MILWAUKEE – Linda Teweles is a professional shadchan – a matchmaker. In the last couple of years she’s facilitated hundreds of matches.
“I’m a strong believer in bashert — that what is meant to be is meant to be,” said the Shorewood native.
Now, before you contact Teweles to have her make a match for your children or grandchildren, be advised that her matches are between dogs and people. That’s because Teweles is an adoption counselor for the Wisconsin Humane Society, 4500 W. Wisconsin Ave.
A doggone epiphany
Surprisingly, Teweles wasn’t always a dog person. In fact, she was anti-dog — so anti-dog that she threatened to throw her husband to the dogs when they were dating.
“I said, ‘If you want dogs, let’s end this now.’”
But about six years ago something changed.
“I was at a farmer’s market and some friends of mine brought their dogs,” Teweles said. “Then, it happened in a flash. I had an epiphany that I wanted a dog.”
She went to the website of the Wisconsin Humane Society. A surrendered 7-month-old puppy caught her eye.
“I knew that was my dog. There was something special. His eyebrows made me think of an old Jewish man.”
After the adoption, Teweles named the dog Murray, “because it sounded like an old Jewish man name.”
A year later, Teweles adopted a dog that was found wandering the streets of Milwaukee. She named her Olive.
Before becoming an adoption counselor, Teweles spent the majority of her professional career in social services, and was the assistant director of a homeless shelter for four years. Her sister, Trish Cohn, is the executive director at Ovation Chai Point, formerly Chai Point Senior Living, in Milwaukee.
“We both grew up with a strong passion for helping people,” Teweles said. “She takes care of the elderly, I took care of the homeless. But I got ‘compassion fatigue’ and needed to make a change.”
Learning new tricks
Teweles went on to work at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino as a corporate trainer, but she didn’t like it.
Then, while recovering from knee surgery, she decided to follow her passion for pooches. With little dog experience — other than raising Murray and Olive — she applied for the job she currently holds. That was about two years ago.
Since then, Teweles has learned a lot about dogs, as well as cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, mice and turtles.
Teweles said that being Jewish has played a role in her love for dogs.
“Unnecessary cruelty to animals, tza’ar ba’alei chayim, has helped shape my love for animals,” she said. “A dog can also bring shalom bayit, or peace in the home. They greet you at the door, and giving and receiving affection from a pet boosts serotonin and increases longevity.”
Although Judaism is a big part of Teweles’ identity, she doesn’t force it on her dogs. For example, even though her dogs are well over 13 in human years, they’ve never had bark-mitzvahs. When asked if she makes her dogs fast on Yom Kippur, Teweles said, “No, that would be a shonda!”
However, Murray and Olive aren’t completely without Yiddishkeit.
“They love my mother-in-law’s brisket!”