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Puppy Presence Brings Love to Campus

Abbey, the aptly named black lab, recently celebrated her first year as part of the St. Norbert College community and so far she’s been quite the hit with students, staff and faculty, says her owner, the Rev. Jay Fostner, O.Praem., ’84 (Mission & Student Affairs).

“Students really think it’s cool we have her and they enjoy spending time with her,” he says. Fostner, who has a background in counselling, had registered the popularity of exam-week events that brought canine visitors to campus to give students a break from studying. "So we thought, ‘Why not get our own dog?’ ”

Fostner says petting and playing with dogs helps people kick back, and everyone benefits from Abbey’s presence. “Students play with her during her office hours and relax a little bit, or they see her around campus and she’s so friendly that it makes them smile,” he says. 

Abbey, who is in training to be a therapy dog, lives with Fostner at the priory, right in the heart of campus. Abbey keeps a full schedule. She maintains regular office hours on Fridays; and she hosts a Dogs’ Night Out on Monday evenings in the Pennings Activity Center gym, where she gets together for play-dates with pups owned by college faculty and staff. Students can also come out and enjoy the fun. Abbey also maintains her own Facebook account.

Along with Fostner, a team of trained students help care for her. Sean Fuss ’15, a biology major, was one of Abbey’s main student caretakers in his senior year. Fuss, whose student jobs included work at a veterinary clinic and at an animal resort, helped train the campus canine in a variety of commands: the basic “Sit,” “Stay,” “Down” and “Come” commands as well as “Off” and “Leave it.”

“Abbey also went through off-leash training, so every once in a while you may see her running around off-leash with Father Jay or myself,” Fuss says. “I also had fun teaching her a few tricks like ‘Shake,’ ‘Hug’ and ‘Roll Over’.”

Fuss says students enjoy seeing Abbey, because she is such a friendly presence. “It’s been my pleasure to work with her, and it’s going to be sad to say goodbye after graduation,” he says.

Although she’s a black lab, Abbey is tiny – she’s full-grown and weighs 56 pounds.

“She is super-affectionate and loves to be petted,” Fostner says. “And she loves everyone.”

That trait was clearly on display during her recent first birthday party a few months ago. “The turnout was huge,” says Donna Schaut (Office of Communications), a dog-owner herself. “Obviously, Abbey has made a big impact on campus. My heart just smiles to think of her.”

Schaut calls Abbey “adorable.” Schaut and her boxer, Caylee, are often guests at Abbey’s doggie playdates.

“[At her party] she was playful, sweet, friendly, and I could tell the students really enjoyed petting her and just being around her. Abbey made her rounds and had to say ‘hi’ to everyone that came to see her,” Schaut says. “Abbey is great therapy for anyone that comes in contact with her. I can’t say enough what a sweet dog she is. I don’t think there’s anyone on campus that doesn’t know her or hasn’t met her. She brings a calmness to everyone she meets.”

Besides her friendly presence on campus and her future goals in therapy, Abbey already has a “real” job. She was brought on campus to keep the geese (and their mess) away from the riverbank. “We had a problem with geese and having her here has definitely kept them away,” Fostner notes, in what amounts to a laudable first performance review to cap off a successful novice year on campus. 


June 2, 2015