Underdog Finishes on Top


WHAT WAS ONCE A DREAM is now a reality for Lauren Wojtasiak and her family. She helps find hundreds of homes each year for animals throughout Wisconsin, through Underdog Pet Rescue, a Madison-based nonprofit.

Wojtasiak, with her husband Michael and children Audrey and Miles, spend countless hours seeing this vision affect many lives. “It’s wild. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also complete payback when you see the adopter come forward. The animal needs the person as much as the person needs the animal,” Wojtasiak says.

Wojtasiak got the idea to start a pet rescue while volunteering at other rescues in the Milwaukee area. When her family moved to Madison in 2012, she knew the time was right. Underdog Pet Rescue started with just five foster homes; Wojtasiak’s mission was finding homes for animals that otherwise would not get out of a shelter. Others saw her determination and passion; and from there, it grew. “I really believe in foster based programs because I feel we really get to know the animals and we have a better success rate once they go into the home,” she says.

As of 2014, Underdog had 35 foster homes, and found permanent homes for 212 dogs, cats and bunnies. The organization also purchased surgical equipment so each rescued pet is spayed or neutered or receives any needed medical treatment while in foster care. The rescue has teamed up with Full Circle Holistic Veterinary Clinic, and volunteers also help with training any animals that show behavioral issues.

At any given time, her family welcomes three foster pets into their home, Wojtasiak says. The whole family, including Audrey, 6, and Miles, 4, helps with the pet care.

“It’s a neat way to show responsibility to my kids,” she says. And it also teaches her kids the importance of giving back to the community. “Rescued pets are wonderful, family-friendly pets that need a home. Fostering is kind of a way to volunteer and the whole family can get involved.”

Wojtasiak has big plans in 2015. The organization is hoping to add more foster homes along with a foster coordinator. And it’s starting a new event, “Coffee and Canines,” the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m.-noon at the rescue’s outreach center.

The best part of all the hard work? Making someone’s life change for the better right in front of her eyes, she says. “Seeing these connections that people have, it really keeps me going.”

That’s a real family effort.

– Ashley Matthews

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