Any dog owner – or foster – will tell you that a perk of having a dog is that the dog is always happy to see you.
“I liked it because after school, I would come home and he’d be excited that I was here. I snuggled with him at night and read books to him. He actually listened a lot,” 9-year-old Colette Zegre said.
Colette, her brother Theo, and her parents, Nicolas and Sera Zegre, fostered Partner, a golden retriever, starting in August 2020.
“Sometimes he got the newspaper, which was fun," Colette said, adding that she liked that he learned to do things for them.
“Those commands help someone if they’re stuck on the couch and need some medication,” Sera Zegre said to Colette. “If they’re sad or can’t move and they need the dog to come get them, Partner was ready for that, too.”
Sera Zegre isn’t a dog person, but the research coordinator for campus recreation at WVU really enjoyed the training aspect of fostering a future service dog.
“Specifically during the pandemic, he got me out of the house. Training a dog was something I could do and control in a time where nothing else felt in my control,” she said.
In addition to improving her own outlook, the family was glad to be able to give back even when at home.
“We were really thrilled about the idea of doing service in our home during COVID. Instead of putting us at risk, we could host and train a dog in our home. We go to serve just by living.”
Sera Zegre started working toward getting her handler’s license to bring the foster dogs to campus and take them to events.
Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, was always hesitant about getting a dog for the family because of the pet-centric culture in America.
“What I thought was really cool about this was having the joy of getting to know and train a dog for a bigger purpose,” he said. “We're training a dog to support a veteran. As a veteran, I can relate and appreciate what the dogs are doing for our veterans.”
They also had to prepare for what all fosters, both new and seasoned, prepare for—the day Partner matched with a veteran. They anticipated feeling some sadness, as well as joy, when he would move onto his forever home.
“We all bonded in really powerful ways,” Sera Zegre said. “Before we got him, we talked about him being temporary, like a library book. We knew from the beginning that he would move onto a veteran. We felt—and learned how to process—loss when he moved on. We also celebrate everything we’ve offered each other with our human-animal bond and the service we provided.”
Hearts of Gold currently has dogs aged eight months to two years old that need community fosters. There will be a new litter of puppies this summer that will also need community fosters. For more information on how to become a short-term or long-term foster, email email@example.com.
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design has shared stories of local community fosters. Read them all on the Davis News.
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.
CONTACT: Leah Smith
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.