Neighborhood animal house delights passersby
Jul 27, 2017 12h50
By Natalie Mollinet
Dolly Pitts has been living in her home for 40 years and decided to do some unique decorating. (Natalie Mollinet\City Journals)
Ever seen a zebra dressed as Wonder Woman? A lion wearing glasses? Or a tiger in a green fuzzy hat? Such characters are here in Sugar House, thanks to Dolly Pitts. Her yard and backyard is full of animals dressed in their finest on the corner of 1500 East and Crandall Avenue. It’s a house that’s hard to miss.
“For my 40th anniversary (of living here), I wanted something nobody had in the whole world,” Pitts said, “just not around the world but the whole world, and I had some stuffed animals.”
Pitts has been collecting stuffed animals since her days tending kids. Her first was a tiger that now sits in a pine tree. You might ask why it’s in a pine tree, but why would a giraffe with a hat and dress on be sitting on her front porch? Because that’s where Pitts thinks they ought to be.
“I once had all these cop cars coming down the road,” Pitts said, “and one slammed on their brakes and looked up, and I knew he was looking at the tiger and he said, ‘What the…’ and a naughty word. Then he drove off.”
But police aren’t the only ones who have stopped and looked at her home. Sometimes she’ll see a van stop and the mom and kids look at what animal Pitts has added to her front yard.
Pitts has been living in the home for 40 years and over those years has collected the animals. Every week she goes to the thrift store to see what stuffed animal she can find that needs love. She brings them home, fixes them up, then displays them.
“I have a three-car garage, and I put all the animals away in the wintertime and I sort them out and fix them and clean them,” Pitts said. “And then do everything it takes to put them out the following year, and I usually have between 70 and 100 animals.”
Each of her animals has a story behind it, whether it’s where she got them or how she nursed them back to health. She has one in her garage that was given to her from a teacher that used to teach at Carden Memorial School just down the street from her home. The teacher wanted her to have the animal so that when the students walked by, they could still see their cuddly friend from school.
Over the years, her home has brought smiles to children’s faces and as they have gotten older, the kids in the neighborhood still remember her home.
“I think it’s fun for people to look at and it adds some playful fun to the neighborhood,” Noelle Farr, a former resident of the neighborhood, said. “I have many fond childhood memories of going to her home and seeing her pigs.”
“My granddaughter tried to steal one of the elephants when she was two, I had a hard time extracting it from her,” recalled Sally Meyer, a resident of the neighborhood. “I like to walk past there; it’s enchanting for children.”
One memory dear to Pitts’ heart concerns a quadriplegic boy who lived down her street. The boy, who had been in an accident, couldn’t even turn his head. His mother walked him to her house and he enjoyed it.
“The mother never saw any expression from him,” she said, “then one day I was out working and he was coming toward me and he started making jerking motions because he could see the yard.”
Pitts said after that the mother would bring him over almost every day. She said that he never talked and then one day he started making sounds at her and she took his hand and squeezed and she could tell that the boy tried to squeeze her hand back.
“The mother had tears in her eyes, and the kid was crying,” Pitts said, “so every once in a while, I’d buy him a soft candy bar and I’d tell him the animals got it for him. It was his treat. Even as I tell it now, it still gives me goosebumps.”
Pitts has had trouble with vandals stealing things, either the animal itself or a piece of clothing on the animal, so she set up surveillance to make sure she finds out who has been doing it. She doesn’t like people touching the animals, just looking, and if you do want to come and see them, she just might catch you and come out to say hello.
“I’ve had terrific people helping me,” Pitts said about her neighbors and others. “I do this for the neighborhood since they enjoy it so much. It’s something that nobody else in the whole world has and that’s a challenge, not even Donald Trump with all his money has something like this.”