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Dog of deploying soldier finds foster home with Moose Lake woman

A year-old Australian Shepherd mix named Niko (left), owned by Anja Bottila of Moose Lake, has a new foster "brother," a Springer Spaniel named Remington. Contributed Photo

When Anja Bottila of Moose Lake adopted an Australian Shepherd-mix pup named Niko from the Friends of Animals (FOA) shelter a year ago, she said she soon realized the merits of having a second dog to keep him company.

"I kind of considered getting a pal for him," she admitted, "but I didn't necessarily want to commit to one for a lifetime."

It didn't take her long to react, therefore, when she read recently that the FOA in Carlton County was sponsoring a foster care program for the domestic pets of soldiers being deployed to the Middle East this spring who couldn't otherwise find someone to care for their animals.

She called in and signed up for the program on a Wednesday; by that Friday, she already had a foster dog.

FOA Executive Director Mike Licare explained that a soldier named Eric Berg from Isanti, attached to the St. Cloud unit of the U.S. Army National Guard, had heard about the Carlton County foster pet care program and gotten in touch with the local shelter. Berg said he had been trying to find someone to take care of his year-old Springer Spaniel but had not succeeded in finding anyone.

"He was at his wit's end," said Licare, "and had pretty much resigned himself to having to give the dog up for adoption. He said ours was the only foster program of its type that he'd found, and he was very grateful for it."

The local FOA contacted Bottila about the soldier's need three weeks ago, and she agreed to take the dog in for the year that the soldier would be deployed. Berg had to first supply proof that his dog had the appropriate vaccinations to prevent the spread of any diseases to Bottila's dog.

"His dog is the same age as mine," said Bottila, "and they get along really well. I've even seen them snuggling together at times!"

Licare said the FOA has received offers from a dozen people who are willing to foster pets of deploying soldiers if needed. He said a soldier from the Duluth area had also contacted FOA about a foster home for his dog, but he ended up finding a family member willing to take it.

"A lot of us are no longer able to serve our country," said Licare, a former veteran himself. "This is one way that we can help the soldiers from the outside."