By Karen Jasper

When Marron Velazquez started a new job in 2007, she had no idea that, although it was not in the field of animal care, it would lead her to over years—and counting—of volunteer work with the Seattle Animal Shelter. One day during her commute, she noticed the Shelter and felt like she needed some “dog time” since she was not allowed to have animals in her apartment.

She started as an Adoption Assistant on weekends. Soon after, the Shelter began renovations and needed to clear the dog kennels. After obtaining permission from her landlord to have dog guests for short periods of time, Marron decided to foster Baby Boy, a big mastiff mix who was quiet and sweet and obsessed with playing ball. He eventually went to a great forever home, and by that time Marron was hooked on having a dog around. So, she became a dog sitter for other foster parents. Her first was Sampson; this turned into a win-win situation as Marron became close friends with his foster family and they decided to adopt Sampson.

Marron continued to foster-sit and then, in 2009, she and her husband Rich bought a house—and adopted a dog the day they moved in. Abigail, their new pit bull mix, had been so nervous in the Shelter she wouldn’t let anyone near her. At first, Abigail wouldn’t go near Rich. But Rich would patiently lay on the grass with his arms outspread until finally, after three days, Abigail lay down next to him and put her head on his hand. They knew then that she had chosen Marron and Rich to be her forever family.

Since adopting Abigail, Marron—with Rich’s support—has fostered many special needs dogs. Her single-story house is ideal for animals with mobility issues like Bubba, who was recovering from a broken femur after being hit by a car, and Girl, a deaf, blind and incontinent senior who enjoyed wandering around the backyard. Then there was Stanley, an American Staffordshire mix rescued by Humane Law Enforcement, who was emaciated, wounded and, like Abigail, scared of everyone. Eventually Stanley, too, found his forever home.

Marron fostered another young pit bull, also named Stanley, who also loved Abigail—and loved to chew playfully on her ears. He needed training to help with impulse control but then found a forever home with another young, female pit bull also from the Shelter. It was love at first sight for both.

If you were to ask Abigail who her favorite foster friend was, she might say Henry the rat terrier. She would groom him and try to nurse him, and he’d lie on top of her to cuddle. Knowing Abigail’s preference for small dogs, Marron and Rich decided to adopt a second dog, their foster Chihuahua Fancy. Fancy and 100 other dogs were rescued from a hoarder; charges were filed and the case was in the court system for eight months. By that time, Fancy and Abigail clearly had adopted one another, so once the case was settled she was able to legally become part of the family.

This past October, Marron and Rich adopted another foster, Franklin. This sweet boy had been both neglected and severely abused, and needed two months of rehabilitation. As his body healed, so did his spirit, surrounded as he was—and still is—by two such patient, compassionate, loving humans and, of course, two wonderful dog friends. Franklin has, in turn, done wonders for Abigail; the latter is still nervous around people, but Franklin encourages her to be brave when visitors come to the house so that she can get some much-deserved attention.

Marron also volunteered with the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation from 2011-2013, serving on both the marketing and the IT committees. Now that she has a full house with three dogs and occasional fosters (currently, the mother-and-son Shih Tzu pair Panda and Riley), she has had to cut back on her in-shelter volunteer time a bit, but she still walks dogs on Monday nights and recently completed her training to become Foster Team Case Manager.

She expects that she and Rich will continue to foster dogs in need of extra TLC, whether medical or behavioral. When asked how Rich feels about that, Marron laughs. “My husband’s been very accommodating whenever I text him a picture of a dog that I want to bring him—usually as I’m loading that dog into my car.”

To help more dogs like Bubba, Stanley and Girl, and to help support Shelter foster parents, please donate to SASF today.