For the past three years, Carroll’s Animal Behavior program has worked in partnership with the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) of Waukesha County to help shelter dogs find loving homes. This spring, students fostered and trained seven rescue dogs with the hope that they would be ready for adoption by the end of the semester.
Students like Katelyn Putvinski ‘23, who decided to come to Carroll because of this hands-on course, began learning about a dog named Ivy Jean in the fall. For the past year, Ivy Jean had been experiencing severe dog reactivity and behavioral problems in the shelter system. Dr. Lee Lee, assistant professor of Animal Behavior, began to work with Ivy Jean in foster care and was seeing a lot of good progress. They determined that Putvinski would foster Ivy Jean for the semester.
“The first week was the toughest week,” said Putvinski. “Ivy Jean could not come within 300 feet of other dogs and she had to go on anxiety medication.”
But throughout the semester, Putvinski noticed that once Ivy Jean was indoors and away from other dogs, all she really wanted to do was cuddle. As Putvinski continued to understand Ivy Jean, she became determined to find the right adoptive family for her.
When Naomi Tiefel’s application came through, Putvinski knew her family would be a perfect match for Ivy Jean. Tiefel, who began working as Carroll’s registrar in February, had been talking to biology professor Sue Lewis about how her family wanted to find a dog to snuggle with and take on hikes. When Tiefel jokingly asked if a student could train a dog for them, Lewis told her that Putvinski and Lee had already trained one that was good with kids and ready to be part of a family.
Shortly after, Tiefel’s family met Ivy Jean for a walk at a park. Tiefel’s 10-year-old son has some anxiety, and they weren’t sure how he would react to Ivy Jean at first. But by the end of the walk, Tiefel’s son was running around the park with Ivy Jean.
“It was then that we knew she was the right dog for us,” said Tiefel.
After that night at the park, Putvinski did a video chat with the Tiefel family and answered any questions they had. She was upfront about Ivy Jean’s challenges and reiterated that it was a strong match. Tiefel signed the adoption paperwork in April.
“Their bond grew even faster than ours,” Putvinski said. “I am so happy Ivy Jean ended up with the Tiefel family. It worked out so well.”
If Ivy Jean hadn’t found the Tiefel family, she would have faced an uncertain future. “When Ivy Jean initially went into foster care, we were very encouraged by her progress,” noted HAWS behavior manager Megan Arant. “Getting out of the shelter through this program was the opportunity she needed; the one-on-one work with Katelyn made a tremendous difference.”
“Everyone who knew Ivy Jean in the shelter was rooting for her,” Putvinski said. “You pull her out of the shelter and all she wants to do is cuddle.”
Now, Ivy Jean greets Tiefel when she comes home every day. Tiefel says Ivy Jean has especially bonded with her children. She loves movie nights, spending time outside in the backyard and falls asleep on her daughter’s bed every night.
Aside from Putvinski and Lee’s guidance, HAWS offers 24/7 behavioral support for the dogs adopted from its shelter. Next year, Carroll and HAWS plan to enroll seven foster dogs in the program to work toward the goal of adoption.
“Ivy Jean has been such a blessing to our family,” Tiefel said. "All the pieces just fit together. She is such a sweetheart, and we all love her.”
For more information about Carroll’s Animal Behavior program, visit www.carrollu.edu/academics/arts-sciences/animal-behavior.