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Elgin woman gives a home to 'throwaway' cocker spaniels

By Elena Ferrarin April 22, 2015 - Daily Herald

Jana Frohlich knows perfectly well people think she's a little weird.

She chauffeurs her six cocker spaniels in baby strollers to the grocery store. She takes them on overnight stays at a five-star hotel in Milwaukee to celebrate their birthdays. Her home in Elgin is decked out in all manner of fancy dog pictures and memorabilia.

Jana Frohlich snuggles with Po'Boy, who is blind and never leaves her side. She adopts older and disabled cocker spaniels. John Starks | Staff Photographer   More Photos

But listen to the 50-year-old talk about her mission -- to give old and disabled cocker spaniels a second chance at life -- and you'll quickly realize she might be unusual, but she's all heart.

"People think I'm over the top as far as how I feel about my animals. I don't care at all. When you love something, there is nothing wrong with that," she said. "We're in such a disposable society. People have to have everything 'new, new, new,' and these (dogs) are throwaways. But to me, they're gold. They're just the best."

Frohlich has five elderly cocker spaniels she adopted from various shelters, plus 13-year-old Oliver, whom she got as a puppy. There's Po'Boy, 13, who is blind and always by her side; Ellie, 12, who prances about on three legs; Buster, nearly 11; and the oldest, 17-year-old Corty. The latest addition is 10-year-old Speckles, whom she took in about two months ago.

In the past 12 years, she gave a home to seven more cocker spaniels -- all ages 11 and up except one -- who lived with her until they died of illness or old age. "I almost can't say it," she murmurs when talking about the ones she lost. "These are my kids."

Caring for old and disabled dogs takes a lot of dedication, Frohlich said.

She gets up twice a night to accommodate the dogs' senior bladders and takes them to be groomed every six weeks. There are constant vet visits for everything from ear infections to kidney failure. Vacations are pretty much out of the question.

It also takes a lot of money, said Frohlich, who works full time for a mortgage company in Libertyville.

She estimates that she and her husband, Rudy, who are separated, have spent up to $85,000 on the cocker spaniels -- $8,000 alone on major surgery for Chelsea, who died just nine months later.

"You have to be willing to sacrifice. I have an old car, I have the same old clothes. But I don't care because I want the best for them," she said.

"When you have senior or disabled dogs, or multiple dogs, you really need the support of family or friends. I can't say that enough."

The first rescue cocker spaniel she took in was Miss Peabody, then 3, and adopted as a companion for Oliver. Her second rescue was 15-year-old Chelsea, who was featured in a newspaper's "ugly dog" contest, Frohlich said.

"She was so neglected and so ugly, but to me she was the most beautiful," she said. "That's what kind of told me that my mission was to take the ones that nobody else wanted."

Frohlich also fostered two cocker spaniels, Sonny, 12, and Solomon, 11, who have since been adopted by her neighbor, Robin Leabhart.

"I think it's great what Jana is doing," Leabhart said. "Her dogs would never find homes without her. She puts so much into it. If people think it's weird, I just try to explain the reason behind it -- it's the good she has in her heart."

Taking in rescue dogs initially made Frohlich bitter toward the humans who gave them up, she said, but that changed after she realized some owners had to give them up because of dire circumstances such as a death in the family. "I keep in touch with three of their families," she said. "That kind of reestablished my faith in people."

So what would she say to anyone who wants to do what she does?

"There is a lot of heartache. Losing one never gets easier. But just to know you really are giving somebody a life -- to me there is nothing greater," she said. "I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to help these little souls, and in turn they have helped me more than I could have ever imagined."

Read the original article in the Daily Herald.