LA CROSSE, Wis. - For some when they get in the hospital, the first thing on their mind isn't getting treatment -- it's who will be taking care of their dog or cat while they're gone. That's why an area animal day care is teaming up with local hospitals to make sure both pets and patients get the care they need.
Fun Fur Pets Dog Day Care and Boarding is full of wagging tales and has a wide range of clientele.
"We can do cats pigs ferrets parrots, a wide array of animals here," owner Eve Zellmer said.
Their guests include those there for a temporary stay while their owners are away.
"We're taking care of patients' animals, which is, a lot of times, taking care of their child," Zellmer said.
The idea to take in pets while their owners were in the hospital started off slowly over the past year.
"Things we didn't think would come up, came to be a bigger thing," Gretchen Henchen, service excellence representative at Gundersen Health System, said. "It just started rolling around little by little."
At first, local hospitals and the day care would figure things out on a case to case basis. For example, Zellmer said that a man having a heart attack refused treatment until he knew his dog was all right.
"He wanted to get out of hospital because he didn't want his animal to be left alone. So he called us, We got on the phone with him, coordinated having his keys on the front desk, and cared for his animal until he got out of the hospital," she said.
Zellmer also mentioned a homeless man who got in a car crash with his best friend.
"The gentleman and dog ended up in a hospital room," she said. "(The dog) stayed (at the day care) for five days, and once he was discharged we delivered the dog and a care package we had put together."
To have a set plan for when situations like that arise, Fun Fur Pets is working with Gundersen, and now Mayo Clinic as well, for a more organized approach to fostering patients' pets. Fun Fur Pets can either foster animals or do at home visits to check in on them in La Crosse County and the La Crescent area.
Zellmer said having better coordination between the hospitals will make it so patients can know their pet is being taken care of, and the day care can know how best to do so.
"It's easier to take care of pets if we know some info," Zellmer said. "Do they like to be petted, should I not get it wet and give it a bath?"
"Something you don't need to think about, is whether your animal is okay while you're here getting your care," Henchen said. "It helps their health care move along and helps them heal faster."
Proving that sometimes something as simple as a wagging tail can be the best medicine.
"These animals, they're their children," Zellmer said. "Sometimes they are the only friends they have, so caring for the animals is just as important as caring for their human counterpart."
Henchen said that Gundersen health system agreed on a set charge with the day care for taking care of pets, but they take each situation as it comes. If someone can't pay for the services, often times they can get a discounted rate. In one case, Zellmer said some of the shelter's clients pitched in to pay for a homeless man's dog to stay.
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