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Our Staff


Executive Director Lauren Brinkman founded Underdog in 2012 after volunteering with other humane organizations throughout Wisconsin for about 10 years. Lauren’s deep care for animals led her to form a rescue and vet clinic that helps the neediest of animals, while providing a quality experience for our adopters, volunteers, and clients.  Under Lauren’s leadership, Underdog has grown to save thousands of lives through our 150+ foster homes with support before, during, and after adoptions take place. Lauren and her family live on the north side of Madison with their rescue cat, Snax. 


Meet Dr. Lenore! She grew up in the Fox Valley area in Wisconsin and absolutely loves Madison. Her main passion in life is to reduce the number of unwanted animals, and provide a good quality of life for the animals she cares for. This is why she's very excited to be a part of the Underdog team. In her free time, she is always with her dog Olive (who's a street dog from the caribbean), doing outdoorsy activities or agility. 


Dr. Linda Teeter is excited to be a part of the Underdog team.  She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of  Veterinary Medicine and has over 20 years experience in small animal medicine and surgery. In addition to enjoying the science of veterinary medicine, she has always been very passionate about the human-animal bond and continually strives to enhance that bond.  Dr. Linda is looking forward to assisting clients, fosters, and adopters in providing the best quality of life for their furry companions. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and dogs.

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Kaitlin Jenkins is Underdog's Foster Coordinator. She has been working in the animal rescue field for the last 20 years. Kaitlin began fostering with Underdog upon moving to Madison in 2018, and eventually joined our volunteer application processing team as well. She enjoys working closely with our foster homes to ensure that both our foster families and adoptive families have a wonderful experience adopting from Underdog. 


Our Development Coordinator Jolene Zimbal has always been an avid animal lover. She grew up working at horse stables, competing in horse shows and dog shows as well as fostering dogs for her local shelter. Jolene
graduated from Madison College’s Certified Veterinary Technician program in 2014. From there she began her CVT career in Large Animal emergency medicine at the University of Wisconsin.
Though she truly enjoyed working with horses, cattle, pigs and more, the overnight shifts were becoming too much. For the next year, she spent her time as an assistant manager of another
clinic before making her way to Underdog in the fall of 2019. Not only does she work within the rescue but also assists in the vet clinic with her CVT experience. Jolene married Zachary in
2020 who she met at Madison College and he is also a CVT. Together they have three dogs; Douglas, Armando and Charlotte as well as a horse named Ruby. Jolene competes with her
Chihuahua, Armando, in a sport called Barn Hunt regularly. Her goal is to begin competing with her horse


Emily Hernandez-Elizalde joined the Underdog team as a Veterinary Assistant in March 2021. She has worked hard and quickly took on more of a Vet Tech position. When asked
why she wanted to work in the veterinary profession, this is what she had to say. “Animals have always given me so much love, comfort, and joy. I choose to work as a Vet Assistant
because I want to give that love back to the animals that need it. I graduated from UW-Madison with a Bachelor’s in Legal Studies but realized I needed to change my career path to find something more meaningful to me. My position at Underdog fulfills that desire. I am very happy to be working at Underdog because I’m able to see the progress that rescue animals make, especially when finding their forever homes. It can be challenging, but I have
learned and grown so much. I look forward to continuing to assist in the care of all the pets that Underdog sees.” In her spare time she loves painting, camping, and hiking with her boyfriend and dogs, Lucy and Marceline. Lucy is her rescue dog that she adopted as apuppy during COVID and Marceline is an adopted Underdog! Lucy and Marceline brought her so much happiness during a time of uncertainty and has contributed to her desire to
help other rescue pets.


Lucy Chiaro joined the Underdog team in August 2021 as a Veterinary Assistant. She helps keep the clinic clean, wraps surgical packs and assists with appointments. She enjoys
working at Underdog because she gets to learn new things everyday. She has spent the last 6 years working with animals, and has loved every minute of it. When asked why she wanted to be a Vet Assistant, this is what she said. “The animals in my life have always been there for me for comfort and support, without me ever asking. I want to return the favor by making sure they are taken care of just as well as they took care of me.” She currently
has 2 cats, 4 rats, 2 guinea pigs, a chinchilla, a tarantula, and a gecko. In her free time she likes to be outdoors camping, foraging, and drawing.


France began working with Underdog in 2020 as a receptionist. She has two dogs and two guinea pigs. Being an animal lover, France has had many dog-related jobs. After high school,
she began working at a doggy daycare and currently France also works as a groomer for Grooming Tails. All these dog-related jobs helped encourage France to join the Underdog team.

Our Board of Directors


Melissa Burchell-Dogra, Board President, has loved animals since childhood.  She began fostering with Underdog after her rabbit passed away; the apartment was too empty without a pet, but it was too soon to adopt again.  She and her husband have two rescue dogs, a "foster fail" cat, and always have at least one foster dog, cat, or bunny living with them.  Melissa is an attorney by trade and enjoys applying the methodical side of her brain to organizing and process improvement behind the scenes of Underdog.  Fostering is her principal hobby; it brings a lot of joy to be able to pull an amazing foster animal, who through no fault of their own was in a shelter without options, and then see them feel confident and loved.


Sigrid Fanale, Board Member, joined Underdog in 2016 as a foster. She has previous vet clinic and grooming experience. Sigrid continues to foster all kinds of animals with her three mixed breed dogs adopted from Underdog.


Holly Jaeger, Board Member and Social Media Coordinator, has been with Underdog since 2018. Her witty personality and enormous love for animals shines through her social media posts. She devotes her fostering efforts to 'bully breeds' to offer as much support and training to the dogs who are the most discriminated against. Holly has worked as a veterinary technician, admissions supervisor at a humane society, and has trained service dogs. She also has a lot of experience working through behavior difficulties. She lives in Madison with a quirky cat and 3 dogs, including the famous Underdog Barketing Manager Quinn. 


Stephanie Koester, board member, is a certified veterinary technician and has worked in animal welfare for over 10 years. She was drawn to the field after she started working part time at our local Madison shelter while completing her degree in Animal Sciences at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the Assistant Director of University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program, where she consults with shelters and rescues around the globe and shares research and education surrounding best practices in animal welfare. UW Shelter Medicine Program is proud to work closely with Underdog Pet Rescue and connect them with other shelters and rescues to learn from and support one another to save more lives. Stephanie and her family live in Madison with her former foster - now forever dogs, Bruno and Rucker, who are fantastic foster siblings to a variety of Underdog foster kittens and dogs. 

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Steph Tauscher is a Board Member and a member of the training team. She started working with dogs 9 years ago in a client capacity when her then baby Great Dane, Bane, started training classes. She made it through one puppy class and decided that training and being with dogs is what she needed to do for the rest of her life. Her favorite part of working with dogs is teaching dogs they have a choice, and teaching humans the language of “dog” just like any other foreign language. Puppies especially have a SUPER special place in Steph's heart. There is just something special about those first few months. She loves spending time with the little, moldable puppies and watching them grow and figure out life. Steph was introduced to Underdog 2 years ago, as a foster specializing in “baby ones” as she calls them. What drew her to Underdog, was the focus on incorporating positive reinforcement into their foster and adoptive homes. She is honored to  be a part of the training team that drew me to the rescue in the first place.


Steve Ticknor, Board Member, is a nonprofit professional who has worked in fundraising, corporate and community engagement, & development operations for the past seven years.  He discovered his love of rescue animals when he started fostering cats with his partner in 2019.  He then officially became a "cat guy" after foster-failing his first-ever pet, Luci.  While his home is full (per his lease), his heart is not, and he continues to help Underdog's mission by focusing on development and fundraising efforts. 


Jennifer Whetstone, Board Member, joined Underdog in 2016 as a foster and has gradually added puppy application processing, intake coordinator and board of director member.  While dentistry is the daytime passion, the animals in need and rescue are near and dear to her heart.  

Sara Wiesner, Board Member, has been involved with animals in many ways over the years. As a former school teacher, she has continued the gift of educating others through being a professional dog trainer. Her true passion is saving lives, and she works with a network of shelters to develop relationships and help Underdog take in animals who truly need a second chance at life! She resides in Madison with her husband and their eight wonderful dogs, ranging from small to large!

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Susan Shepanek is delighted to be the feline behavior support volunteer at Underdog.  She credits her first stray cat, Archie, adopted in 2003, with whom she began her deep appreciation for felines, enthusiastically reading the small amount out there at the time about physical care, as well as in order to be happy and healthy, understanding how they perceive their world.  Archie at 20 years old, passed peacefully at home in 2017, and she vowed to him that she would continue somehow, someway, to serve cats by raising their status among the public, and supporting a cat’s people to understand them, which deepens their bond. Making her cat-centric, loving home together with her other stray, 14 year old, elder lady cat, Addy, since 2008, is the top joy of her life.  She also enjoys gardening, friendships, meditation, and winter-feeding the birds and wildlife.  They live on the near east side of Madison.  

About Underdog Pet Rescue

Underdog Pet Rescue is an all-breed companion animal rescue based out of Dane County, Wisconsin. Our mission is to find permanent homes for animals in need, and to enrich lives by strengthening the connection between animals and people through community services and outreach. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

WI DATCP Licensed Rescue #281765

In 2016, we were able to provide care for and adopt out 96% of the animals we transferred in. That means that of all the animals we took in, many of whom were sick and behaviorally unevaluated, 4% passed away of natural causes (i.e. failure to thrive in kittens) or were euthanized for severe behavioral or medical concerns

2019 Animal Intakes and Medical Reporting

2018 Animal Intakes and Medical Reporting

2017 Animal Intakes and Medical Reporting

2016 Animal Intakes and Medical Reporting

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