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Meet the ABESR Pack


Alan Thayer


Around 2005 I was on my way to our family wood lot following a Jeep Cherokee with the license plate that read Partridge. Pretty soon an orange head poked up from the back seat and looked out the back at me. I was instantly in love.

I was in mourning just recently loosing Max a Dobie mix that was a big baby.  My wife said why don’t you look at English Setter Rescues. We then looked at various English Setters on Petfinder. We found and applied for an English Setter, was approved and adopted in the fall of 2007. I started fostering and working as a Transport Coordinator in the summer of 2008.

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Kathy Xydis

Vice President

In 2007, I saw a foster plea for a mixed breed hound-like dog and five tiny two-week-old puppies.

The picture of them was poor and the puppies looked like a big pile of the tiniest dogs I had ever seen. The timing seemed right and it looked like fun, so I decided to do it. I live in Michigan and as is typical in dog rescue, these guys were in Kentucky, so the dogs came north on a big transport van. They actually delivered them to our door, and surprisingly to me, there were actually nine puppies!

It was a crazy time, but we loved it and we were hooked on fostering puppies. 


I discovered A Better English Setter Rescue and we fostered our first Setters, Daisy and Dottie, in September 2016. Fostering with ABESR was always a great experience, and I loved the community of people, but what sold me on our group was that the foster could ultimately choose who got to adopt our dogs. We have foster failed with two ABESR dogs, Sara and Arlo.


I continued to foster and when there was an email asking for help in our Applications Team,

I volunteered. I started with Vet References and then proceeded to make some Intake Calls.

I received another email asking for help in Intake, and I decided to give it a try. Intake was a perfect fit! I found my rescue passion and a group of people that became special friends. Along the way,

I have also been a Buddy and have continued to foster primarily puppies.

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Cathy Rahlfs


After Sparky, my wonderful one-eyed Corgi/Sheltie mix, died, I adopted an English Setter from a local shelter. I knew nothing about English Setters, only that Wink was very handsome. Wink was graceful and good natured and put me on a great walking exercise program.  When Wink died, I vowed not to go through that heartache again … until I found myself searching the internet for English Setters.  I found Janis & Jimi through Another Chance for English Setters (ACES).  The rescue process was so wonderful, and the people were so committed, not only to the dogs, but also to finding the right match for me. Janis & Jimi were great companions and they led to a number of my adoptions and fosters.  I just had to pay it forward for rescue, so I volunteered for transports which filled me with joy seeing scared and homeless dogs delivered to their forever homes where they blossomed.  I followed the people I came to know to A Better English Setter Rescue and volunteered for the Board when they called for volunteers.  I am currently the Secretary of the Board.

Cheryl Bennett

Cheryl Bennett


When we were first married many years ago, we responded to a local newspaper ad and adopted a seven year old English Setter who had moved down from Pennsylvania to Florida, whose owner could not keep her. Tootie was an absolute sweetheart, and we fell in love with setters.  Poor girl was allergic to fleas, wool, and gunpowder, but she never had to hunt, so that was not a problem. Tootie lived to a ripe old age, and it felt like we had always had her. After that we have always had setters, and currently have three. 

I learned about A Better English Setter Rescue from looking on line, and thought it would be nice to do fostering.  I enjoyed that other people also loved English setters as much as we did and found everyone in the group to be great folks.  We fostered a few times, but found our own setter sisters were not as thrilled as we were with bringing dogs into our home. When an opening arose for a treasurer, I felt that I could serve the rescue better doing that, as I have worked in finance all my life.

I still occasionally foster, and actually a recent temporary foster turned into a foster fail, as this setter got along with our other dogs better than any others we had ever fostered. 


Jane Grothusen

Board Member

I grew up with English Setters. I started doing rescue when I found an English Setter in a local shelter.  I own Above and Beyond Transports and coordinate, along with my team, all of our transports throughout the eastern half of the United States. We bring dogs into rescue and lovingly deliver them to their foster and forever homes.


Gay Gutman

Board Member

I grew up with English Setters and loved them all.  When I made the decision to get a dog of my own, I considered other breeds, but my heart drew me back to English Setters. 

I admit it - I'm a Setter girl!


When I started looking into getting my own dog, I attended a rescue event - that was the jumping off point for me.  While my intent was to find a dog, that was my entry into the rescue world.


I am a Board member, but also am on the Applications Team and am the lead for the Buddy Team.  I like to think I have shared information on rescue and dogs in general with those outside of the group, and have helped as I am able.


Carolyn Smarsh

Board Member

I was always a Cocker Spaniel person until I was introduced to English Setters by a co-worker who was involved in rescuing them. She and her husband had a foster and after seeing his photo I fell in love. We adopted Otis and were forever sold on the breed. They are crazy outside and couch potatoes inside. As a result of saving Otis, we have gone on to save four more.


My husband & I have transported many setters and done Home Visits before the virus shut everything down. I am involved in fostering and send the approval letters for folks interested in adopting. I also “buddy” to help potential adopters find the right setter for their family. Then, I prepare & send the contracts for the lucky dogs and their forever family. It is time consuming work but so worth it!

I often say that “I have found my passion in life!”

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Debby Filler

Board Member

In 1992, I adopted a 4 month old Pointer puppy directly from a shelter. He was incredibly smart, and over the years, he taught me how to live with an active birddog. I never forgot. 


After he passed away, I waited about a year, and in late 2005, I adopted young Pointer girl directly from a different shelter. I successfully applied my previous lessons to this new girl, but as it often happens, she taught me more than I taught her. As she grew, she told me that she needed a pal, so I started looking through Petfinder – and I discovered the world of Rescues. In the fall of 2006, I started fostering, and one of the early fosters was an English Setter. I never stopped loving Pointers, and continued to foster Pointers, but by the time my Pointer and I had our first foster fail, we were both hooked on English Setters! My early lessons about how to live with active birddogs were invaluable, but she was the one that really taught me how to foster! My Pointer and I continued to foster both Pointers and Setters, but our foster fails were English Setters. 


My job became more demanding, and I stopped fostering. Several years went by and my pack got older and started to dwindle. I was ready for another foster. This time I looked for a rescue that specialized in English Setters, and I found A Better English Setter Rescue. I fostered sporadically, and as I got to know this rescue better, I found that I wanted to help in other ways, too. When I retired, I learned to do Transports, then moved into the Foster Home Coordinating Team, and then the Intake Team. I really like working in teams. I have a soft spot for adult and senior dogs, and any dog with special medical needs. I am also interested in grant-writing. I still assist in transports when needed, but I focus on Intake and Foster Home Coordinating. Somehow, amidst all those Setters, a senior Border Collie managed to sneak into my pack!


Natalie Pavlick

Board Member

Advisory Board

Deb Holtz
Stephanie Harpole

Lynne Newlin

Wendy Cort-Shay

Diane Urban

Susan Sommers

Anne Brletich

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