Jun 28, 2011

'Pup My Ride' Heads to Big Sky Country

Precious cargo consisting of 38 dogs makes 1,200-mile journey from Los Angeles shelter to new lives in Montana

By Cathy Scott
Reprinted from Best Friends Animal Society

It’s 8:30 in the morning, and caregivers are cleaning kennels and feeding animals. But, for three dozen shelter dogs, this particular Monday is anything but business as usual.

The staff at the Baldwin Park animal shelter is all abuzz with activity because Robin Harmon and a team of volunteers have arrived, which means it’s Pup My Ride day. Thirty-eight dogs have been chosen to leave the shelter for a trek to Montana on the Pup My Ride transport.

The dogs are walked or carried to a grassy play area to run off energy, chill some and take potty breaks before boarding the Pup My Ride van to a waiting rescue group in Montana. Watching them play and romp with each other, you’d never know they’d found themselves, for a variety of circumstances, inside the walls of a Los Angeles County animal shelter. Today, however, is their lucky day, and the dogs seem to sense the excitement in the air.

“This is Bambi,” says Robin, introducing what looks to be a matted poodle/bijon mix. “Bambi was a stray. He went to a [Best Friends] super adoption event but didn’t get adopted, so we rescued him from the shelter.” Robin heads up Pup My Ride for Best Friends Los Angeles programs, which rescues at-risk smaller dogs from shelters and takes them to rescue groups in other cities where there is a demand for dogs like them.

It’s Bambi’s turn to be walked to the play area, where he takes off running with some of his new canine buddies accompanying him on the two-day, 1,200-mile trip.

Also hitching a ride to Montana is Oreo (to the right), a tiny, friendly black-and-white puppy who sits in a dog bed in Sgt. Christina Fuentes’ office, waiting to leave. Oreo has gone home with Christina each day for the last two weeks, so, despite his young age, he’s sociable and comfortable with people. When asked what kind of a dog he is, Christina answers, “A mutt.” Breed doesn’t matter at the shelter or on Pup My Ride. Dogs’ lives are being saved with each trip, which is every other week, and that’s what counts the most.

Already in the play area, but sitting in a chair, is a shy white mix, possibly Italian greyhound and Chihuahua, with large light-green eyes. His tail is tucked and it’s obvious he wants nothing more than to continue sitting on volunteer Hap Frischknecht’s lap (above). And that’s exactly what the dog the volunteers named Nervous Nelson does for the next hour or so as he waits for the transport to head out.
When it’s time to go, Hap stands up, lifts the dog from his lap, and Nelson wraps his front legs around Hap’s arm as if to hang on for dear life. Nelson doesn’t yet realize that his difficult days are about to end.

“Pup My Ride,” Robin explains, “is literally a lifesaving program for the many mostly small dogs in the shelters in Southern California. We take them out of a situation where they can be euthanized any day and put them at our partner shelters in other states where there are shortages of small dogs in rescue, and where they have a much better opportunity to be adopted.” The Pup My Ride program is also, Robin says, “a great opportunity to contribute to Best Friends’ mission of No More Homeless Pets by saving these shelter dogs.”

Two days after leaving the Baldwin Park shelter, following an overnight layover with a rescue group in Salt Lake City, Best Friends staffer Gayle Alexander (top, left) drives the van carrying the 38 dogs up to Help for Homeless Pets in Billings, Montana.

There for the arrival is Tristan Balsam with his sister Kayla Knuckles, who’s looking to adopt a dog. She immediately spots Oreo. But traveling in a kennel with Oreo is a shy, reddish-tan, spiky-haired terrier mix puppy who also catches her eye. “Aw,” Kayla says. “He’s so cute.” This will be her first dog who’s just hers and not her family’s dog, so she takes her time meeting them each before deciding on one.

Other potential adopters and volunteers help move the dogs into kennels and runs in groupings with a couple of other canines. In the next few days, they’ll all go up for adoption. Before Pup My Ride traveled to Montana, says Angie Cook, the group’s director, “We’d get a small dog maybe every two weeks, and a million people would want him.” Now, she says, “we’re becoming known for having small dogs.”
Back inside the area for the new arrivals, Nelson, who’s still unsure of himself, is placed alone in a large kennel.

Once he’s settled into his temporary abode with a blanket, food and water, employee Kirsten Graham stops by Nelson’s kennel and offers him a treat. He doesn’t hesitate to gently take it from her hand. His acceptance, at the end of a long journey, is proof positive that he’s well on his way to adjusting to a new town and new people. Nelson, along with the 37 other dogs, has clearly arrived.
Photos by Grace Chon


  1. Good stuff. I dont remember reading such a good article. You should write more!!!


  2. The Pup My Ride program is laudable! I can only hope that it garners a good support group and a good many followers too.