PENINSULA PROFILE: A different kind of matchmaker

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

WAG seeks foster parents for dogs, pups

WAG, THE WELFARE for Animals Guild, is looking for Port Angeles and Sequim area residents to provide foster care for puppies and adult dogs. The rescue organization, a registered nonprofit run by volunteers, can be reached at 360-452-8192 or 360-460-6258.

More information about supporting WAG — through volunteering, making a tax-deductible donation or contributing to the annual WAG Garage Sale on June 14 and 15 — awaits at and on WAG's Facebook page.

WAG also offers a recommended reading list for dog lovers. Titles include:

-- Love Has No Age Limit by Patricia McConnell

--  The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

--  For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell

-- Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin

--  The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Redemption by Jim Gorant

--  Dog Sense by John Bradshaw.

Diane Urbani de la Paz
SEQUIM — Barbara Brabant's six children have grown and flown, but her nest is not a bit empty. The sign in her kitchen, “Welcome to Grand Central Station,” is accurate.

Last Saturday morning, for instance, Brabant welcomed two adoptive families, two fellow volunteers and a reporter into her home. Also part of the welcoming committee were Britt, Dakota, Joey, Myah, Brooklyn, Tillie and Mikie: Brabant's WAG family.

WAG, the Sequim-based Welfare for Animals Guild, seeks two kinds of “parents” for dogs: foster and adoptive. Brabant is both — which means she has cried a river of tears.

But these tears are the joy-mixed-with-goodbye kind. Brabant fosters puppies and full-grown dogs, then works with WAG to find adoptive homes for them. Healing dogs who have been hurt, preparing puppies to join their new families: This is her passion.

Back when Brabant was raising her kids and teaching kindergarten to boot, she found out about WAG one Saturday. She'd gone to the Sequim Open Aire Market, the spring-through-fall market on Cedar Street, and found herself standing in front of the organization's booth.

From that point forward, she thought about volunteering with WAG.

With her kids grown up, she at last took in one dog.

That was about four years ago. Now, she fosters about 10 per month: dogs varying from a few weeks old to senior. She also has joined WAG's board of directors, and works with Paula Creasey, Judy Stirton and the many other volunteers who rescue dogs from across Clallam and Jefferson counties.

In the Brabant household, there is a lot of joy. On that recent adoption day, Joey, a 10-week-old pup with coal-black fur and oversize paws, went home with his new owners, Wanda and Steve Peters of Port Ludlow. The couple, like all WAG families, was vetted thoroughly by the organization, to ensure that they have enough space, in their home and lives, for the new family member.

Once an adoptive home is found, WAG provides for spaying or neutering of the dog, either free by one of its own veterinarians or via a discount coupon for the new owner's vet of choice.

Foster households, like the adoptive ones, come in all kinds: single people, couples, any household with love to spare.

“We need foster homes desperately,” Brabant says. “Turning down dogs just kills us, especially seeing the situation they're in.”

WAG rescues dogs who have been abused, neglected, dumped. They need a soft place to land.

Brabant, for her part, hesitated before contacting WAG about fostering. She wasn't sure she could afford the food and veterinary bills.

So she was delighted to learn that WAG, thanks to donations and fundraising events, covers the costs of fostering a dog.

The organization can even pay for yard fencing if a foster caregiver needs it.

People can choose to foster one dog for a short time or a series of dogs over a period of weeks; WAG is flexible.

The organization provides the logistical stuff, adds Creasey. A foster parent gives the two things that matter most of all: love and time.

Brabant smiles while acknowledging that she is, well, an extreme case. Her various foster dogs join the two she has adopted: Mikie the mutt and Myah, who is a husky like the sled dogs she grew up with in Alaska.

Her parents were bush teachers — school teachers who worked in remote villages — and Brabant lived in at least one community where there were more dogs than human residents.

Later, Brabant moved to Port Angeles in time to graduate from high school there, and then became a teacher herself, of kindergarten in Sequim and in Kirkland after she and her family moved to Bellevue. She had three children, then married a man who had three, too.

They were “The Brady Bunch” without Alice, the housekeeper, Brabant says. They moved from Bellevue back to Sequim in 1988. Brabant now runs a home inspection and appraisal business.

Her weekends are packed with action — of the matchmaking variety.

When the new adoptive families arrive, there's a lot of leaping, wagging and kissing.

“When dogs meet and greet, they want to smell your breath,” Brabant explains. That's their way of identifying somebody: by sniffing and, when they're young, by tasting.

To the new owners, Brabant and the WAG crew offer advice about each dog. Joey's first to depart with the Peters couple. He hasn't been separated from his littermates before, so the pup will do some crying tonight, Brabant tells them.

Brabant cries too. She acknowledges that right away.

“It's heartbreaking when they leave,” she says. “But there is always another,” another puppy or full-grown dog who has been rescued.

“Paula's good about supplying me with another dog to foster,” Brabant says as Creasey helps fill out the Peters' paperwork.

Later in the morning comes the Boughton family: Travis, Ashley and their 2-year-old Kinzie. Ashley went looking on, a nationwide network, for a puppy. When she saw Britt, one of the youngsters being fostered at the Brabant house, she knew she had found the dog.

When Kinzie met the new puppy, though, both were shy. So Brabant cuddled Britt while Ashley held Kinzie's hand.

This is the most timid of the litter, Brabant told Ashley. She'll react to loud noises, and will need some extra comforting.

Try putting a blanket in the clothes dryer and then laying the warmed swaddle in the puppy's bed, said Stirton. She fosters puppies, too, and has a big, stuffed dog she puts into the dryer for the nervous ones.

After a bit, Ashley reminds Kinzie that she gets to give her puppy a brand-new name.

It doesn't take long for the toddler to choose Beasley, perhaps because she's heard her parents talk about Beasley Coliseum, where their beloved Washington State University Cougars play. The name also seems to fit with the pup's beagle-like markings.

The remaining litter mate, Dakota, has been adopted by a family in British Columbia, and will soon be leaving Brabant. She still has Brooklyn, another mutt, along with Tillie, a black, bear-like dog who came to Brabant two years ago.

“She came to me as a very fearful, emotionally broken dog. She is really quite the lover but has trust issues. She has made amazing progress, is on Petfinder, but will take a very dog-savvy person to take her on,” Brabant says.

“She has taught me so much about training and dog behavior in our journey together. I love her very much.”

Last modified: March 03. 2013 1:09PM
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