By Linda Scherer
Tom Schlafer of Winsted is a dog’s best friend.
He has been providing foster care to homeless dogs since the beginning of 2007 working with the Midwest Animal Rescue Services (MARS).
MARS is a group of dedicated volunteers who rescue dogs and cats in “emergency” type situations.
Part of Schlafer’s job is to rehabilitate the dogs so they can eventually be placed in a permanent, adoptive home.
Schlafer became interested in MARS in February 2007, when he began looking for a companion for his cocker spaniel, Rocky.
Schlafer had purchased Rocky through an ad in the newspaper in December 2005.
Instead of finding one companion for Rocky, MARS told Schlafer it needed a foster home for two cocker spaniels. Three dogs is the most that Schlafer can have in his home at one time because of a Winsted city ordinance.
Arriving in Winsted March 3, 2007, were two brothers, Michael and Herald, who were about three and four years old. They had been rescued from a puppy mill in Arkansas where they would have been euthenized.
“The dogs arrived on Saturday night and they stayed under the kitchen table until Monday afternoon. They would not come out. I would have to drag them out to go potty,” Schlafer said. “They were really shy.”
“Another thing about Michael and Herald, if you put a bowl of food down, zip it was gone,” Schlafer said. “They kept their nose in that food bowl until it was gone because they were used to being starved, not getting enough, or fighting for their food.”
Initially, Michael and Herald were afraid to be separated, but after four or five months Schlafer, and a few of his friends, had encouraged the dogs to be more independent. The dogs were able to learn a lot from Rocky, as well. Schlafer credits Rocky for teaching them many of their newly learned social skills.
When Schlafer felt Michael and Herald were ready, he contacted MARS and together they found adoptive homes for them in Minneapolis.
“It was amazing how the three dogs learned from each other,” Schlafer said. “I learned that every dog that I get leaves something here and takes something with them when they go.”
Through MARS, Schlafer has had other dogs in his care since Herald and Michael, but when Sabastian, a blonde cocker spaniel, arrived in May of this year, Schlafer made the decision to adopt him since he and Rocky really get along well together.
Now that Schlafer owns two dogs, he is only able to provide foster care for one additional dog at a time.
His most recent guest is a blonde cocker spaniel named Lady.
“She is the queen of the house,” Schlafer said.
She has been with Schlafer for a little over one month. She is about eight or nine years old and should weigh about 22 pounds. Since she is a little over weight at 31 pounds, Schlafer has her on a diet and she has an exercise routine.
Lady wants to be where ever the action is, but would rather watch than participate. She has been vacinated and micro-chipped, in case she gets lost, just like all of the dogs taken in by MARS.
Anyone interested in adopting Lady, or another dog, or would like to offer a foster home to an animal in need, can get more information at the MARS web site at www.midwestanimalrescue.org.
According to Schlafer, the biggest qualification to adopting a MARS pet or providing a foster home is just loving the pet.
Nothing seems to diminish the reward Schlafer gets in return from his pets, not even the extra work needed to wipe 12 paws off each time his dogs enter the house.
“We have fun too,” Schlafer said. “I say their job is to make me laugh at least once a day, and they are pretty good at it.”