OGDEN -- Sometimes one happy ending can resolve two sad stories at once. That was the case Thursday when Matt and Joanne Townsend adopted a 2-year-old Shih Tzu they named Buster.
The dog was in the news earlier this week when it was rescued after being abandoned and locked inside a foreclosed house in North Ogden for nearly two weeks.
Adopting the dog seemed like the perfect answer for the Townsends. The Ogden couple were saddened recently by the death of a dog they'd had for 16 years.
"He's so good," Joanne said of Buster after her husband brought him home. "He's so wonderful. He follows me everywhere."
The dog owner said she didn't expect Buster to feel so at home so quickly. He even made quick friends with the couple's other dog, a 6-year-old English foxhound.
"They said it would take time for him to trust us," she said. "But he just right away loosened up. I think he's just happy to have a home."
Animal control officials said they believe the problem of pet owners leaving their animals behind when they move is an infrequent one, especially for dogs.
Other pet and owner issues are far more pressing matters, they said.
Jim Barker, president of the Utah Animal Control Officers Association, said neighbors calling about abandoned animals are far more common than actual abandonment cases.
"When we get calls on that, if we leave a door hanger on the door giving them 24 hours to call us, they usually call us within 12 hours," he said.
"The majority of the time, it's overanxious neighbors. (The dog owners) say they are moving their stuff and they want the dog there to protect it."
And Barker said police have to have evidence an animal is being abused or abandoned before they can enter a residence to check on the animal.
Barker, a Springville police officer, said there aren't a lot of cases in which dogs are actually abandoned.
Another longtime member of the Animal Control Association of Utah said real knowledge of how often animals are left behind would have to come from a survey of landlords.
A lot of times, he said, the landlords just take animals to a shelter without notifying officials.
Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Chad Ferrin, who oversees Weber County Animal Control Services, said he remembers only two cases in the last year in which animals were abandoned when someone moved.
"There are rare occasions," he said, adding that sometimes people are served with warrants and taken to jail, then they can't get back to their animals.
"Typically, people are fairly responsible with their pets," Ferrin said.
Barker said cats fare far worse when it comes to owner abandonment.
"It probably happens more with cats than with dogs. They are easier to replace. There are people giving them out all the time at Walmarts and everything."
And cats probably aren't as noticeable when left behind.
"A lot of times with cats, the owners will just turn them loose and leave them running around the neighborhood," Barker said.
And the people who leave cats behind often are hard to track down later. He said often they are people who slip in and out of their residences quietly.
Shawn Janke, president of the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors, said he doesn't know of any instance when an agent has dealt with people abandoning an animal.
"It's not really an issue," he said. "Normally, they let the agents know. ... We help them get rid of their animals."
On occasion, Janke said, he will see an email with a picture of a dog. "It will say, 'My seller is looking for a home for his dog.' "