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Gainesville family believes fostering a dog is a 'badge of honor'
Varneys open their home to Brittany spaniels
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Brittany spaniels Gus, left, and Riley belong to Tom and Laura Varney of Gainesville. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Pets come to families in a lot of different ways.

Some pets are purchased through breeders while others are adopted from shelters. But sometimes pets are fostered by caring families until a more permanent home can be found.

Tom and Laura Varney have been fostering a Brittany spaniel named “Gus” for the past year and a half through the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network. NBRAN, a nonprofit organization, seeks out homeless Brittany spaniels specifically and typically places the dogs in foster homes until a permanent family is located. While in foster care, the dogs are spayed and neutered, socialized and treated for any medical conditions. The organization pays for the animal’s care.

The organization produces calendars featuring owner submitted photos of the dogs to raise funds. The 2014 calendar features several photos of the Varneys’ dogs and is available at

The Varneys said they fell in love with the breed after adopting their first dog, Sierra. Shortly after Sierra’s death in 2007, the Varneys found their dog Riley thought a local breeder.

Known for being a high-energy breed, Laura said she was thinking about getting another dog to play with Riley. One afternoon while speaking with a Gainesville dog groomer, Laura heard about Gus.

NBRAN adopted Gus after he was left at the Hall County Animal Shelter. In addition to having a few behavioral problems stemming from his lack of socialization, Gus was heartworm positive.

So, the Varneys took Gus into their home. Laura said Gus requires a lot of effort, but “it’s what he needs.” She explained Gus isn’t quite ready to be a successful adoption, but she’ll continue working with him until he is.

Tom Varney said helping Gus has been a wonderful experience. He said since bringing Gus into their home, he’s met a lot of other people who’ve done their part to help homeless animals.

“It’s been amazing how many people I’ve run into who have rescued dogs and are so proud of it,” Tom Varney said. “It’s like a badge of honor.”

Nancy Cook, Southeast director of NBRAN, said foster families provide a valuable to service to a homeless Brittany and the families who eventually adopt them.
“Foster families get to know the Brittnay, they get to know their little personalities,” Cook said. “We get a lot of questions like ‘Are they child friendly?’ and ‘Are they good with cats?’ That’s what the foster assesses.”

“At the end of the day, it’s really about finding a great Britt a great home,” she continued. “We try to match the applicant with what they’re looking for. Brittanys as a breed have a lot of things in common, but each one of them have different little personalities.”