Saving Puppies in New Mexico!
My family has evolved. After being an infantry soldier in the First World War, my Grandfather was a successful liquor salesman. Then, in 1920 Prohibition began, and my Grandfather was out of work. So, as family legend has it, he started running illegal liquor out of the hills of Kentucky.
Flash forward 100 years. My sister-in-law, and occasionally my brother, are making runs with another sort of cargo; lovable, warm, and cute puppies.
There is a lot of backstory. There are a lot of outstanding New Mexicans who dedicate their time and energy to rescuing puppies.
First, the backstory. The fact is, according to Animal Protection of New Mexico, (as of 2019), New Mexico shelters take in approximately 135,000 dogs a year. In rural counties, we have issues with dog dumping and with getting dogs spayed or neutered. The smaller, underfunded shelters in our state can quickly be overrun with mama dogs and puppies.
The predictable result is hundreds of unwanted puppies are born here every year.
On the other hand, our neighbors to the North, Colorado, enacted a law in 2008 requiring that all dogs that come through shelters must be spayed or neutered. After 13 years, the result of that law is fewer puppies available for adoption from Colorado shelters.
Enter the Angels among us. This is a loosely organized group of individuals dedicated to saving puppies. Every week these rescuers drive unwanted puppies from shelters all around New Mexico up to Colorado, where they are adopted. They are running anywhere from 15 to 40 puppies a week. The record number one week was 60.
They are volunteers. There is no official organization, just a network of folks who are willing to give up a Tuesday a month to take on a load of puppies.
One of the long-time leaders/coordinators of this effort is Jayne Johnson. Jayne is a retired teacher and life-long animal rescuer. Although COVID has (temporarily, I bet) kept her from driving, she is the “nervous system” of the effort. She takes calls from shelters, coordinating with drivers and recruiting new drivers.
Being a driver (they usually worked in pairs, pre-COVID, but now some are driving alone) requires a strong constitution, a love of puppies, lots of newspaper, and bleach. In talking to Jayne and my sister-in-law, Linda Pedelty, the main issue is puppy poop and lots of it. They are puppies, they’re scared, and thus they poop.
The drivers use a special van that holds crates. The entire team adheres to rigorous protocols to keep the puppies safe. For example, litter mates are kept together and litters are separated to decrease the likelihood of passing on infections. The journey takes them from a meet-up at a gas station in Santa Fe County, up I-25 to Raton. An amazing Vet, Dr. Kristi Brown, examines the puppies, gives them shots as necessary and the paperwork needed to get into Colorado. (Dogs need shots and a health certificate to come into Colorado). From Raton, they are met by an identical van and transported to shelters in Colorado. There is often a waiting list for puppies up north.
That, at least, is the plan. Sometimes, however, there is an emergency; A mom and litter need to be removed RIGHT NOW from an unsafe situation. In coordination with Animal Control, a van will show up, load up the mom and the puppies, take them to a Santa Fe shelter, clean them up (more poop removal) and get them ready for the trip to Colorado.
What is amazing to me is that this entire enterprise has been going on for years, every week, right under our noses.
It blends, as Linda pointed out, two of the most significant elements of a fulfilling life. First, a deep meaning, rescuing sentient beings from suffering and possibly death, including euthanasia. Second, the deeply practical: doing the work of driving the van, holding the puppies, and cleaning up the poop.
Here is the question I know we are asking ourselves. Could I do this? My answer is “no.” Why? Because I have the resistance of a clam. I would be bringing puppies home from each run. We’d have dozens of puppies. That would not end well. Thus, I am doubly awed by the angels who do this work.
Final suggestion. To see how these journeys end check out the video from Lifelinepuppy.org. You will see what makes all this work worthwhile: Puppies in the arms of children. It doesn’t get better than that.