On Saturday, December 11, 2021, I joined Rescue Ranch board member Laura Finley on a transport run. We were helping a volunteer network with the Redding-Yreka leg of a longer journey north that would carry 25 dogs and six cats to safety.
We often work with other rescues, volunteer transporters and committed individuals to get dogs out of kill shelters and other bad situations. In fact, the success of our collective mission to save lives depends on that cooperation. We don’t aways drive, and the transports may or may not include dogs tagged by Rescue Ranch. Either way, our facility is a convenient and safe place to water and transfer animals. On occasion, we temporarily rescue-board dogs for a few days. Every situation is different.
Coordinating a volunteer rescue transport is no easy task
Organizing a transport like the one that took place on December 11, may not be unusual in our line of work, but it certainly is not easy. This time, the task fell to Rebecca Martello of The PAWS Transport Network. One look at her run-sheet would give you a sense of how complicated it is to organize just one successful rescue run up the West Coast, and she does it all the time.
The sheet sets out the number of dogs, cats and crates, it also provides contact and other essential information as well as passenger manifest describing all of the animals onboard. The rest of the document details each leg of the trip, including times, the name of the driver(s) and their assigned animals. The entire transport has to be meticulously planned so that the drivers can relay each other and transfer the crates with minimal delay or waiting time.
There were 14 legs to this particular transport, often with more than one vehicle. The dogs and cats would be traveling north from Fresno to points in Oregon and Washington. The longest leg would take more than three hours between Sacramento and Redding.
At the last minute, a winter storm was forecast in our area for that Saturday afternoon, but we didn’t want to cancel. It would affect so many people up and down the line, no to mention the animals we trying to help? They were being moved because they had no place to stay.
Winter complicates the trasnport of cats and dogs
Our biggest concern was the drive back. Strong winds often blow snow across the highway south of Yreka, making it impassable. We didn’t relish the idea of getting stuck anywhere in the snow with 25 dogs and six cats.
Theoretically, if we stuck to the schedule and everything went like clockwork, we would be back in Yreka with time to spare. Well before 3 p.m., when the storm was scheduled to hit. But things rarely go like clockwork, even with good planning.
As it turns out, that morning when Rebecca went to pick up the van she had reserved, it wasn’t there. She had to go three other locations before they found her a van!
Meanwhile, Laura and I arrived in Redding and met up with Claudia, a local volunteer who had come to help transfer the crates from one vehicle to another. When Rebecca arrived, we worked quickly, moving the crates, securing them with bungee cords and making sure everyone was safe.
We left Redding just under an hour behind schedule. An hour behind isn’t ideal, but, on a good day, it isn’t the end of the world either. On that day, however, it was unnerving because if the impending storm.
Sure enough, once we passed Dunsmuir, the snow began to fall and the wind picked up, slowing our progress. Even from the passenger seat, I could feel it pushing against the van. Thankfully, the snow wasn’t sticking yet, and we drove on. By the time we reached Yreka, we had outrun the storm and left the snow behind.
Cats and Dogs get a short break after arriving safely at Rescue Ranch
Rescue Ranch staff and volunteers helped unload all 19 crates from the van. The poor animals had been traveling since 7 a.m., some even earlier. While the dogs were being watered and their crates cleaned, I took the cats into a separate enclosed space and cleaned their crates. A little black angora cat named Moxie stole my heart. She just started to purr and wanted play as soon as I started handling her. By now, the drivers for the next leg had arrived and were already loading up their vehicles.
Soon all 25 dogs and six cats were gone, on their way to their new lives.
Thank goodness for volunteer transports!
With winter and the holiday season upon us, that was supposed to be the last transport for a while. But with rescue, the work never stops. There are always new dogs and cats on the kill lists. It’s like swimming against the current.
Sure enough, the following Saturday we had another run. This time the weather wasn’t an issue. We drove to Redding to pick up about 12 small dogs for PAWS, including at least one medical case. They were all headed north and would be transferred at the ranch. We also picked up nine puppies from another rescuer. They are now being fostered by Rescue Ranch.
In an unusual twist, we had brought a Rescue Ranch pitty puppy named Cork with us down to Redding to meet up with his adopter who had driven up from the Bay area!
We wish him and all of our transport animals the beautiful futures they deserve. Isn’t it amazing how many people will step up and volunteer to use their own vehicles, to brave the elements, to travel sometimes very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, just to save the lives of cats and dogs they’ll never get to know? Thank goodness they exist.