Sydney and Ed Busch wanted to make a difference in Henderson County when they moved to the Cedar Creek Lake area. They started Friends of the Animals.

Ed and Sydney Busch saw a need in Henderson County, almost 15 years later the organization they started with no money but a lot of determination, Friends of the Animals, has now performed 37,000 spay and neuter surgeries on cats and dogs.

Married for 41 years, the couple is dedicated to stopping the flood of unwanted cats and dogs in Henderson County.

After living busy lives in Dallas – Ed as a talk show host with WFAA radio and Sydney working with Texas gardener Neil Sperry – they found their way to Cedar Creek Lake.

After moving to Cedar Creek Lake, Sydney said there was such a need to rescue animals. As big as the task seemed Ed and Sydney were up to the challenge.

Sydney said they considered opening an animal shelter. She said the couple was given some really good advice when they were told not to open a shelter.

“The person that gave us that advice said we could do more good if we opened a low-cost spay and neuter clinic,” said Sydney.

With a few volunteers, including Joy Simmons who has been with Friends of the Animal family for 15 years, they set out to find a way to provide the community with a low-cost clinic.

“We spent a year raising money,” said Sydney. “We would have garage sales, stand in front of Wal-Mart, do any and all fundraisers to raise enough money to open the spay and neuter clinic.”

“We raised enough so we wouldn't go in debt,” said Sydney. “We were told not to build a place, but to lease because there would never be enough money to pay for a building.”

Busch said there is not any grant money for a rural clinic like Friends of the Animals.

“Most of the grant money available is used in bigger cities such as Dallas,” said Busch. “I guess they feel like more can be accomplished in a larger city.”

Friends of the Animals for a while received money from The Bob Barker Foundation. When that money was discontinued a local business owner in Gun Barrel City picked up the $300 a month Friends of the Animals was receiving from the Barker Foundation.

“It has been wonderful to get that money,” said Sydney. “We use it for people who can't afford the cost of spaying or neutering their pet.”

Once a year Friends of the Animals hosts a fundraiser at the Athens Country Club.

“Whiskers and Wags is our only fundraiser,” said Sydney. “We get very few donations other than through Whiskers and Wags.”

The 2017 Whisker and Wags fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, April 29 at Athens Country Club.

Busch said it's important to give other people credit for what has been accomplished at Friends of the Animals.

“We could not have come this far without the help of many people,” said Sydney.

Friends of the Animals has a staff of five with about 25 volunteers.

“We can always use more volunteers,” said Busch. “Some people may not be cut out for this chaotic atmosphere, but if they are we sure can use people to help on Tuesdays.”

On any given Tuesday Dr. Glen Campbell, the veterinarian at Friends of the Animals, will perform 50 to 60 surgeries. Campbell has been performing the weekly surgeries since day one.

“It has been great having Dr. Campbell,” said Sydney. “It's hard to find a vet who will spend a day doing one surgery after another.”

Local resident Sally Chapman volunteers each Tuesday to help with surgeries.

“Sydney is fabulous,” said Chapman. “She is so organized, she fills wherever she is needed.”

Staff member Joy Simmons, a dog lover, has been part of the Friends of the Animals since the fundraising days.

“I heard about it from friends,” said Simmons. “In the beginning, I just helped raise money.”

Simmons volunteered at Friends of the Animals for many years until recently when she accepted a staff position with the organization.

“Joy does a lot of our computer and paperwork,” said Sydney. “She gets here at 5 a.m. on Tuesdays and stays all day.”

Busch said people such as Simmons and Chapman are an integral part to the success of Friends of the Animals.

One of the veterinarians at the clinic may have summed Sydney up by saying “She is a person that can multitask. She is pulled in many different directions, but stays on course.”

It may have taken many years, but Friends of the Animals, thanks to the Ed and Sydney and many others, is now a self-sufficient non-profit organization.

What's next for Friends of the Animals?

For the time being Sydney and Ed are happy to help the community control its dog and cat population.

Eventually, she will find someone who is willing to be as dedicated as she has been to continuing what she and Ed started all those years ago.

Sydney may never reach her goal to have every dog and cat spayed and neutered, but Friends of the Animals have made a dent in the unwanted population with the 37,000 surgeries.

This story appeared in the 38-page People of Progress special edition published by the Athens Daily Review on Saturday, Feb. 25. To see more like this, view the entire e-edition of the Feb. 25 newspaper.

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