People who volunteer in animal rescue have got to be some of the most giving people in the world. They come from all walks of life: businessmen, artists, librarians, secretaries, writers, laborers, teachers, truck drivers, sales people, probation officers and vet techs. I’ve met lots of different types of people in the twenty some odd years that I’ve been involved in rescue. All of them have made their own special contributions.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to converse and marginally work with a group of truly extraordinary rescue people: all of them volunteers for the Dog Rescue Railroad.
You’ve probably never heard of the Dog Rescue Railroad. Although there are volunteers all across the country that participate, unless you know where to look, you don’t hear much about it. Years ago, when I first heard of this group and met one of the volunteers, it felt like a very small, somewhat secretive and very singularly focused group. I don’t know if my first impression was right, but today, due to the explosion of the Internet, it seems enormous, far-reaching, and perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve come across in pet rescue.
Between 1810 and 1850, an informal network of secret routes and safe houses made up the Underground Railroad: a group of abolitionists who helped transport Black slaves to freedom and safety in the North. The Dog Rescue Railroad has taken this aspect of America’s history and has applied it to dog rescue. The basic tenet is simple: a shelter dog or rescue dog is not longer subject to geography. When a suitable home is found, it doesn’t matter where in the country it is. Volunteers draw up a route to get the dog from one state to another with legs of the journey specified in terms of miles and minutes. Then the route is posted far and wide on all the networks frequented by rescue volunteers. People volunteer to drive legs of the route (each leg from 1 to 2.5 hours), and when all of the legs are filled, the dog is transported, car-by-car, volunteer-by-volunteer.
When I needed to find a way to reunite a dog with his owner, I approached the Dog Rescue Railroad to see if they would consider helping to get the pooch from Kentucky to Florida. It took a focused organizer to divide the journey into manageable portions and six days to fill all the legs of the journey. Twelve people—strangers — came forward to help, and two dogs ended up making the journey with that group of extraordinary individuals. Thank you, to the thirteen unsung heroes who made the journey possible: Kim, Rocky, Bobbi, Hailee, Cathy, Elizabeth, Tiffany, Phyllis, Ana, Jeanine, Jay, Judy and Tom!
The reunion of dog and dog mom was a sight to behold.
If you’d like to read more about the Dog Rescue Railroad, check out Deborah Eades book: EVERY RESCUED DOG HAS A TALE: Stories from the Dog Rescue Railroad which is available on amazon. All profits go to animal shelters/rescues.