Journey to Rescue – the trip to Indiana (3 of 4)

If you’re anything like me, you may have been aware that something called Rescue Transport Networks existed but that’s about it. I’ve always pictured some furtive Underground Railroad sort of set up where folks in black skull caps and dark coveralls steal into shelters late at night and whisk away at-risk dogs to sequester them in other parts of the country while they hatch a new plan for them.

Wow! This was not at all the case – transports are about daylight and love and rescue in ways that I had never experienced rescue. With the global reach of such services as, people have a more national view of where they can adopt their next pet from. Shelters who see requests for a particular breed that isn’t easily found in their area often will take in animals of that breed from an area that might have too many and thus, keep the potential adopters from turning to breeders to buy their pets.

Kelly (and many other volunteers) are considered Transport Coordinators. There are networks of thousands of people across the U.S. who sign up with these coordinators via websites or through Yahoo Groups or other online avenues to help transport animals a portion of a journey toward homes or rescues that are best able to care for them. These journeys are elaborately mapped out. Between each leg there is time to allow the animals to stretch their legs, potty, meet their next shift of people and get settled into the next vehicle. Sleep overs can either be at the home of the last transporter or at an additional volunteer who puts the animals up for the night. While to you or to me, this process might seem arduous and unappealing, this trip is actually an amazing touch point for a dog who had never experienced human kindness.

For Nico, in his whole life, he’d probably not met as many loving and caring human beings as he was able to meet in 3 full days of travelling. He got to visit places I’ve certainly never been; he learned how to accept and to give love and, best of all, he learned that life with humans doesn’t have to be about hatred and pain. At every one of 19 stops he looked into the eyes of a new rescuer or two and felt their soul touch and heal his own. And at every single stop he kissed the person had just finished their leg as if to say thank you for giving me hope.

For Nico’s trip, he was joined by a traveling companion, Jughead, a rambunctious and clown-like youngster who doesn’t seem to have ever met a stranger. While Jughead and Nico would not meet on the trip, they shared a bond – a quest for a better life in Indiana.

I was going to write about the trip in my words, but I know that the people who made the trip know it best. Additionally, the pictures of Nico’s evolution through the course of this journey really speak much more eloquently than I can, so I’ll lay it out and then encourage those whose lives met with his to speak for themselves in the comments:

LEG 1: San Diego, CA to Yuma, AZ (I-8) – 172 miles; 2 hr 40 min
Kelly G

In my opinion transport is the easiest way to get involved with rescue. It’s only a commitment of a couple of hours, usually on the weekends, and all that’s asked is that the driver arrive at the designated meeting place on time, load the animals into their car, and safely drive to the next designated meeting area.” – Kelly

LEG 2: Yuma, AZ to Phoenix, AZ – 184 miles; 2 hrs 52 min
Andy and Penny S

LEG 3: Phoenix, AZ to Cordes Junction, AZ(I-17) – 66 miles; 1 hr 5 min
Maura C

LEG 4: Cordes Junction, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ (I-17) – 78.7 miles; 1 hr 7 min
Elizabeth C and Barry G

Nico rode loose for this leg so he got a doggie massage and lots of lovin’. it is healing to our souls to be a part of this effort…” – Elizabeth C

LEG 5: Flagstaff, AZ to Sanders, AZ – 143 miles; 2 hrs
Dion L

I saw Nico’s picture on the Internet, and it made me cry. I am so very, very happy that I have an opportunity to help this guy. I have been doing animal transport since I did my first one right after Hurricane Katrina.” – Dion L

LEG 6: Sanders, AZ to Albuquerque, NM (I-40) – 182 miles; 2 hr 30 min
Amy F

Overnight in Albuquerque
NICO stayed with Jessi M
JUGHEAD stayed with Brandy Y

Now Nico is laying on the couch after much pacing and sniffing of the room. Hopefully he’ll get some rest and be ready for our early morning tomorrow.” – Jessi M

LEG 7: Albuquerque, NM to Tucumcari, NM – 176 miles; 2 hrs 30 min
Tiffany N

Because of my 4 legged family, I have 3 dogs, 5 cats and 2 sugar gliders, some options weren’t possible, such as, fostering etc. Transporting was the answer. As an individual you are directly involved in saving an animal’s life and getting them to a better place. Nico and Jughead are perfect examples of how dogs are so forgiving and they are truly gifts from heaven!!!! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful event and being part of something bigger!!” – Tiffany N

LEG 8: Tucumcari, NM to Amarillo, TX – 114 miles; 1 hr 40 min
Tiffany N

LEG 9: Amarillo, TX to Elk City, OK – 147 miles; 2 hr 12 min
Jennifer H

LEG 10: Elk City, OK to OK City, OK – 117 miles; 1 hr 47 min
Ethel W

LEG 11: OK City, OK to Tulsa, OK – 101 miles; 1 hr 34 min
Patti K

LEG 12: Tulsa, OK to Joplin, MO – 110 miles; 1 hr 48 min
Neil G

These boys both have bright futures and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to participate in their rescue. Nico is going to make a Class A couch buddy.

Joplin, MO to Anderson, MO – 35 miles; 42 min
Helen H

Soon after we started again, Nico drug the huge 40lb bag of w/d science diet halfway across the cargo area. I was certain he’d rip the bag open, but he didn’t. I salvaged it and hurled it into the front seat as well. Nico finally settled down in the back cargo area on a blanket, and gnawed on a pig ear or two that I hadn’t managed to pick up. He was sound asleep by the time we got to the clinic.” – Helen H

Boarded at a vet clinic with Helen H

LEG 13: Anderson, MO to Springfield, MO – 75.1 miles; 1 hr 20 min
Mary C

Nico licked my fingers all the way to Springfield! I have been doing rescue transport for 10 years! We see so much cruelty here in the middle of puppy mill country that, unfortunately these dogs need to be moved elsewhere.

LEG 14: Springfield, MO to Rolla, MO – 111 miles; 1 hr 48 min
Ashley H and mother

KISSES! I don’t know who received more…the people transporting them or the people kissing these guys! Both Nico and Jughead are very affectionate and if your face was anywhere near theirs, you were gonna get a smooch for sure! For all Nico has apparently been through and on top of being deaf, I believe it is a huge testament to his temperament that he showed NO signs of aggression. I regrettably had to keep him in his crate because he was determined to get to the back where the food. I really wanted him to just be able to sit in the seat beside me, but…” – Ashley H

LEG 15: Rolla, MO to St Louis, MO – 108 miles; 1 hr 44 min
Joan M

LEG 16: St Louis, MO to Effingham, IL – 101 miles; 1 hr 40 min
Lisa C

Nico was anxious to get back on the road and hopped right into Lisa’s car after a quick potty and walk. They both settled in and slept the whole way from Rolla to St. Louis.” – Joan M

LEG 17: Effingham, IL to Terre Haute, IN – 67.8 miles; 1 hr 10 min
Cathy R

Nico’s crate was on the smaller side and he looked so like he needed some FREEDOM, so what the heck I had seen pictures of him riding quietly in other cars. I tethered him to the front passenger seat door and proceeded to walk Jughead. I looked over at the car and Nico was chewing madly on “something”. I hoped it was not the leather seats. I opened the door and he had a yellow plastic bag of PIGEARS. I have no idea where he got them, but he sure was enjoying himself.

So off we drive and next thing I know Nico has a TENNIS BALL in his mouth. I have no idea where he got that either. Kelly doesn’t think it was in his stuff and my father in law denies both the ears and the ball. All transport is so extremely rewarding, but this one stands out and I think will always remain the most rewarding. It was that picture of him in jail. It broke all our hearts. Now our hearts are joyful, and two wonderful pups are safe and starting a new wonderful future.” – Cathy R

LEG 18: Terre Haute, IN to Indianapolis, IN – 77.1 miles; 1 hr 20 min
Tara H

LEG 19: Indianapolis, IN to Noblesville, IN – 30.6 miles; 45 min
Krysha M and Dana W

Nico is amazing. I LOVE this dog. My husband and I were talking in the car last night about how weird it was that just a short couple of weeks ago, we were so moved by that photograph of him, and so resigned to the fact that he would be destroyed without ever knowing human friendship. And then here we were with him in the car, with his head on my lap, soaking up the attention!! He is such a neat dog. He looks you right in the eye like he is trying to tell you something. And then just gives you a big kiss!” – Dana W

Rebecca Stevens
Humane Society for Hamilton County
Noblesville, IN

Nico’s ‘meet and greet’ was quite touching. Everyone crouched down in a little semi-circle and he went to each person, one by one, to give them a kiss!! Then turned around and looked at me like, ‘Okay, I get it. I’m safe now.’” – Dana W

Nico and Jug Head arrived safe and sound at our facility around 9:15pm this evening. Both were welcomed with many hugs and kisses from our staff who came out to greet them. Channel 6 news came out to tape his arrival* and featured him on the news tonight.” – Rebecca S

*(From the 11:00 PM news on The Indy Channel Click this link. It will open Windows Media Player. You must have version 9. Slide the timer bar to 15:30. )

(originally posted on – 09/24/10)
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