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For a good paws: Waukesha litigator opens his home to canines in need

Attorney Joel Aziere and his wife, Johanna, pose with their canine companions April 12 in Franklin. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

No issues are too great for Joel Aziere and the dogs he rescues.

Aziere, an attorney with Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet LLC, Waukesha, has run long distances, paid steep veterinary bills and even put up with a year-long “marking” habit in order to better the lives of the dogs he both owns and fosters with his wife, Johanna.

“The unfortunate reality is that shelters around the country are filled with dogs desperately looking for homes,” Aziere said. “Many of these dogs have lived horribly rough lives, but are filled with love ready to be shared with the person who wants to open their hearts and their homes to them.”

Aziere, who defends employers as a litigator, grew up with a dog and said he always knew he’d live with one as an adult.

Though he thought it would be best to wait until after college to adopt one, a Lhasa Apso named Jackson changed his mind.

The dog was just days away from being given to a local shelter when Aziere scraped up the money to take him home from a pet store. Home, incidentally, was a fraternity house, so “It was quite entertaining for both of us,” Aziere said.

Jackson later moved with him to law school, and afterward, accompanied Aziere to Fort Riley, Kan., for time in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. They ultimately made a permanent home back in Wisconsin, where Jackson consented to Johanna and her rescue dog, Chloe, joining the family.

The Azieres decided they wanted more dogs after Jackson’s long and happy life ended.

They adopted Marley from the Wisconsin Humane Society, followed by Mylo.

Mylo, incidentally, had already been returned after two failed adoptions because he had an undesirable “marking” habit. They broke him of it by keeping him closely tethered to one of them constantly when they were home and crating him when they weren’t. After about a year, it worked.

Then came Kansas, a dog they found off a highway in … Kansas, of course.

Aziere, an accomplished endurance athlete, had just completed a full Ironman there. But sore legs didn’t stop him from chasing the frightened, fleeing dog. She was covered with ticks, but Johanna willingly carried the injured animal on her lap the whole way home.

Kansas needed significant veterinary care, but survived for another 15 months or so, was loved and generously returned the affection given.

About a year after Kansas moved in, Aziere completed another Ironman. On the drive home, as he was crossing the Wisconsin border, he commented to Johanna that maybe they weren’t going to get another dog this time.

Ten minutes later, they found Trypp.

That dog also required extensive veterinary care and was later diagnosed with cancer. Trypp lived less than a year with the family, “but it was a wonderful nine months,” Aziere said.

After Trypp died, the Azieres decided the “fourth spot” in their home going forward should always be filled by a foster dog. The couple now volunteers with Great Lakes Weimaraner Rescue. So far, Julie, Georgia, Belle and Mac have stayed with them, and Tucker arrived earlier this month.

Fostering dogs can be tough, Aziere said, because they do get attached, only to have to say goodbye.

“We miss them a lot, but when you put them in a good home, it’s easier,” he said. “But if you adopt one dog, you’re helping just one dog. If you foster, you can help many dogs.”

Though fostering and rescuing dogs can be an expensive or difficult practice, it’s one Aziere finds very rewarding, he said. The dogs staying at his house, both permanent and temporary, never fail to welcome him warmly upon his return from the office.

“Our rescue dogs seem to know they were saved,” he said, “and appear to make it their mission in life to let you know how much they appreciate it.”

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