As a volunteer who works with a number of companion animal rescue organizations, I am frequently called upon to help transport dogs or cats from their foster home to their new guardian.
A transport may require that the animal be moved many miles from one area of the country to another. When transport requires hundreds or thousands of miles, the move is usually accomplished through a cooperative effort involving anywhere from 2 to several individual short trips, each of which gets the animal a little closer to its destination. These runs are popularly known as CUR (Canine Underground Railroad) runs or, in the case of my organization, LaRCs (Louisiana Rescue Caravans).
In early November 2000, I helped with relocating a pair of Pekingese who'd lost their home when their guardians divorced. Since this was a bonded pair, PCA (Pekingese Club of America) had gone to great lengths to find someone who would take them both. This necessitated a move to Texas for these two little dogs. My leg of the transport was from the welcome station on the west bound I-10 at the Mississippi/Alabama state line to Slidell, Louisiana.
It was an overcast day and the temperature was mild when I pulled into the welcome station at about 4 on a busy Friday afternoon. I saw her immediately. A dog with "that look".........head down, tail between her legs skulking near the bathrooms and refuge cans.......desperate for a comforting hand but not able to trust that an extended hand wouldn't deliver a blow instead of a pat on the head.
People were busily going to and from their cars, most of them intent on attaining the destination that'd put them on the road. Some watched with interest as a man slowly walked toward the dog in a half crouch with his hand extended. He was offering fresh water in a small paper cup.
The man would take a step and the dog would retreat a step......keeping a distance...wanting human contact but not confident that her trust wouldn't be betrayed. When I realized what was going on, I silently walked to within about 10 feet of the dog and sat down on the ground. She immediately came in my direction and, as I put my arms out, collapsed into them and leaned against my chest. Safe. She seemed to be relieved, and just melted into my arms. The man came forward with the water and from the safety of my arms, she drank the clean, cool water. She was thirsty.........
Then she turned to look at me. She had blue eyes!!!!!
I asked the guard at the welcome station about the dog. The answer? "Oh, she's been here a couple of weeks now. Somebody dropped her off. I've been feeding her." As we talked about the dog that I came to call Blu, a group of tourist approached the guard with their camera and asked her to make their picture.
The group then gathered around the "Welcome to Mississippi" sign and posed. Before the picture could be snapped, Blu trotted up, and sat at their feet. This caused much yelling, hand waving and stamping of the ground. Blu retreated a safe distance - tail between her legs. Everybody then resumed their poses and, as the guard was about to snap the picture, Blu trotted into camera range again and sat down. This time they let her stay.
The man who had offered the water was talking about taking Blu on to Texas with him. I was happy about that, he seemed to be caring, after all he'd been trying to give her water when I pulled in. Then as I talked to him I learned that he was traveling in a pickup truck with his 2 elderly parents. He was moving them to Texas. He planned to tie Blu in the back of the truck with the furniture and suitcases for the 500 or so miles he had yet to go. As I was questioning him about this, his 70ish mother came out of the bathroom. She said, "Is that the dog?" "Eee-ewe, that's an ugly dog!!" "I don't want that dog!!" I'd already decided, when I heard how Blu was to be transported, that I had to keep them from taking her, neither could I leave her there and risk her falling into a fate similar to what these people offered.
Once the decision was made, I asked the guard if I could take Blu with me. Of course, she readily agreed and offered to help me get a leash on her. She said, "I've got roast beef :o)), let me get it out of my cart."
I keep a bunch of kennel leads in my van for opportunities such as this and after much deliberation, I bypassed all the grungy used ones and selected a nice, new red one. I thought it'd look pretty against the black and gray of Blu's mottled coat. After considerable effort that entailed copious amounts of roast beef and a lot of ducking and weaving on Blu's part, the guard was able to loop the lead around Blu's neck. Then came the walk back to the car!!
It immediately became apparent that Blu had never had anything around her neck before, much less walked on lead. With me taking tiny baby steps, and Blu bucking, jumping, shaking her head, pulling and digging her heels in we finally made it to the van. By now the new, red lead, which had been so carefully selected just for her, was in tatters and close to breaking at the point where it'd been chewed almost in two.
Once we got to the van the hated leash was immediately forgotten. Blu climbed in with enthusiasm. I got in behind her and closed the door. Blu, who was on the floor, tested me with a tentative paw on my thigh - then, when there was no reprimand, she put her other front paw up. Still no reprimand. So she just climbed on up and relaxed.
As I waited for the Pekes to show up, Blu sat happily on my lap, head hanging out the window, tongue lolling - observing, with intelligent blue eyes, all the activity in the parking lot.
Then the Pekes arrived. Two 12 pound bundles of pure attitude!!!! They had their comforter, bows in their ears (well Amy did - Jody didn't), their toys, their bowls, their food, their treats and, oh yes, their bottled water!!!
Amy, Jody and Blu - all rescue dogs - but such a difference!! The Pekes were fat, healthy, spoiled and leaving rescue for a new beginning - Blu was just starting her journey. I hoped it would be a good one!!!!
OOPS!!! I forgot to mention. I don't foster at home but I do work closely with someone who does. Before attempting to get Blu, I'd called Pam, who, never being able to bear turning a needy dog down, said, "Bring her on, I'll find a place!!" After I collected Blu and as we rode down the highway toward home, my cell phone rang. It was Pam with the news that, try as she might, she just couldn't carve out another spot in which to put Blu.
This was a problem. I couldn't bring her home with me, it was 6:30 and all the veterinarians were closed, so I couldn't board her either. Holding my breath and with Blu on my lap, I called another friend who does rescue and asked her if she had room for Blu - just for overnight.
Mary Jo, who does Sheltie rescue, has a quarantine area where she can keep a dog with an unknown health record so that her resident dogs won't have been exposed if something contagious turns up. I delivered Blu to Mary Jo about 8 p.m. with the plan to pick her up about 10 or 11 o'clock the next morning and take her to the vet for immunizations and a spay.
At 8 a.m. the next morning (as soon as it was courteous to call me) my phone rang. It was Mary Jo. "This dog's had loose bowels in her kennel and she's throwing up tin foil!!!" she said. With heart in my mouth, I jumped in the car and drove the ten miles to Mary Jo's. (I always think parvo with a stray) By that time Blu had thrown up more tin foil and had had loose bowels again. I was thanking my lucky stars she'd not done it in the car and all over me the night before!!!
It turned out that Blu was amazingly healthy, and other than needing to be wormed she was in amazingly good condition. She was heartworm negative and the doctor said the loose bowels and throwing up were just from the diet she'd had since she'd been at the welcome station.
After getting her intestinal problems straightened out and having her spayed, I moved Blu from the veterinarian clinic to a boarding facility where she'd have a sizable outside kennel with wood shavings and an igloo during the day. (She was brought inside at night and during cold or rainy weather.) While at the boarding facility Blu made good use of her igloo - not to lie in - but as a platform from which she could observe the world and keep track of what was going on inside the grooming shop. It always brought a smile to my face to see her bouncing on and off her igloo when I'd drive up.
I've worked with Norrie Edgar, a representative for Second Time Around Aussie Rescue, in the past. She was gracious enough to recommend Blu as a candidate for posting on their web site. That's where Kristi Klein entered the picture ........ and took the ball and ran with it. Without Norrie and Kristi Blu'd probably still be sitting on that igloo - wishing she was inside with the people!!!!
I now turn Blu over to her new, forever family and home so her story can be finished. Please take good care of her - there's a lot of emotional investment here. Thanks for choosing a rescue dog. All of us together have saved a life. It's a good feeling.