A hard to write story …

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I am a fair to middlin’ essayist. All you need to do for an essay is to pick one salient point, hammer it home while avoiding bunny trails, and stretch it out for three to five hundred words. On the other hand, I can do a rant, selecting three salient points, drive them home, then sum it all up.

But this type of writing that I am doing here is one I have never had a lot of luck with. The behind the scenes story. I have tried twice to tell it now, and I am still unsatisfied with the progression of it, so you may get it yet again. Nevertheless, I will keep pecking away at it because it needs to be told. It is long, passive voiced and rambling, but I hope you stick with it. It is a tale that needs telling.

Many of my fellow transporters and rescuers will say this is a half-told tale. And they would be right. I just ask them to be a bit merciful if I omitted an important aspect of it. I only have 1200 to 1500 words to get it all out.

Last year I retired from active work in my local congregation, and began to look around for a less demanding place where I could put whatever talents I had to work. Driving is the one occupation that remains, and so one day I accidently stumbled across a group of volunteers who transported rescued animals all over the US. I didn’t know then that was to be my introduction to some of the most giving people that I have ever met. I do not have words that would laud them enough.

I filled out the questionnaire on one national transport site, purchased a couple of medium sized live animal crates and within a week I found myself transporting “Roy”, an older hound that was badly infected with red mange, who was being transported to a safe haven to live out the remainder of his days.

I don’t know what Roy’s history was, but he had evidently had a lot of training, and he endured the transport with a stoicism that was near heartbreaking. With hardly any urging, he jumped into the car kennel as the previous transporter handed him off to me, and rode without complaint to the next point where I handed him off on the last leg to his new home. Roy would have been a perfect match for an old widower to live out their final years together. Nevertheless, I am sure that he is happy in his new home and today is mange free.

The vast majority of the rescue people and transporters are women, though I have met a few men who take the time to alleviate the suffering of those who do not have a voice. The women are outstanding. One that I met went right onto the grounds of a group connected with Mexican gangs to document the abuse of the dogs, and gathered enough information to break up one dogfighting ring.

And when the hurricanes strike the coast, hundreds of these unsung heroes throw transport kennels into the back of their cars and they tirelessly go looking for lost and abandoned pets, finding temporary shelter for them, then photographing each one and putting out flyers in the communities where they were recovered.

However, I did not sign up for that level of involvement. I just pick the dogs and cats up here, and take them there, and often I don’t even know the history behind them. Maybe that is a good thing. It has gotten me involved in local animal control efforts. Here we have a huge problem with feral dogs, and there is not much that you can do for them other than be as humane as possible. Rabies, heartworm, parvovirus and tick infestations are the rule in this part of the world, and the adoption centers and shelters have their hands full. Treating them is not often an option, and as much as I hate it, euthanasia is the more humane method for many of these animals.

But the few who can be adopted out, mostly estrays that their owners hadn’t micro chipped or tagged, do get a chance both in the receiving shelter as well as the many who go to a foster family. The fosters work tirelessly to get their charges rehomed. Moreover, pregnant females invariably find fosters that will keep the mothers and pups together until they are old enough to adopt out. One group of puppies that I was recently involved with were of that type. Now the mother will be treated for heartworm and malnutrition, be spayed, and then the effort at finding her a lasting home begins.

Literally thousands of unpaid individuals oversee all of this. Shelters themselves can only keep the dogs in cages, hoping that someone will come by and take a dog with them. However, their work is mostly in vain. There are more animals than the adopters or sanctuaries can keep up with, so a hard eye has to keeping the more adoptable animals in the forefront, and euthanizing the rest. It is a heart rendering process, and the turnover in shelters is very high.

That is where these unheralded volunteers shine. Breed specific groups that concentrate on one breed cull the pounds and shelters for those breeds. Usually they need a 501(c)3 enrollment before the shelter will release the dog. Again, that is where I come it. One woman I have worked with rescues Bull Terriers. When the pound gets one, either they call her, or she pesters them for their breed list. She will then make the trip to the pound to look determine if the dog is suitable for their program. If it is, she puts a claim on it, the pound keeps the dog for whatever the required period is for the owner to redeem it, and when that time is up, the dog is released to the rescue agency.

Again, that is where I come in. In the case of a Bull Terrier, I pick up the dog from whatever shelter it is in, and transport it to her. Often, this is a 100-mile or more round trip for me. My pay for this is pictures of the dog and its new owner. I am sufficiently and well paid!

Another group takes in pregnant Lab females, provides pre and postnatal care for the puppies, and delivers them to their adopting agencies all over the USA. The puppies are not just given out. The rules are that an adopter gets a home visit first, and then the puppy is delivered. The puppies often travel great distances, such as the latest group that I transported that went to Rhode Island from Texas.

Through a huge network of volunteers, the puppies were transported in ninety-mile “legs” across the US, and spent two nights at temporary foster homes where they were allowed to roam in larger quarters, fed and watered. The foster would let them out to play and potty again in the morning before first light, give them a very light breakfast, put them back into the transport kennels, and help load them on the first leg of that day’s journey.

We can follow their journey via private chat windows that are opened up just for that trip, and it is pleasant to hear each driver make comments on the puppies as they travel. One of the larger males that I had figured out how to open the latch of the kennel, and got to ride in the drivers lap until she could get to a place to pull over and re-secure him. Note to self: Remember to put a handful of tie-wraps in the travel bag.

So there you have it. Some unsung heroes. If you are retired and have time on your hands, and a little disposable income, consider this small effort as an outlet for paying life back.


2 thoughts on “A hard to write story …

    Lia said:
    January 3, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I never grow tired of hearing you tell about this work you and others are doing. I had no idea that the pups were transported such long distances , but if it is to a good home , a forever home, then it is worth the trip i am sure. I applaud you and admire your dedication to this cause Rusty. Keep telling the story 🙂


    rifka said:
    January 6, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Hey Cool Rusty we seem to be in the same line of work, I work at Sanilac County Humane Society. Shelters have so many different needs any retired person looking for something could certainly find something that satisfied them volunteering at an animal shelter. I see many retirees coming thru our office of late, doing so many things. We have walkers who socialize with the animals, people who clean, others that collect money from boxes throughout the year. I could go on and on. What I really would like to do in my spare time would be to write about the things that happen. Working at one opens ones eyes to many realities that they may never have known, some good, some bad. You laugh and cry at so many things that happen, I wish everyone could experience what I have since starting there. A book could give just a sample of it all. I love finding forever homes for some great dogs and some very great caring people or watching an elderly lady who is so lonely come back into her own by helping out and enjoying those animals she treasures. Keep up what you do Rusty its the greatest!!!!!


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