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Animals always have a home

SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 2014

Christie Hausman relaxes with Harley the parrot and Jack the dog on May 21 at her Spokane Valley home. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Christie Hausman relaxes with Harley the parrot and Jack the dog on May 21 at her Spokane Valley home. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Reliable ‘foster parent’ keeps her door and heart open for troubled pets

It took a week for the bullet to start working its way out of Jack’s head.

What’s unusual is that when Jack’s owner, Christie Hausman, found out what the problem was, she was relieved.

“I was really worried it was cancer,” she explains.

Jack is a dog, a mixed-breed whose lineage includes Labrador, cattle dog and basset hound. And he is one of four dogs that Hausman now owns, along with six parrots.

“I had a ferret, but he passed away,” she says. “And I had a cat, but he passed away last December.”

An animal dying is nothing new for Hausman. As someone whose avocation is pet rescue, she knows the chances that an animal in her care will die are perhaps higher than that of the average pet owner.

This is especially the case because Hausman is willing to take trouble cases. That’s one reason why Jenna Carroll, the Volunteer, Foster, Outreach & Social Media Coordinator for Spokane Humane Society, is eager to call her.

“She’s an awesome foster parent,” Carroll says. “Typically, she’s one of the first ones I call when I have something … that’s gonna need a little special attention. About any time I have a dog with a leg injury or amputation, Christie is the one who gets the call.”

Take Jack, for example. Someone had left him tied to the fence in front of the Humane Society.

“He was missing an eye,” Hausman says. “They thought he had a birth defect, so they neutered him and sewed his eye shut.”

Hausman showed up later that day, and one of those instant bonds between human and dog occurred.

“When I went to walk him, he just stayed right by me,” she recalls. “Most dogs will run away because they want to be free, they’ve been in their kennel so long. He just sat right there, staring at me. And when I went to put him back in the kennel, he jumped up and wrapped his paws around me.”

Hausman pauses to laugh. “And that was it,” she says. “I just had to have him.”

A week later, she noticed a lump had formed on Jack’s head. Her vet discovered he’d been shot and during an extended procedure was forced to extract a number of bullet fragments.

Jack not only survived, he has thrived. And he now ranks as the alpha male of Hausman’s household, the one that settles down all new foster arrivals.

“He’s not aggressive at all,” she says. “He’s really good with dogs who haven’t been properly socialized because he’s very calm around them. But he will also put them in their place.”

And those foster arrivals come. By taking on animals both through the Humane Society and through private means, Hausman, at age 37, has owned or fostered 29 dogs, six cats, 10 birds and a trio of ferrets. Carroll reports that Hausman put in 62 volunteer hours at the Humane Society in 2013, and 55 in 2012.

Not bad for someone who had a single pet poodle growing up in a neighborhood near Mead High School.

“I just always loved animals,” she says. “My mom will tell you that I would just bring home any stray that I found. She would never let me keep any of them, which was always hard for me. I didn’t want to turn them back out. She always told me, ‘When you have your own house, you can have as many animals as you want.’ ”

Again, Hausman laughs. “If you talk to her now, she’ll say, ‘Well, I didn’t mean that.’ ”

When asked why she devotes so much time to animals, Hausman shrugs. “I guess part of the reason I do it is because I like to see the turnaround,” she says. “It’s just really rewarding to see them go to a house and be happy.”

Patrick was just such a success story. A bizarre-looking mix of Australian shepherd and shar pei, Patrick was a year-old foster that had been collected from a woman who owned 123 dogs in all.

“He’d never had human contact, so he was terrified,” Hausman says. “It probably took them an hour just to catch him, in a kennel, so I could bring him home.”

Before long, though, she says, Patrick “had become my protector.” And he became her longest foster. It took a year, but finally Patrick found a permanent home.

It’s not as if Hausman cares only for animals. A devout Lutheran, she sponsors children in four different countries (Mexico, Lebanon, El Salvador and Ethiopia) through two different Christian humanitarian organizations, World Vision and Compassion International.

She is helping raise funds for a 13-year-old girl named Anna Copley, the daughter of a colleague, who needs a kidney transplant (donations can be made in the girl’s name through COTA, or Children’s Organ Transplant Association).

And she also promotes Fair Trade Coffee, which was why she traveled to Tanzania with Lutheran World Relief in 2004, staying with coffee farmers on Mount Kilimanjaro “to learn about the problems they face.”

But her first love is, and likely always will be, her dogs.

“Sure, it’s messy, and I’ve gone through eight carpet shampooers,” she says. “But that’s not a big deal for me. To me, it’s just normal.”

The rewards, Hausman says, are well worth the hassle.

“I think that dogs – animals, but particularly dogs – they just give unconditional love,” she says. “I think God made them to be our companions, and they’re good at it. So I just like knowing that I can help them.”

Dan Webster



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