On Friday after Valentine’s, a half-dozen or so other rescuers — none of whom I’d ever met before — worked to help “Tommy the Pommy,” a 10-year-old Pomeranian with health problems, skip his euthanasia date at the San Jose, CA city shelter and travel to his new foster home.
Everyone was happy with the outcome and I should say “foster-failure home” because his new mom, Andrea, seems likely to hold onto Tommy. She is also totally signed-up for the specialized care he requires.
Without this animal rescue transportation, Tommy would be another shelter casualty. And without such dedicated rescuers, his long-term future might have still been bleak. But the team assembled for Tommy’s rescue proved totally dedicated to this small dog, despite the serious health issues he faces.
On paper, there was every reason to euthanize this dog because of the care he’d require. But on-paper doesn’t include meeting Tommy, a sweet fellow who doesn’t seem nearly as sick as “on paper” described. Thanks to the shelter staff for helping us save Tommy.
My small part of the story (you could do this, too!)
I became involved on Thursday afternoon, once it was decided Tommy would need urgent animal rescue transportation from the shelter to his new home in Petaluma, about 90 miles to the north. Urgent because of his place on the “euth list” but also because of his health challenges. Tommy was placed in the shelter because he “urinates everywhere” according to his previous owner, who also had to have noticed other symptoms. Like the big noisy wheezes when he gets excited.
Tommy has been diagnosed as having a collapsed trachea, some fluid in his lungs, probably congestive heart failure, and the need for a calm household. But these diagnoses fit together, so treatment could potentially help them all. And he did not urinate in my carrier, BTW.
We all expected Tommy — who has a 5/6 heart murmur — to be a hospice dog, but he seemed better and stronger in person. Much better. His vet visit (an hour after arrival in Petaluma) was hopeful and he was prescribed several medications. If they work, Tommy will be with us, perhaps, for several years. He’s a friendly dog, easy to work with, and that alone should extend his life. That and everyone who has met him describes Tommy as the “Best Pom Ever!”
Drive to save lives
I am an administrator of a Facebook group called “Rescue Transport — California — Plus” that helps organize rides for rescue animals to caregivers. We have about 600 members and much of the work is done by small groups of members assembled for a particular animal’s transport. You won’t see that detailed conversation in the group itself, usually just transportation requests and offers of assistance.
To get Tommy to safety — and urgent medical care — I picked him up at the shelter just before 9 a.m., well ahead of his 5 p.m. date with a needle, put him into my carrier, covered the carrier with a light blanket, the better to stop droplets that might spread canine influenza virus (CIV) in my car, and drove him about 45 miles north to an auto parts store parking lot, just off the Interstate in Pacheco, CA. No, he doesn’t have CIV, but I am not willing to risk it.
At both ends of my segment, I posted pictures of Tommy to his transport group on Facebook. I also connected the “Find My Friends” app on my iPhone with the same app on the second transporter’s iPhone, allowing her to track my progress driving from my home to the shelter and then up Interstate 680 to our rendezvous. (There are other apps that share locations between smartphones, but if you are both/all using Apple devices, why not use the Apple app?)
Once I arrived, Wendy, the second transporter, who would take Tommy the rest of the way to Petaluma and home, helped him out of my carrier and into her carrier. He actually just walked through the two open gates and did all the work himself. There my responsibility ended. Once I posted the hand-off pictures, that is.
I was able to follow Tommy’s progress the rest of the day — including the results of his vet visit — and even saw pictures this morning of him settled into his new home. My commitment was 5 hours and a half-tank of gasoline, that much gas only because I live well off the optimal path. As commitments go, this was pretty minor though ultimately lifesaving. And while I only actually met Wendy, I made some new Facebook friends and rescue partners going forward.
Rescues need drivers and you can help
Hauling animals around may not be the most dramatic part of an animal rescue, but in many cases, it is absolutely essential. Rescues who will accept particular animals are often not close to the animals themselves. Or maybe a number of animals need to be taken to and from adoption events. Or taken to the airport for an airborne trip to a shelter or rescue located out of state. Animal rescue transport can be neighborhood, local, regional, or even cross-country.
It takes no special skill, just an appropriately-sized vehicle and pet carrier for the animal(s) involved. Your time with the animal(s) will be short, even if you are helping with a rental van driving across the state. But your help is essential to animals’ survival and our “save them all” mission.
There are transport groups both large and small, some of which charge rescues and are, essentially, small businesses. It is important for you to check reputations before agreeing to help. Our Facebook group is self-referential, in the sense that it is comprised of interlocking human relationships and reputations developed over several years. And, yes, there are a few people I choose not to work with, but that is personality and in an emergency, I’d just suck it up and plunge ahead. Animals always come first.
How you can help animal rescue transportation
Talk to your local rescues and offer to help with transporting their animals. You should have a nice-sized carrier ready to go at all times, complete with blankets and towels. You need a good slip-leash, hand sanitizer, and medical gloves are a good idea, too. The mapping program on your phone will help with directions and arrival times. A second rescuer on-board makes animal transfers easier and allows someone to be your navigator and communicator for the mission, especially necessary if you are coordinating hand-off locations while driving.
Animal rescue transportation is not something I do all the time but is something I am always happy to have done. After all, who could turn down Tommy-the-Pommy’s happy smile?