Meet KGUN 9’s Claire Graham, Animal Lover & Rescue Advocate

Story by Rebecca West
Photos courtesy of Claire Graham
When you’ve found a career that suits you and have a talent for it, you can consider yourself lucky. But when you find one that you’re able to combine with one of your greatest passions, you can very well consider yourself blessed. Not everyone is that fortunate, but it’s always a pleasure to hear about someone who is — especially when their passion happens to align with one of your own.

Meet Claire Graham, morning news anchor for KGUN 9’s Good Morning Tucson and passionate animal rescue advocate. Claire has had a love for animals her entire life. When she was a child, she latched onto a stray dog that had been hanging out in her neighborhood. A pit mix, she left food out for the skittish canine, and little by little, she managed to coax her into the family’s backyard. Her parents had the dog examined by a veterinarian, and the sweet girl they named Copper was with them for 14 years.

An Arizona girl through and through, she grew up singing and performing in Tucson — another passion of hers — and went on to attend the University of Arizona, where she got a degree in musical theatre. At U of A, she fondly remembers her professor regularly bringing their Maltese dog “Vinnie” to class. It turned out the affectionate pup was quite fond of Claire and ended up spending much of its time in her lap during classes.

When her studies were over, Claire moved to Washington State to pursue a career in broadcasting, where she happily worked for 11 years before returning to Tucson a year ago this May, shortly after welcoming her first child. Her very first gig in The Evergreen State was at KNDU-TV, where she was an anchor for three years before eventually moving on to NBC’s KHQ. It was during her time in Washington that she got the opportunity to combine the above-stated passions.

“I got my start in rescue in Washington, fostering 20 dogs over the years, mostly seniors, for different rescue groups. I also started a weekly TV segment in Spokane featuring adoptable pets at one of the local shelters. In my eight years airing that segment, we helped find homes for more than 2,000 dogs and cats. I’m not sure how, but I only ever kept one of them ¬— an abused, bald, senior Pomeranian with a slew of health problems.

“Fortunately, when I moved back to Tucson, I was lucky enough to continue this pet adoption TV segment, and we now visit a rotation of three shelters to feature dogs and cats on the news every Thursday morning. My rescue dog, Jersey, comes with me to the shelters and meets all the pets, so we call the segment Jersey’s Journeys: Getting pets to their forever homes.”

The shelters she alludes to are Pima Animal Care Center, the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, and Hope Animal Shelter in Marana. And speaking of HSSAZ, her parents have a rescue dog they got from the shelter they named Ruby. Finding just the right rescue for an individual or family happens to be another of her many talents, but we’ll get back to that in just a minute. In the meantime, it’s not just helping homeless dogs and cats that’s captured her heart.

“Aside from my weekly adoption segment, my passion project through KGUN is spotlighting rescue groups, like the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary, or people trying to help the rescue crisis, like the woman who paints portraits of all the dogs at PACC to help them get adopted. I try to focus on finding solutions for the challenges our community faces when it comes to caring for pets and animals. Especially homeless ones.”

Some other places she’s visited with an eye toward bringing awareness include the Arizona Hummingbird Rescue, the Tucson Wildlife Center, and Paradise Parrot Rescue, to name a few. She’s also known for her hosting skills when it comes to fundraising events. During her time in the Pacific Northwest, she lent a hand by hosting the Pet Overpopulation Prevention’s Fur Ball fundraiser event and the Spokane Humane Society’s Furr Ball fundraising gala, among others.

She’ll likely get snapped up pretty quickly for similar events here in southern Arizona now that she’s back on her home turf.

Circling back around, her newest hobby is matching people searching for particular dog breeds with rescue animals waiting for forever homes.

“I also try to live by example when it comes to rescue. I currently have two dogs that I adopted from shelters, one from Idaho and one from Washington. My two dogs before them were also rescues. Between the four of them, there have been three Pomeranians and a Yorkie, which I try to use as a rebuttal when people tell me they don’t want to rescue because they can’t find purebred dogs in shelters. If you’re looking for a specific breed, they’re not hard to find in a shelter. Even if you have to fly somewhere and adopt one, your trip will be cheaper than if you went to a breeder! People often come to me with parameters for what they’re looking for, and there’s no better feeling than when I find them the perfect dog.”

Currently, her two dogs are Jax and Jersey, but we wanted to know a bit more about her history of fostering, her own rescue pup experiences, and how they impacted her life, both personally and professionally. So, here’s the scoop.

“I adopted Promo, the Yorkie, the day after I moved to Washington. I was on my own, away from family and friends, for the first time. A family posted online that they were going to have to put him in a shelter, so I drove an hour to their home, and they handed him to me. From then on, Promo pretty much came to work with me all the time, including gala events I hosted.”

Promo was also the impetus behind her successful rescue-centric news spot in Washington known as “Promo’s Picks,” where she would highlight shelter animals in need of adoption.
“Two years later, through Promo’s rescue segment, the shelter in Spokane brought out a senior cream-colored Pomeranian for us to feature. He had lost all of his hair from stress and abuse. He was around 9 years old and had a string of health problems… But I instantly said, “This is a Claire’s Pick,” and took him home. We named him Static, and while we technically called him a foster at first, we quickly adopted him.

“When Promo passed, we were looking for another small dog to adopt. One day at work, the Kootenai County Humane Society in North Idaho posted about a 7-year-old black Pomeranian who had been left there with another dog. The other dog had to be put down due to heart failure, which was the same way Promo had died, so it only felt right for Static and this new dog to connect. I asked my boss if I could leave for three hours to go adopt a dog, and she looked at me and said, “Of course.” That’s how we rescued Jax!

“When Static died, we started looking for a companion for Jax, and we soon found Jersey at a local shelter in Spokane. That was two weeks before our wedding in Tucson, so a rescue group graciously held Jersey for us for a month so he wouldn’t have to deal with dog sitters. Jersey was the perfect wedding gift.”

Her husband is also an animal lover and fully supports her work in rescue. And it must run in the family because Claire’s baby boy also adores their two dogs. So much so, in fact, that two of his first words, after learning “mama” and “dada,” were “Jax” and “Jersey,” whom he frequently shares his toys with. And the dogs feel the same way about him, apparently, with Claire noting that Jersey wouldn’t leave the baby’s side when he was first brought home from the hospital.

“I got into fostering about a year after I moved to Washington. There was a large apartment fire, and around 50 families were displaced. All of them had to stay in the gym of a nearby high school that summer, so all of their pets went into foster homes until these families were back on their feet. I took in a small Yorkie shih-tzu mix named Tiger, and of course, I cried the day we gave him back. He was such a good dog, and it instilled a love of fostering in me. We occasionally had play dates with him for the next few years until I moved to Spokane.”

Much like another well-known news personality we’ve interviewed, Claire stressed that there’s so much stuff people can do to make a difference without adopting or going the foster route. Volunteer your time or your gently used household items. Explore whether your skills and talents could possibly benefit a nearby shelter you’d like to support. She hopes that by getting the conversation started it will encourage folks to get involved while coming up with solutions for homeless animal populations.

Now that you’ve gotten to know the woman behind the face a tad better, we recommend you tune into Claire’s KGUN9 adoption segment, Jersey’s Journeys, which has already had a positive impact on adoption rates for Tucson’s homeless pets. You never know. You may just find your next pet!

Here’s a link to one of her recent segments to get you started: https://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/jerseys-journeys-adoptable-pets-at-the-humane-society



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *