Off the Clock: A HART Full of Love

Posted: May 12, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Almost every Saturday, you can find Lisa Bartley, administrative specialist, Communication Department, at an area pet store surrounded by dogs and cats. As a volunteer for the Homeless Animals Rescue Team (HART), Bartley hosts the meet-and-greets where the organization tries to find permanent homes for homeless animals. As she talks with prospective owners about the foster animals she takes in, her eyes sparkle. Her passion and love for animals can’t help but shine through.

For two years, Bartley has been saving animals through HART, a no-kill rescue and support group that takes in dogs and cats that are stray, have been abused, or have been given up by their owners, and retrains them for adoption. As a foster caregiver, Bartley has given dozens of animals a temporary home and love, making sure they become healthy and happy. When the animals’ training is complete and they seem fit to be adopted, Bartley brings them to a meet-and-greet to search for an adoption family.

Because many of these animals have been in dangerous or abusive situations, finding families to adopt them can be difficult. “By the time the animals get to us, they have probably been through a lot of trauma,” Bartley says. “We want to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again to them. Our goal is to find them ‘forever’ homes.”

The process for becoming a forever home for a HART cat or dog is intensive. Prospective families are interviewed twice and their homes are checked before HART will place an animal. If a family decides to give up an animal after the adoption, HART asks the families to promise to return it to HART.

An animal lover her whole life, Bartley says HART has touched her in more ways than one. “Sometimes I think they’ve done more for me than I’ve done for them,” she says. “It’s such a rewarding, enriching experience. I feel so lucky to have found it.”

Lisa Bartley provides a foster home for Jack, one of the many homeless pets she has cared for.

Bartley has driven dozens of miles to pick up animals due to die in a shelter. She once picked up 13 animals in her van, saving their lives within hours. “We’ll take anything,” she says. “We do what we can.”

One of Bartley’s first experiences with fostering involved Penny, a yellow Labrador retriever that was frightened and nervous when she first came to Bartley’s home. “She didn’t even want to walk,” Bartley recalls. After a few months of careful love and positive reinforcement, Penny became friendlier and less frightened of people. She eventually found a home with a loving family and a huge backyard.

“I love the challenge,” Bartley says. “I always want the dog having the worst trouble because I love being able to find an adoption family for a dog that was unadoptable when I took it in.”

Although giving up the dogs to a forever home is difficult, Bartley says it is also fulfilling. “When I see the dogs running around in the backyard or doing something I never thought they would do when they first came to me, it makes me so happy because I know they’ve finally found somewhere where they are loved,” she says.

Bartley and her husband, Joel, did run across a foster dog that even they couldn’t give up. After several months of providing a home to Nadia, a pit bull and Labrador mix, the Bartleys decided to adopt her. She is now in obedience training and will eventually become a guide and role model for the couple’s future foster dogs.

In addition to fostering, Bartley also helps the organization by collecting donations. Faculty and staff at George Mason have been known to leave toys, food, leashes, and treats for HART animals under her desk at work.

For more information about HART and the dogs and cats it has available for adoption, visit the organization’s web site.

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