Carole Owens: Doggie chauffeurs on errands of mercy

STOCKBRIDGE — I had no idea. There is an underground railroad for dogs. That may not be the proper term. The dogs are not escaping captivity. They are however being moved great distances from potential harm to safety. They are escaping neglect, abandonment, the ravages of hurricanes, and "high kill" shelters. They are being moved north to adopting families.

I found out about this organized long distance rescue mission in a most unusual way. I was at home when a strange truck pulled into my driveway. I went out to greet the passengers and ask who they were. They were drivers for the dogs. The dogs begin their journey in imminent danger and end at a home where they will be loved and cared for.

The folks in the truck in my driveway were doggie chauffeurs. They drive the rescued animal a leg of the journey. Each leg is approximately 50 miles. The total journey may be 1,500 miles; a span that requires 30 caring and willing drivers. At the rendezvous points they meet the next driver. They communicate via text and have photos of the other driver and of the dog. Before the dog begins to travel the long road, the dog has been matched with an adopting family.

Exactly how they plucked my address out of cyberspace was a mystery to everyone. Mine was a private home off the beaten track, not the usual place to meet. More often they meet at gas stations, shopping center parking lots and police stations. My address was an odd mistake, but it was serendipitous. It acquainted me with an effort I knew nothing about.

The dog in the truck, a medium sized, caramel colored boxer, was mostly friendly and slightly hyper. He had a new home on Cape Cod.

Speaking of him particularly or the dogs they transport in general, the woman said, "The storm was coming and someone tied the dog to a drain pipe and left him. "He rode out the storm and survived — not all of them do — and we rescued him. Afterward we find a home for the dog and deliver him."

Irma, Harvey, and Maria have left many animals homeless and many are finding new homes in Massachusetts. If you would like to adopt a dog in danger — if you would like to rescue a dog — you can find services online that m atch an animal and a home.

Some are more esoteric than others. For example the LBD Rescue focuses on the rescue, care and placement of black dogs who are — who knew? — in danger of euthanasia due to their color. Other organizations define their role more broadly. Some focus on rescuing dogs from shelters. Surprised?

"The majority of animal shelters in the United States are high kill shelters which means the shelter has a time limit and it euthanizes adoptable animals to make space for newly incoming animals," according to LBD Rescue.

If you are just learning about this as I just did, there are many ways you can get involved. You can be matched with a dog and adopt. You can support the effort with a donation. You can help keep the number of neglected or abandoned dogs to a minimum. Experts say these are the top three ways:

* Encourage anyone interested in a pet to adopt from a shelter rather than purchase a dog.

* Have your dogs spayed/neutered.

* Teach children to be empathetic, to care for and be kind to animals.

Twenty minutes late but in good spirits, the driver for the next leg of the journey arrived. The identities were double-checked. Our caramel colored boxer was transferred from truck to automobile and he was on his way to his new home. It was agreed that my house was not ideal as a rendezvous point, but I was pleased to know about the efforts of these nice people on behalf of man's best friend.

Carole Owens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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