Every weekend, hundreds of volunteers from Boston to Bakersfield rev their engines in a giant, moving human chain to help drive homeless dogs from high-kill shelters to the safety of new homes. I discovered the world of dog transporting five years ago when I came upon a Yahoo forum on the subject. I read through scores of pleas from shelters seeking help getting animals to safety. Dogs were matched with adoptive families in cyberspace and volunteer drivers stepped up to fill legs of journeys lasting hundreds of miles or more.
Watching this amazing volunteer network take shape inspired me to write about Buster, a death row dog from West Virginia. He was bound for a good home in the Philadelphia suburbs thanks to the persistence of the staff at Wetzel County Animal Shelter, the wide reach of the Internet and a few dozen good-hearted drivers willing to take a few hours out of their day and a few gallons of gas out of their tanks to save him.
And now there's a documentary about what is informally known as "the canine underground railroad" that will begin airing on PBS stations next month "Fifteen Legs" (or "When all that stands between a death and freedom is a ride") was produced by Emmy-award winning producer and writer Bonnie Silva and Russ Barry, who spent three years following the dedicated volunteers who help keep the "freedom trains" running. There also is a companion book with the documentary and the Web site offers suggestions for those who want to get involved. I spoke with WHYY in Philadelphia and, alas, they have no plans to air the program. But check the "Fifteen Legs" Web site for more information about other stations which may carry it.