Tales from the trips

Published 4:55 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cosmo, with his wavy, Oreo-colored fur, leaped into the van next to 35 of his fellow canine friends, all yipping and yapping with excitement.

“As the trip goes, sometimes you’ll get a yapper. One guy wakes up and he’ll wake up everyone,” said Shelby County Humane Society volunteer Ron Duffy. “But in a little while the critters settle back down and go to sleep.”

The critters, all 36 of them, made the long trip to New Hampshire Saturday, where a partner shelter takes in animals to be quickly adopted out. The trips are part of the Shelby County Humane Society’s effort to find homes for animals that might otherwise have to be euthanized.

Cosmo’s used to traveling around. Before being brought to the humane society, he roamed around Shelby County as a stray. He’s not alone. The humane society was housing 429 animals as of last Friday.

Spay/Neuter Program Administrator Jessica Marable said people don’t realize that even the cutest dogs don’t find homes here.

“It is a misconception that we can find homes for the purebred dogs we receive,” Marable said. “This little guy was here for two months and still wasn’t adopted. He is going to get a second chance in New Hampshire that Alabama wasn’t able to provide.”

Marable said about 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred. She went on to add that the Shelter Partners program puts just a small dent in the county’s stray problem even though volunteers have transported more than 1,700 dogs up north in the past two years.

Ron and Duffy Morrison have taken six trips up north. The retired couple said they have the time and the heart to give — so they do, over and over again.

“You just really have a good feeling that you are saving these dogs’ lives,” Duffy said. “We personally have taken, I think it’s 186 dogs.”

Making the 24-hour trek takes stamina and caffeine and lots of both. The Morrison’s made sure to pass on a few pointers to the newbies, Jennifer and Zach Miller, Friday morning.

“Find a pack of caffeinated gum,” Ron said. “You’re not going to want to make a lot of stops to go to the bathroom, so drinking a lot of coffee isn’t the best idea.”

The Millers didn’t seem phased even as they climbed in the van, full of a barking symphony of sound, and headed off for the first leg of the trip. Most of their passengers were larger dogs looking for lots of room to play.

“It’s very difficult for the older and larger animals to be adopted here, but in New Hampshire they are more likely to find a place that’s perfect for them,” Jennifer said.

Ron said a mob of volunteers meet the van in New Hampshire to walk the dogs, feed them and get them ready for adoption. He said knowing that so many people up there are ready and willing to care for the animals makes each trip easy to bear.

“This could be us. This could be Alabama,” Marable said. “People could want to bring dogs to us to be adopted. I don’t think it’s that far-fetched of an idea.”

The humane society will hold its Tales from the Trips 2 event this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Chelsea High School.

To guarantee a seat, you must RSVP by Jan. 21. To participate in this event, e-mail your name and address to info@shelbyhumane.org.