Road Trip!

Homeless dogs on the Road!

Have you ever wanted to take a road trip but you couldn’t explain to your spouse the romance of the open road? Do you want to feel again the wind in your hair and the smell of the rain and wind blowing over a field of wheat? (More about the smell of, um, not wet wheat in a moment.)

Then, have I got a deal for you . . .

We were at a friend’s dinner a few weeks ago. Dan Bodelson and Sue Dean — the protagonists of this story — were there. The rest of us, spouses and ne’er-do-wells, were just the supporting cast.

After a third round of wine, Sue said that she was going to drive twenty dogs from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter up to the shelter in Golden, Colorado. About Sue. She is the tall, willowy, silver-haired animal advocate of our group. She might have been the dog masseuse I mentioned in a column a month ago.

Dan immediately asked, “Why are you driving shelter dogs to another shelter?” Dan is our resident artist, cowboy and former Chief of the Hondo Volunteer Fire Department.

Sue’s answer was that the Golden Shelter did not have enough dogs to meet the demand for adoptions.

There was a pause, and then we could see the lights go on in Dan’s mind: Road trip and helping shelter dogs. Before he even thought about it — which is the way of guys — he said, “Do you need another driver?”

Let the adventure begin.

But first, here is what I didn’t know. Transferring dogs between shelters to meet adoption needs is a growing part of the animal rescue movement, according to Mary Martin, the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society.

“We can get up to hundred dogs a month from shelters in the Los Angeles area, mostly small dogs, and get them adopted. Having small dogs also brings potential adopters to our shelter to see all of our dogs, so it’s been a big help.”

Mary went on to say that because of transporting adoptable dogs from Los Angeles to Santa Fe, one small shelter in the Los Angeles area has reduced the number of dogs they euthanize by almost fifty percent.

So our road trippers were embarking on a noble mission. However, before the noble mission hit the road, it had to deal with dog poop. It was only one dog, and in the dog’s defense it was because — Santa Fe being Santa Fe — there was not a gas station that had diesel fuel. The dog became confused by the multiple stops to fuel up, and he just couldn’t help himself.

It was at this point that Dan understood that he had not really thought through this adventure. But Sue had done it before and convinced Dan to soldier on. Dan’s advice, for future drivers, was to double check that you can open the van windows.

But the rest of the dogs were great, if “talkative.” The puppies were active in their crates. They would play with each other and then collapse, sleep and repeat. The older dogs seemed to just want to know, “Are we there yet?”

Of course, with sleeping puppies right behind you, they both had to resist the temptation to take two or three on their laps. If you’re reading this column, you know of this puppy attraction.

The wonderful end of the story was that as Sue and Dan and the dogs pulled in to the shelter in Golden, the staff there was excited to get the dogs. There were already potential “parents” there to greet them.

Dan and Sue drove back the following day knowing they had helped.

Of course, as with all noble efforts, transporting dogs from shelter to shelter has its problems that need to be managed. It’s important not to transport diseases with the dogs. It’s important to assure that the dogs are not stressed during the journey. (Maybe puppies on laps is a good idea!) Last, it’s important that we don’t lose our focus on getting local dogs adopted.

All things considered, transporting dogs to where there is need seems be a plus. And here I go back to Mary Martin. “If we had three things; high quality spay and neutering at every shelter, a robust transfer system between shelters and if no shelter allowed the adoptions of unneutered dogs, we could end the euthanasia of adoptable dogs.”

That’s the goal. Even the permeating smell of you-know-what in a van full of dogs is a small price to pay if we can make this happen.

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