“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Francis of Assisi
Janet Stoefen doesn’t stop providing health care when she leaves her role as nursing supervisor at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.
Some days she is a nurse 24/7.
When she puts aside the nursing of humans for the day, she still has patients like Cryo, Pep Boy, Beau, Holler, Fat Sam and a cast of other four-legged characters waiting for her in her home in Davenport. At times, there are nearly enough dogs K-9 baseball team.
In 1999, the dog lover thought she was adopting a springer spaniel and Labrador retriever mix. The veterinarian informed her otherwise. The dog she had just taken in was a greyhound.
Sixteen years and dozens of greyhound rehabilitation projects later, Stoefen is well-known in greyhound racing for her impressive winning record with rehabilitation and placement of retired racers. Often using her nursing skills, she helps the dogs recover from injuries that ended their track careers and then works diligently to place them with loving owners.
“Being a nurse has been such an asset,’’ Stoefen said. “People call me and tell me about a dog that has a fracture. I change splints twice a week, and dressings, sometimes more often, increase their exercise gradually and get them ready to have a home again.’’
Nursing Continues at Home
Her house is lovingly filled with dog beds, cages, medications, bandages, food and treats and lots of blankets needed for the temporary care of the greyhounds. The greyhounds showed some of their athletic abilities on a recent day when they romped in the fenced back yard. Each has a different personality.
“They give a lot more to me than I’ve ever given to them,’’ said Stoefen, a 38-year veteran of nursing care. “When I’ve had a long, stressful day in my job, they are all here waiting for me to come home.
“Dog owners are healthier. They live longer. And we have so much fun doing this.’’
Stoefen’s first greyhound, the one she thought was going to be a lab and retriever mix, saw her through uterine cancer. “She was my best buddy,’’ Stoefen said. “She just had unconditional love for me. That was when I started wanting to give back to these animals.’’
Stoefen and Cinda German, a surgical nurse at Genesis Medical Center in Silvis, Illinois, are affiliated with Central Illinois Greyhound Adoption Association, a non-profit support group that moves greyhounds from tracks and breeders in Iowa, Florida, West Virginia and New York to adoption groups in the United States and Canada. Stoefen often takes in dogs with broken legs or other injuries. She nurses them back to health and readies them for adoption.
“The most common injuries are fractures of the left, back leg. That is the leg they plant on when they are racing,’’ she explained. “But some greyhounds we get are just retiring. Either they aren’t competitive any longer or they turn five years old, which is the mandatory retirement age for greyhounds from racing.’’
Stoefen, German and Robert Fischer, who helps out Stoefen, frequently pick up and deliver dogs throughout the Midwest. The road trips, Stoefen says, are an adventure with several dogs usually moved at the same time. Along the wayy, they’ve become experts on dog-friendly hotels.
Holler, one of Stoefen’s most recent acquisitions, needed vet care on the first day she had him. She has a network of Quad-Cities veterinarians who give her discounted care because of her frequent visits and the role she plays in the dogs’ lives.
Stoefen’s experience as both a nurse and patient have made her better with her dogs. “I just have a sense about them. I’ve been told I’m the dog whisperer. Someone will tell me a dog is a problem child. I look at them and talk to them and usually can figure them out. I think this is why I’m a 20-year survivor of uterine cancer. I’m meant to be here for these animals.’’