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Local woman's passion saves the lives of animals in need

She's a ModMom to her own dogs and a cat plus so many more

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Erin Buzick and her husband Jay are active volunteers for the Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue whose house is often a temporary home to expecting dog moms. Jay and Erin also have four dogs of their own as well as a cat.
Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography
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Women mother more than just kids. Some women mother extended family members, some mother ideas and organizations and many mother animals as well as children in their lives.

Erin Buzick is not only mom to five pets (four dogs and one cat), she’s also a foster mom to many animals (mostly dogs) who need a welcoming home to stay while the nonprofit Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue searches for forever homes for the animals. As if that isn’t enough, Erin and her husband of 20 years, Jay, are also uniquely positioned to foster expecting dogs who need a special place to welcome their pups.

Originally from Rochester, Minnesota, Erin landed in Fargo thanks to the communications program at NDSU. While attending college, she met Jay and the pair married in 2002. She’s a project manager at U.S. Bank and well before the pandemic ever started, Erin became a remote employee. She shared that working remotely has been great for her work-life balance, and she’s been able to maintain that by carving out special space for her to work and sticking to a schedule even at home.

Having work-life balance also allowed her to get involved with the Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue in 2018, and she’s become more involved with the nonprofit each year since. The organization, which is located in Rolla, North Dakota, was founded only 5 years ago, but it’s making a big impact through the work of volunteers like Erin (who also serves on the organization’s board of directors). While more than 5,000 animals have been rescued through the organization’s efforts, the need continues to grow.

“Animal homelessness is a real problem in this state,” Erin said. As a foster for hundreds of animals, Erin has witnessed firsthand how a safe, warm place to live is life-changing. “For me, it’s been an incredible heart journey,” she shared. “When you bring an animal into your home and share your life with it, the transformations are amazing…it’s such an amazing process to take them in and care for them, and then see them go out to their adopted homes.”

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Erin said many people have expressed to her that they’d be interested in fostering animals, but they are scared of the sadness that would accompany having to let the animals go to their forever home. “I don’t discount that sadness, but the opportunity to save the life in front of you is so real and so powerful that I would hope most people would think that opportunity would outweigh the sadness,” she explained. “It’s such a blessing to be a part of a family welcoming a new member.”

As far as human members of her family goes, Erin said she and Jay talked about having children every few years, but neither was ever that excited about the notion. “We both felt like we should really want to start a family, but we were both comfortable with where we were in our lives,” Erin said.

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Sullivan and Bodie are the two smaller dogs in the Buzick family, and they are each around 6 years old.
Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography

Erin and Jay’s family includes a nearly 9-year-old cat named Gwinner, named for the North Dakota town where he was rescued through “another amazing nonprofit” Erin supports called Cat’s Cradle. He’s pretty tolerant of his dog brothers and the many fosters he shares his home with, but “he makes sure the dogs know where they are in the pecking order,” Erin said. Those dogs include 2 smaller dogs named Sullivan and Bodie, who are around 6 years old as well as two big dogs named Tyson, 3, and Samson, 1.5. Both of them were adopted through TMAR, although they’ve been with the Buzick family since being rescued.

Erin is passionate about responsible pet care and finding loving homes for all animals. She hopes to see the impact of TMAR expand beyond its current footprint, and she’d love to see more people find what touches their hearts the most, just as she has.

“All women mother something – whether that’s a passion, children, or an animal,” she said. “We want to see life move forward and grow, and I encourage people to find what they’re passionate about and give life to it and mother it.”

Keep reading to learn more about what makes Erin a mod mom.

What do you and your husband do for fun?

We don't necessarily have a lot of hobbies. We do enjoy watching movies and working on projects around the house. Mostly, our time volunteering for the rescue IS a primary hobby and way that we spend quality time together!

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Did you ever think you'd become an animal advocate? 

I don't know that I consider myself an animal advocate even now! LOL. I just try to do the best I can with each animal that is directly in front of me. I have always had a special love for animals though. I feel very fortunate that I am in a position to help as much as I am able. My real hope is that maybe people will see what we do and be inspired to start their own journey to make a difference in an area that they are passionate about.

What life lessons have you learned through your involvement with Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue?  

Oh man, so many! Certainly be wary of the teeth, even if the tail is wagging — which goes for people as much as it goes for animals! But I think maybe just realizing the importance of finding the path that is yours and not worrying about the trails that others are walking. No matter what you do, there will always be those that criticize. The sooner you realize that those voices are not as important as the one in your heart and you start to give credence to your own voice and your own spirit above those, I think that is key. Absolutely listen for constructive input and take help as it is offered, but remember that just because your path isn’t what someone else would choose, that does not make it wrong.

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Erin has been a volunteer for Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue since 2018 and serves on the board of directors.
Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography

What has been the most rewarding part of fostering an animal? 

To me, it is the knowledge that my efforts helped or will help to make a family grow in love. The one that I am able to save will be able to join a family and increase the love in a household. Due to the type of fostering that I typically do, I do not always get to meet that family directly. However, what could be better than multiplying the amount of love in this world?

Most challenging?

The very hardest thing is the trust. You just have to constantly trust that the next family that takes them to foster or to adopt will love them like you do. Focusing on the very happy endings and trying not to think as much about the times where maybe things didn’t always have the outcome you had hoped.

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How did you find this passion? What would you tell other women about how to find their passion? 

Well, I knew I had a passion for rescue and so I wanted to help out an organization that not only aligned with my passion, but made room for me. I think that sometimes we burn ourselves out trying to convince people that we deserve to be at the table. I think it is so important that when you are pursuing a personal passion, that you find a group that welcomes you, flaws and all. Even more so, always make sure you are making room for the next person. Help those coming in behind you — make more space! Finding a passion is so terribly difficult. I am not sure I have any wise advice for that one! Just check in with yourself once and while. Are you still happy chasing that passion? Is the expenditure of time, spirit and love still worth it to you? Give yourself permission to change your mind with no explanations required.

If you could adopt any type of animal, what would it be? 

Baby goat!

What's the funniest thing any of your pets have done? 

Oh man! They make me laugh almost every day! I think I find it funniest when they work through something to outsmart each other. I had a foster dog once that wanted a chew toy that my dog was playing with. He didn’t want to share, so she ran over and found another one, started playing with it super excitedly. He abandoned what he was doing to go join in on the fun. She immediately dropped what she was playing with and bee-lined for the toy he left behind. She laid down and happily started chewing on it. My dog was so confused! I just love watching the group dynamics that happen!

How do you like to relax and unwind? 

I have a very small group of people that I just enjoy being with. Whether it is a quick cup of coffee at a coffee shop or hanging out at their kitchen table eating a donut with them and their kids, my very close group of friends is what refills my spirit. I have been incredibly lucky to meet some truly wonderful and beautiful people along the way. Spending time with them is always a blessing.

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The other two dogs in the Buzick family include Samson, 1.5, and Tyson, 3. Both came into the family through Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue.
Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography

What would you want anyone to know before adopting a pet?

Pet ownership is not for everyone and not even if it is for you, it may not be the RIGHT time RIGHT now. Pet ownership is a big commitment and I am not sure that people understand what that means. It is more than taking care of the physical needs like food, vet care and exercise. People domesticated animals — we brought them out of the outside world to live with us — so we have a responsibility to ensure we create a world that works for them, not just one that is convenient for us. That and —I always tell people — you want to get ready for a new pet? Go ahead and find your favorite or most valuable item and just break it before they arrive, rip off the bandaid and get it over with!

What do you see for your life in 5 years? 

I don’t know. And, I am okay with that! I have never been someone to be able to clearly articulate a specific long-term goal or a specific future dream. More than anything, I just have hopes. I hope that I am able to see the opportunities as they arise and capitalize on them. I hope that I can inspire just one person to do something in their community. I hope that I can always do better tomorrow than I did yesterday. Each day is such a beautiful opportunity; I hope that I never sacrifice today’s potential trying to chase an unpromised tomorrow.

If you’re interested in fostering animals or volunteering with Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue, please visit https://turtlemountainanimalrescue.org/ .

Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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