Sunday, February 28, 2010

The New Underground Railroad

She escapes, perhaps, from an unnamed cotton plantation on the Delta only to be picked up and jailed in the Panola County hill country town of Sardis, Mississippi. But a kind soul from Memphis, Tennessee springs her. She spends a couple of weeks in a Memphis safe house hiding out with 3 others.

Then she is spirited across Tennessee to a station in Kingsport, where she spends the night before the next conductor sneaks her along with a cargo of other rescues northeastward across western Virginia to Maryland then Pennsylvania. Eventually two conductors, a couple from Connecticut, bring her to a wayside inn in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

In Sturbridge, at the back end of the parking lot where the pavement turns to gravel and then to grass, she is passed off for the final leg. From there she rides to her new home in Somerville, Massacchusetts.

This is the new underground railroad, transporting not escaped slaves but rescue dogs, dogs rescued from animal shelters in rural parts of the country and transported to new owners or foster families in urban areas.

It is a completely aboveboard traffic. The dog received puppy shots, rabies vaccination, and a certificate of interstate transportation from a Mississippi veterinary, and was provided with food and water along the trip, which from Memphis took only two days. A tote bag with her papers and a paper bag of food stapled with her picture accompanied her.

These rescue leagues are informal and run by volunteers but well organized. In her case, she was identified as a Brittany mix at the animal shelter in Mississippi. That brought her to the attention of New England Brittany Rescue.

Many of these rescue leagues are organized around breeds. The internet has also facilitated long range adoptions, with sites like providing the ability to post dog pictures and histories on web sites for would-be adopters. That's how she made the Somerville connection.

Not all these rescue dogs come from the South. In her first trip to the Summer Street dog park, she met two other rescue dogs. One from a local animal shelter, one from New Hampshire. But often in rural areas there are a lot of strays and many strays and pets aren't neutered. So supply outstrips demand for pets at many small town animal shelters across the country.

Cities, on the other hand, do not support many puppy breeders. So adopting a rescue dog over the internet can be just as easy or easier than finding a purebred dog in the suburbs or further out, with the added knowledge you may be saving a dog from being put to sleep.

Leaving Sturbridge.

Arriving in Somerville.

A new toy in a new home.

Settled in after her 1,357 mile odyssey.

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