of loss, as pet parents learn coping strategies to manage and tolerate their grief.

Pet Assisted Therapy (PAT) Programs

The human-animal bond has been proven to improve the health and well-being of people. HSTT PAT programs include visiting patients in the hospital, schools, Sierra Community House, high school finals and midterms, and community support when needed. All teams are trained and certified.

RUFF (Read Up For Fun) Program

HSTT’s Reading Program, RUFF, is designed to build self-esteem in young readers. Trained volunteers bring their dogs into area schools where children read to the dog. Children that read to an animal don’t feel the same pressure or judgment that they would often feel in a classroom setting or with their peers. The dog provides a comforting audience perfect for allowing children who lack confidence in their reading, a safe atmosphere to practice.

Humane Education Programs

HSTT participates in educational opportunities whenever possible including the very popular Pet Pals school program (K-5th grade), field trips, scout programs, Edventure summer camp, Animal Advocates service club at North Tahoe High, a fall adult speaker series, and a number of events.

* These programs are offered in conjunction with the Town of Truckee Animal Services Department.

~ Erin Ellis is the HSTT Community Engagement Director.


About the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe: HSTT was founded in 1994 by a group of volunteers. Shortly after its establishment, the humane society and the Town of Truckee became partners and together have become the driving force of animal welfare in their region through rescue, protection, and adoption. The partnership has continued to grow over the past two decades, solidifying a long-standing relationship. In September of 2013 the two organizations opened the region’s first public animal shelter. This facility, located at 10961 Stevens Lane in Truckee, maximizes efficiency and effectiveness by housing the public and private entities under the same roof. In 2019, HSTT opened a second location at 3438 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe, which has now enabled the agency to service the entire Lake Tahoe region.

The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe saves 100% of the community’s adoptable homeless pets. In addition, they rescue animals from overcrowded, under-resourced shelters whenever space allows. For more information on any of HSTT’s vital programs or services, or to donate, visit hstt.org.

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