Like a foster mom, Caryn Hetland takes in dogs until they are adopted. Here Hetland is with Lucky Boy, a Shih Tzu foster dog who will soon be adopted by a family in Missouri.
Roger, one of the dogs Hetland received from the TAAR rescue, who was found running the streets of Worthington.
Hetland with, left to right, Roger, Sadie (her two dogs), Lucky Boy, a foster dog who will soon be adopted out to a family in Missouri; and Scotch, her cat.

She’s a dog-gone great ‘Foster Mom’

“He made such an amazing impact on my life."

By Scott Thoma Mascot Staff Writer Ever since she was a little girl, Caryn Hetland has had a soft spot in her heart for dogs. When she hears a dog has been abused or injured and has no home, it breaks her heart.

“My parents both had a passion for animals and they passed that gift to me,” Hetland explained. “I’m passing it to my own children. It has not only taught them responsibility, but given them a sense of compassion.”

And because of that passion for animals, Hetland recently became connected to Tracy Area Animal Rescue (TAAR). “Last fall, I lost both my dogs to illness,” she told. “They both died within two months of each other and I was devastated.”

Hetland then went to TAAR looking for a new dog and was so impressed with them that she asked to get involved. She is now a canine foster home through that organization. Hetland was raised in Marshall and moved to Minneota 12 years ago. She works at the Minneota Public School district. Hetland has two sons; Landyn, who will be a senior in college and lives in Marshall; and Avery, who will be a sophomore in college and lives at home in the summer. “My boys have been great at helping me out with the dogs,” said Hetland.

“I work at the school when it’s in session and only part time during the summer so it allows me to do extra fostering during that time.” TAAR, which was formed in 2008, was set up to reunite, rescue, care for and adopt out lost, abused, or surrendered animals, to check on the welfare of at-risk animals, and to provide education and assistance on proper animal care, according to their Facebook page.

“Many of the animals taken to the rescue are owner-surrenders, breeder releases, strays, and transfers from other rescue organizations,” said TAAR Secretary Beth Capistran.

“The organization also provides necessary veterinary work prior to adoption.”

“This may consist of getting them up to date on their vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, dentals, or some serious issues such as dealing with cancer in dogs, leg injuries requiring amputations, autoimmune diseases and more.” Tessa Kubiak is the director of the TAAR program. Cathy Nelson is the president, Liz Struve, treasurer; and Capistran, secretary.

“A person adopting from TAAR knows that they are getting an animal that is completely up to date on their shots, heartworm-tested, and on a monthly flea, tick and heartworm preventative,” said Capistran.

“Animals live in approved foster homes located across southwest Minnesota and southeast South Dakota until adoptive homes are found.” TAAR has taken in 147 animals in 2017, with 111 of them already adopted. Hetland's first foster pet was a hospice dog named Buster, who was an elderly Chihuahua that required an immediate home after his owners went into a nursing home. “I knew his health and age would make things a little more difficult,” she remarked.

“But I knew I had to do it.” “He stayed with me up until the day he died.”

“He made such an amazing impact on my life. Funny how such a small and helpless creature can give someone so much.”

Hetland has had six addition fosters since then, including two currently in her home; one of them is a nine-year-old Shih Tzu named Lucky Boy, who is spoken for and will travel to St. Joseph, Missouri soon. “I’m still trying to work out a schedule with the new owners to meet them half way,” said Hetland.

“It will be worth the trip. This guy deserved a good home.” She also currently has two dogs of her own; Sadie, whom she adopted from the rescue shortly after her other dogs passed away; and Roger, a corgi mix who she recently obtained from the rescue. Hetland officially began working with TAAR last December. “What I love most about the fostering adventure is that I can make a difference,” Hetland said. “Every animal counts.”

“Regardless of illness, age or physical condition, they all count. These animals bring such an amazing and unconditional love to my family. We all help out and we all reap in the rewards.”

TAAR also rescues and fosters felines and other animals, too. “The majority of their intake involves canine, but all animals would be hosted and/or cared for whether it was a TAAR foster or another rescue helping us out,” Hetland explained, “Marshall Animal Rescue (MAR) is another rescue that does great things. They also have a Facebook page where people may go to for questions and answers.” To be able to continue rescuing dogs and other pets, rescue organizations need financial help through fundraisers and/or donations.

“Often when a particular animal exceeds high vet bills, you may see a pic on (the TAAR or MAR) Facebook page looking for assistance in funding those bills. We do also get many donations, including food, toys and other items needed for the animals.”

The rescue organizations have volunteers that may not be equipped or have the room to foster a pet. So they may help in other ways such as transporting an animal. Even though expenses incurred for vet bills or food for the animals, is provided by rescue organizations, it’s not uncommon for fosters such as Hetland to provide financial support.

Hetland turns philosophical when it comes to educating others interested in obtaining a pet.

“The first piece of advice that I always give to people is if you are looking to add a pet to your family, please first consider a rescue,” she said.

“The second piece of advice I would offer would be to please make be a sure you are ready to be a responsible pet owner. If there were more responsible pet owners, there wouldn't be such a need for us.”

If anyone is interested in donating items, they can contact TAAR by calling 507-829-1379, visiting its website at or on Facebook. Items needed are pet foods, collars, leashes, harnesses, and puppy pads.

Hetland holding Buster, a hospice dog who was the first foster dog she got in 2016. Buster died this past May. Special photo.

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