Saving lives one bark at a time

(Download Image) Susan Springer

At any given time, Susan Springer has up to four dogs, each at least 35 lbs., living at her house.

But all of them won't necessarily remain there for the rest of their lives. In fact, fostering a dog is much like fostering a child; the goal is to find an accepting, suitable, permanent home.

As a Tri-Valley Animal Rescue (TVAR) foster parent, Springer says she and her husband's volunteerism with the HOME Campaign agency was a natural extension.

"We started out walking dogs at the shelter, but we saw there was a real need for fostering," she said.

TVAR is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization whose mission is to end the unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals. TVAR cooperates with area shelters and rescue groups, primarily the East County Animal Shelter, to provide homeless animals with socialization, foster homes, medical care and an opportunity for a second chance. TVAR educates the public about spaying/neutering and responsible pet ownership; and matches suitable, responsible new owners with the animals through adoption events.

In fact, the Springers just placed their 24th foster dog with his forever family. The length of time a dog has stayed with the Springers has varied from one day to more than six months. It depends on the dog and the families looking to adopt.

She said TVAR has seen how the economy has affected people willing to adopt a pet by the sheer numbers of animals currently in shelters. "The adoptions have really slowed down and I think it's the economy," she said. "People are commuting a lot and they're not sure if they are able to care for a dog or a cat. There are a lot more animals in the shelter right now."

Some may ask why Springer is willing to bring dogs into her house that won't be permanent residents.

"We wanted to give these other animals a chance," said Springer, who has two adopted dogs of her own. "When they come out (of the shelter), they can't figure out who's in charge. We saw the need to help dogs with that transition. "

As for the dogs that may come out of the shelter a little ill behaved: "I'm armed with a squirt bottle and a can of rocks (used for making noise) to get their attention."

Springer heard about TVAR through the HOME Campaign and had contributed for many years before fostering pets about five years ago.

As for her reasons for volunteering: "Our business is to save lives."

For more information on TVAR, go to the Tri Valley Animal Rescue Website.