Tina Lopez-Eacret is not fazed by the eight Chihuahuas following her through her Ahwatukee home, yipping and barking for their first meal of the day. In fact, she has an entire thought out process on how to feed the many dogs that she executes quite well, all while donning bright red heals.

“I’ve always been very organized and very detail oriented,” she said.

Lopez-Eacret has dedicated her life to animals. From her many pets to countless hours of volunteer work, her life is consumed by her passion to help animals in any way that she can.

In the past, Lopez-Eacret only volunteered with animals. Now, she occupies the full-time position of executive director for Friends of Animal Care and Control, a nonprofit organization that raises money for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, which shelters and feeds more than 50,000 animals a year, and Spay/Neuter Assistance Program, which spays and neuters pets with no expense from the owner.

Lopez-Eacret stresses the importance of taking proper care of pets. She says that Maricopa County has the second largest pet overpopulation problem in the United States. She also says that the most effective way to combat the overpopulation is to prevent animals from coming into the shelters in the first place.

“We are working very diligently on trying to be creative about getting the message out there, that the program exists and the importance of spay and neuter,” Lopez-Eacret said.

One of these ways is through the organization’s thrift store, aptly named Friends Thrift Store, which sells clothes, furniture and kitchenware, with donations from the public and from My Sister’s Closet. Lopez-Eacret is even holding a spring-cleaning promotion for the month of April for the thrift store, in which she offers to pick up donations from friends of neighbors and take them to the thrift store, 12625 N. Cave Creek Road in Phoenix.

On top of that, Lopez-Eacret and the organization are working on a collaboration to get a large spay and neuter initiative passed through a confidential local foundation.

“If it passes and we get the funding for it, it will be huge for our community,” she said.

Lopez-Eacret has come a long way from her days working in real estate, which she gave up for animal care in 2006. While she enjoyed giving couples the keys to their first house, Lopez-Eacret felt she needed a better job when the housing market went down.

“I just felt like I wanted to make a difference. I (needed) to get more of a stable job, and if I was going to get an eight-to-five job, I wanted to get something that I was passionate about and work in a field that I feel good about,” Lopez-Eacret said.

The animal-lover has been working for Friends of Animal Care and Control for about a year now, and began to rent a friend’s Ahwatukee Foothills home just months after accepting the job. However, she has been passionate for animal care for a lot longer than that.

“I’ve always loved animals, but I think I found my passion for animals when I got a little Chihuahua and I just fell in love him,” Lopez-Eacret said. After that, she began to pay more attention to animals in the news.

“I think that animals have a special quality and ability to be able to provide comfort and healing and peace of mind for people,” she continued, “I think we have a lot to learn from animals because they live in the moment, they don’t expect much and they are grateful for everything that they get. If people were more like that I think we’d be in a much better world.”

• Diana Lustig is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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