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Thaddeus Lewis Kostrubala - A pet’s best friend

For about 20 years, Thaddeus (“Tadz”) Kostrubala has volunteered as a foster caregiver for stray and abused dogs and cats so that they are more easily adopted.
January 29, 2020
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“Foster animals bring great happiness and satisfaction that you are doing something good,” says Tadz. “It’s not something you see in the future—you see it right away, with every interaction you have with an animal. There’s nothing quite like watching an animal come out of its shell or just being happy to be around you. These loving animals, they’re giving your happiness back to you.”

A pet’s best friend

Thaddeus (“Tadz”) Lewis Kostrubala of the Engineering Project Delivery group (ES-EPD) walks into his home in La Mesilla, a pet kennel clutched in one hand. Greeted by his wife, four dogs and four cats, Tadz sits down on the living room floor and opens the kennel. A wide-eyed three-legged kitten slinks out.

There’s a moment of trepidation as the feline examines this new location. The young kitten has been through a lot. Homeless during the dead of winter, he sought warmth in a car’s engine. Sadly, when the car was started, the kitten’s hind leg got caught in the fan belt. A good samaritan found the severely injured kitten and brought him to Española Humane, where the shelter’s veterinary team performed an emergency leg amputation and then sent him home with Tadz’s family to foster back to health.

With the help of Tadz’s friendly cats and dogs, this temporary acquisition soon joins his new feline and canine friends, running about and being very much a cat, albeit one with only three legs. Then the moment comes, when this cat climbs onto Tadz’s lap, settles in and starts to purr.

“Animals are such amazing creatures,” says Tadz. “We humans would be in remorse for losing a limb—we’re going to take time to deal with it. But there’s no such transition with animals. This cat’s resiliency gave me pause—I mean, nobody told him he was missing a leg. He acts just like our other cats, running about with equal vigor. That’s what I love about animals—they give back to us by showing humans how it’s possible to overcome obstacles and simply be happy with life.”

For the past 20 years or so, Tadz and his wife have served as foster caregivers for all types of homeless pets, principally dogs and cats, although Tadz remembers one case in which they took in a chicken and another where they helped an orphaned foal.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the relationship between people and animals,” Tadz says. “I grew up with family pets, and when I went off to college, the first thing I did was get my own dog. He was a Chow mix named George—quite the runner, really athletic. Since then, I’ve always surrounded myself with dogs and cats.”

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This is Tippy, a three-legged cat that Tadz Kostrubala fostered.

Rescuing stray animals

It was while working as a professional engineer dedicated to environmental remediation and reclamation projects for the Duck Valley Indian Reservation that Tadz first started rescuing stray animals. Established for the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe, the reservation lies between southern Idaho and northern Nevada.

“It’s mostly very rural high desert,” explains Tadz, “and there are really no facilities for the spaying and neutering of pets. Like most rural areas, there tend to be more accidental or unwanted litters of dogs and cats out there. So, my wife and I started to rescue many of these stray animals, giving them a temporary home. We then reached out to the surrounding communities and rescues to spay and neuter the pets and place them in what we call their ‘forever homes.’ That’s basically how our rescue work got started.”

After a couple of years, Tadz and his wife moved to New Mexico, where they continued their affinity for rescuing stray animals, this time under a more structured approach.

“When we came to La Mesilla about 16 years ago, we joined the board for the Española Valley Humane Society, which is now known as Española Humane,” Tadz says. “We volunteered as board members, and today we continue to serve as foster caregivers for homeless pets. We foster litters of neonate bottle babies too young for adoption, help socialize scared or traumatized pets, and nurse dogs and cats through critical care after the Española Humane shelter vets perform emergency surgeries.”

Becoming a foster caregiver for homeless pets is relatively easy. “Española Humane has a foster program, and anyone can volunteer to be a foster parent by simply calling the shelter and asking for the transfer/foster coordinator, Linda Sanchez. She will give you all the information, expertise, and supplies to get you started. She makes you feel supported, too—they take really good care of their foster families.”

 

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Tadz Kostrubala feeds a kitten.

Rehabilitating animals—it’s pretty easy

 

“Fostering homeless pets makes them much more adoptable. You could start with a litter of unsocialized puppies or a super-shy cat. In a relaxed foster home environment, particularly one with other pets in it and people willing to spend time nurturing and training them, these animals transform before your eyes in just a few weeks. What you turn over to their new adoptive ‘forever parents’ is a well-adjusted, relaxed and loving pet.”

When it comes down to rehabilitating pets for Española Humane Tadz says that a healthy environment plays a crucial role.

“All of our dogs and cats are formerly homeless and adopted from Española Humane,” explains Tadz. “When we get a litter of puppies to foster, our dogs help the newcomers learn important social and behavioral skills in a positive, stress-free way. My dogs are very forgiving with new foster animals, and they basically teach them how to behave in the home, showing good manners by example.”

As for the humans, they also play a role. “My wife, daughter and I interact with the animals as much as possible,” says Tadz. “We take them on walks around the property and play with them. Our daughter’s friends play with them and feed them. It’s mostly about giving them the time to grow and learn, or heal and feel safe, and sometimes to restore their trust in humans. When foster animals leave our home for their forever homes, they are on their way to being potty trained, are social with humans, and they have a good sense of how to interact with other domestic animals.”

One of the biggest benefits of being a foster caregiver for homeless pets is what Tadz calls “instant rewards.”

“Foster animals bring great happiness and satisfaction that you are doing something good,” says Tadz. “It’s not something you see in the future—you see it right away, with every interaction you have with an animal. There’s nothing quite like watching an animal come out of its shell or just being happy to be around you. These loving animals, they’re giving your happiness back to you.”

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Tadz Kostrubala brings the cat Picasso home while one of his dogs looks on.

Thaddeus Lewis Kostrubala works as an engineering manager for the Engineering Project Delivery group (ES-EPD).

 


Resources

Española Humane



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.