Warm and Fuzzy – Stevie the Wonder Dog
Three tiny pit bull puppies were dropped off at a Humane Society shelter in 2009. They were all blind, most likely as a result of irresponsible breeding. The pups were subsequently taken in by the Utah Animal Advocacy Foundation, who gave them the veterinary care they needed before taking them to a local adoption event. One of these pups would become Stevie the Wonder Dog.
Milner and her partner, Brian, attended that same event. They fell in love with one of the puppies the moment they saw him, and took him home for a “trial” weekend. The couple named their new friend Stevie because of the way he used his head to navigate, swinging it “back and forth just like Stevie Wonder singing”, says Jen. She and Brian already had several older dogs, who weren’t big fans of puppies, but they learned to accommodate the youngster and would just walk away from Stevie if he got too rambunctious.
On the first day the couple brought Stevie home, they took him for an outing to their local farmers’ market. They couldn’t walk more than five feet without someone approaching to meet Stevie, who was 13 weeks old at the time. “He was adorable,” Jen recalls. “People would see him and want to know his story.” Stevie was happy to return their friendliness, and it wasn’t long before Jen and Brian realized that his easy-going, gregarious and charming personality would make him a great candidate for a therapy dog.
Now six years old, Stevie (aka Stevie the Wonder Dog, as he’s known to his Facebook and YouTube fans) is as excited as ever to meet new people and venture to new places. He and Jen are a Delta Society Pet Partners team through Therapy Animals of Utah, and for the last four years have been making bi-monthly visits to the Volunteers of America Detox Center in Salt Lake City, where clients can pet and visit with the amiable pit bull. Jen and Stevie’s goal during their visits is to help support people working towards recovery, while bringing a smile to their faces.
“A lot of people gravitate to him and are touched by his story,” says Jen. She recalls one particularly memorable incident when a client at the center asked her what Stevie does if he meets someone who is bad. Jen was trying to think of an answer when another client replied, “Stevie sees the good in everyone.”
Stevie has also visited with Girl Scout troops, taken part in library events, and gone into classrooms to interact with schoolkids. As well, he’s an I’m Not A Monster “Monster” Elf, representing special needs canine “Monsters” and illustrating that “love is blind”. I’m Not A Monster is an advocacy organization that aspires to improve the image of pit bull breeds and give them the chance they deserve: a world free of abuse, media bias and discriminatory laws. The organization’s annual Monster Holiday Drive was designed to bring cheer to shelter animals, and “Monster” Elves like Stevie are specially chosen to help with the event. During the 2014 holiday season, Stevie and his 73 fellow “Monster” Elves helped collect $422,621, along with toys, blankets, sheets, and treats. They hope to do even better this year.
“An important part of Stevie’s story is that we live in Salt Lake City, a community that has embraced pit bulls,” Jen says. “If we didn’t, it would have been difficult for us to expose him to diverse people and environments and allow his outgoing personality to shine.” Worse, he and his two siblings may not even have been considered worth saving, let alone adopting out, and Stevie wouldn’t be here today to spread his joy and love to others. “In some communities, people would cross the street to avoid dogs like Stevie, but here, people bring young babies to meet him,” says Jen.