DAVENPORT, Iowa — This organization has a simple goal — to reduce the number of dogs living on the streets or in shelters by placing them into foster care until they are adopted.
“We wanted to rescue a little differently, so we started working on setting up Ruff Life Rescue of Illowa in November of 2016,” said Liz Zaharopoulos, a founding member of Ruff Life Dog Rescue of Illowa
Liz nominated her sister, Sarah Savoie, treasurer and founding member, along with Ashley Slota, the rescue's current president, for the Pay it Forward award.
Sarah got involved in rescue through her sister, Liz, when she moved to Davenport in 2015. Then, she helped her sister create Ruff Life Dog Rescue of Illowa.
Ashley started out as a volunteer for the rescue. She knew she wanted to get into fostering, and once she wasn’t working two jobs anymore, she decided to start.
“I honestly just googled, you know, rescues in the area and Rough Life popped up. And I really like what they had to offer, so I just put in an application and got my first foster in like a week," she said.
“Ashley started fostering for us. And then we found out she loved fostering puppies. So she became one of our more successful fosters” Liz said.
Once the former president stepped down, Ashley rose to the occasion and took the position.
“Ashley and Sarah are super caring individuals," Liz said. "They’re some of the most honest, trustworthy people that I know of. When you’re running a non-profit organization, that’s everything."
All three women have fostered dogs themselves. Liz has fostered 15 to 20 dogs, Ashley just took in her 65th and Sarah has fostered nine, with two being what's called a "foster fail."
“A foster fail is when you’re fostering a dog and you’ve decided you can’t let it go,” said Sarah.
In fact, she ended up keeping the very first dog she ever fostered after falling in love with him.
“There are so many dogs that I could have kept — such amazing dogs, but I want to continue fostering and you know you only have so much space in your house,” Ashley said, explaining how she had never foster failed.
Fostering a dog can be as short as one week or as long as Ashlety's current foster dog, Gracie, who she's had for 14 months. The average is usually four to six weeks.
It can get emotional at times when the dog must leave them
“It's hard to see them go. I’ve left many adoptions bawling like an idiot. But you know you feel comfortable knowing that they’re going to their forever home,” Liz said.
But once you foster a dog, you are a part of its life story. The crew still gets updates from previous dogs they have fostered.
“I get updated from every single one of my fosters so even years later, like some of my first fosters I’ve ever had still talk to me,” Ashley said.
Ruff Life rescues dogs not only from within the Quad Cities, but as far south as Oklahoma.
“They have a very high euthanized rate down in the south," Ashley explained. "And so, their shelters are super overcrowded. So we work with them to help alleviate the stress on their shelters. And we also work locally to do that as well when we are needed."
There is a process to becoming a foster parent, the first is filling out an application on their website that takes less than 15 minutes. From there they do home visits and reference checks.
If you’re not able to adopt a dog right now, the rescue recommends that you share their Facebook posts if you happen to see them.
“Share them — you never know (if) you have a friend of a friend who may be interested in adopting,” Liz said.
Besides sharing their post, you can also donate your time and money. Ruff Life holds fundraisers throughout the year and one of their biggest ones is coming up — the Egg Hunt.
This will be the fourth egg hunt that the rescue has done since they began in 2019. A family will pay 20 dollars for the crew to hide two dozen eggs filled with candy in their yard. Ruff Life usually does the front yard, but you can specify if you want the eggs put in your backyard. Last year, they had 20 volunteers deliver close to 4,000 eggs across the Quad Cities.
The second big fundraiser they have is a volleyball tournament in Long Grove. It is a two-day event — one for people who play at lower level and another day for people who play at a higher level. They play for bragging rights, but there are raffles, T-shirts and other prizes.
The money that has been awarded will help with the dogs' vetting needs.
“One dog that we bring in new to the rescue tends to cost about $300 if they don’t have any other specific health needs,” Sarah explained.
Adopting a dog from them only cost $250, so they are not making any money off the dog.
“Ultimately our goal is just to save as many dogs as we possibly can and the biggest way we can do that is to have fosters,” Ashley said.
Do you know someone that goes above and beyond for his or her community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay it Forward to them. Click here to nominate someone you know.
See previous Pay It Forward award winners: