April 2009

A dog’s best friend

Bert Debusschere says he and his wife, Mary, have always liked animals, but &“we probably didn’t realize the extent to which we would have a passion for this activity.”

He refers to a nonprofit canine rescue organization the Debusscheres founded in Tracy, Calif., between Stockton and Livermore, where Bert is a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories. It’s why he says free time is “nonexistent, like having a full-time job next to my full-time job,’ although Mary carries most of the burden.

The Debusscheres were drawn into helping dogs when they took a basic obedience class with Nicky, their female Rottweiler.

“Someone was looking for volunteers to take foster dogs,” he says. “We figured this would be a good way to learn about different breeds for our second dog.”

Providing foster care for abandoned and abused dogs “kind of opened our eyes” to the plight of homeless dogs at risk of euthanasia in the community, he says.

In 2004 the couple filed papers to form Friends of Canines Animal Rescue, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. It specializes in Rottweilers and other black and tan dogs, but will place any breed or mixed breeds.

The organization finds foster homes for dogs held at local shelters. The dogs are placed in permanent homes after volunteers help address their medical and behavioral issues. In a typical year, Friends of Canines places 40 to 50 dogs, Bert Debusschere says.

The Debusscheres did get a second dog, a Doberman-black Labrador retriever mix named Derek. Although Nicky now lives happily with another family, a multitude of foster brothers and sisters ensure Derek is rarely alone, Bert Debusschere says.