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Milo has heartworms and needed someone to take care of him. These 2 physician assistants stepped in
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Kelly Ann Peters, left, and Katie Jo Wacker, both physician assistants at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, decided together to foster a dog from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. Photo courtesy Julie Edwards, Humane Society of Northeast Georgia

The hectic lives of Katie Jo Wacker and Kelly Ann Peters haven’t stopped the two physician assistants from finding time to foster a dog during the pandemic.

For the past month, the two, who both work in Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s trauma orthopedic surgery department, have looked after a heartworm positive canine named Milo.

Although they live in separate buildings, the two friends have found a way to make it work.

Wacker said they both knew the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia had a great need for animal caretakers since temporarily shutting its doors to the public. As dog lovers who didn’t feel ready to commit to an adoption, Peters and Wacker decided fostering a pet was the best option.

“Individually this may not have been possible long term, but we put our time and our heads together to come up with a plan to tag-team foster a dog in need,” Peters said. “We were lucky enough to end up with Milo.”

Wacker said they alternated their schedules, so when one has a higher demand role like serving in the operating room, the other will work in the clinic, which has more predictable hours. 

“We’re flip-flopping and loving every minute of it,” she said.

Because Milo has heartworms, the dog has to pay regular visits to the humane society’s clinic to undergo treatment.

Recovering from heartworms isn’t a walk in the park for dogs. Julie Edwards, executive director of the humane society, said to kill the worms, a vaccine is injected close to the spine.

When Milo returns home after the treatment, Wacker said she must keep the dog’s heart rate low to avoid complications. 

“This was a little difficult with Milo as he often wanted to go outside and run around,” Wacker said. “We adapted however, and found new ways for him to get some of his energy out. Our walks became shorter but more frequent.”

Milo has brought not only happiness to the two physician assistants — who sometimes work more than 12 hours a day — but companionship.

Peters said Milo has been a great reminder for her to appreciate the little things.
“It is hard to be in a bad mood when Milo comes up to you and places his big head in your lap and just looks at you wagging his tail like crazy and just reminding you how happy he is that you are just there with him,” she said.

Edwards said she is impressed with how the two friends have cared for Milo despite their busy schedules. If someone in Hall County is interested in fostering a dog or cat, but is worried about the time commitment, she said the humane society is willing to find a solution.

“I would remind them that you don't need to make a huge commitment to make a difference in an animal’s life,” Peters said. “Even if you can only foster for the weekend, that is still time out of the shelter for that animal, and it's a big help in their eyes.”

Those who want to foster an animal from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia must fill out an application by visiting humanesocietyofnortheastgeorgia.org/foster-application/. For any questions related to the program, email Foster@HSNEGA.org or look to the humane society’s frequently asked questions page.

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