By Jim Diamond
On the ice, Barret Jackman is known as a tough stay at home defenseman who plays with an edge. Similarly, forward Austin Watson usually plays on Nashville’s fourth line, which is thrown out there when the team may be in need of some energy through physical play or to kill off a penalty.
Away from the rink, Jackman and Watson have a softer side in their shared passion for shelter and rescue dogs. Between the two, they share their homes with five former shelter dogs.
Dogs end up in shelters or with rescues for many different reasons, and quite often those reasons are not pleasant ones, and not usually the fault of the dogs either. But many who have gone through the process of adopting a pet from a shelter can attest to the fact that those animals just need to be given a chance. When given that chance, they can be an amazing addition to a family.
“Everybody loves pets and animals, and I think when you go to the Humane Society or the rescue facilities, it’s really disheartening and you almost feel badly if you leave there empty-handed,” Watson said.
While playing in the American Hockey League for the Milwaukee Admirals, Watson and his wife Karly became involved with the Humane Society of Milwaukee. And they didn’t often leave empty-handed when they visited.
“My first year in Milwaukee, I had my wife with me at the time,” Watson said. “She wasn’t working, she’s Canadian, so we got a dog. And we ended up having two more by year end.”
Shelter dogs have been known to be of mixed breed varieties, and the Watsons’ brood is no different. Bubba is a basset hound mix, Bongo is a black lab and chow or maybe a little pit bull, and they also have a Husky named Brianna.
Playing his first season with the Predators, Jackman spent his first 12 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues. In the Gateway City, along with his wife Jenny, Jackman and several of his teammates with the Blues became involved with Stray Rescue of St. Louis.
“When my wife and I got married, we were combining two houses, so we didn’t need anything for wedding gifts, so we tried to find a cause that was close to both of us and we ended up working with Stray Rescue trying to build awareness for stray dogs in St. Louis,” Jackman said.
For the Jackmans, their love of animals is something that they have passed down to their children.
“We have two (dogs) right now,” Jackman said. “We fostered probably about a dozen different dogs until they were adopted. We had one that passed away about a year ago. We’ve always had them in our home. Our kids know the feeling of going down to the shelter and helping out a little and picking out their new best friend.”
Finding a new friend and giving that friend a chance at a forever home can be as easy as a trip down to the local shelter.
“They are a real blessing to us,” Watson said. “They are part of the family. We have a great time with them.”