AR-News: (PA) Duo goes all-out in fight for underdogs
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Sun Oct 12 04:22:21 EDT 2003
By Mark Berton
Sunday, October 12, 2003
A dog-grooming duo in Avalon has taken up four-legged causes in the north
boroughs of Pittsburgh.
Lois Cummins, 45, and her stepdaughter, Tami Cancilla, 29, operate the
nonprofit organization "Spencer and Friends" out of their Avalon grooming parlor.
It's a calling they started answering 12 years ago. Spencer and Friends
officially became a nonprofit organization last year.
Cummins said she and Cancilla work as a team with the Avalon police and fire
departments and sometimes help out in neighboring communities.
This year alone, the two have answered more than 30 animal-related emergency
calls, such as building fires in which animals were trapped or injured,
arrests that leave suspects' pets without care and reports of animal abuse or
Two weeks ago, for example, they took charge of a dog rescued from a house
fire along South Birmingham Avenue until the owner, who was not home at the
time, was located.
"It's like canine Rescue 911," she said. "Chief (Robert) Howie will call,
we'll jump in the police car, and we'll head to wherever we're headed to. If the
dog is not hurt, we bring it back to the police station and we keep the dogs
there for 48 hours."
After that, the animal is housed at Avalon Veterinary Hospital until the
owner is located.
Not all their rescues involved calamities or severe abuse.
Spencer, the 13-year-old black lab mascot for which the organization was
named, was diagnosed with diabetes, and his former owner said he didn't have time
to give Spencer the treatment needed. Once 10 pounds underweight and lethargic
from askew blood-sugar levels, he now whiles away his days being petted by
customers and snoozing on his 101 Dalmatians pillow.
Spencer's "friends" include animals ranging from cats to guinea pigs.
"We just placed a Newfoundland, hermit crabs and six beta fish," Cummins
said. "It was a home where the lady died, but we found homes for everybody."
Cummins and Cancilla don't do fund-raisers because when people find out where
the two are located, they find animals left on their porch.
"It's sad how many people just abandon their pets. It's a throw-away world,"
Howie said that the help of Spencer and Friends has been indispensable to
"We can't do without it," he said. "We'd have to hire a contractor and it
would cost the borough money. They're never more than a couple of minutes away."
Dolly Archey, of Avalon, adopted Dario after he was rescued by Spencer and
Friends earlier this year.
Dario, a lab-shepherd mix, was found starved and severely dehydrated in crate
in a home after his original owner went into a coma and died in a hospital.
"He was hospitalized for a few weeks. When he got strong enough to be
released...we fell in love with him and decided to adopt him," Archey said.
While most of their rescues have happy endings, Cancilla and Cummins both
conceded the work is stressful.
"It gets to you," Cummins said.
"We've been overwhelmed with cruelty cases, but when they come back to visit
you and you see how well they're doing, that wipes it all away. When you tell
an owner their dog is safe up at the jail cell -- the one lady just sat down
and started crying. That makes it worthwhile."
Mark Berton can be reached at mberton at tribweb.com or (724) 779-7108.
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