In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, trucker Sue Wiese was touched by all the stories of what was happening to the animals caught in this disaster, as well as the people who loved their missing pets and were desperate to get them back. Sue asked, “Lord, what can I do?” The answer came from her daughters, Tasha and Dellcina, who suggested that she could use trucks and truckers to do the transporting. The more they talked about the idea of having drivers transport missing or rescued pets from one place to another for those who wanted them, the better it sounded, so Sue took a leap of faith and began to make it happen.
Looking for ways to solve this pet transportation problem, Sue went online and found that the need was even greater than she had imagined – especially after the hurricane. Daring to dream that with the help of other drivers she could start something that would make a difference in the lives of animals and the people who would adopt them, she made a very reluctant and scared call into the Bill Mack Show on XM Radio. Using her CB handle (Classy Lady), Sue pitched her idea of having drivers deliver missing or rescued pets to their owners and from there it just snowballed. After talking on that radio show, Sue had twelve drivers call her interested in helping. This was the humble beginning of what would later become Operation Roger Truckers Pet Transport.
The organization is named in loving memory of Sue’s beloved companion Roger, a toy Manchester Terrier who died in 2005. For all of you that have a beloved pet, you understand how hard it is to lose them. For those of you who don’t have a furbaby to love, think of losing one of your best friends – it would be the same heartache. The mission of Operation Roger is to help rescues get pets to new homes and individuals retrieve pets they’ve left behind.
Every year, millions of healthy, adoptable pets are admitted to animal shelters or taken in by animal rescue groups across the United States. Many of them, like Roger, are adopted into new homes, but too many others are not so fortunate. It is also a fact there are thousands of homes that would adopt many of these pets, but how do you get a dog in Alabama to a home in New Hampshire? Or how do you get a cat in California to a new home in Florida? Operation Roger Truckers Pet Transport is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization comprised of regional and long-haul truckers who volunteer their time to transport needy pets as they do their regular jobs of delivering freight across the country. They take each pet in the cab of their trucks and give them all the TLC they can, which so many of these lonely pets need desperately.
Many of these pets have been abused, abandoned, lost or left behind when their owners had to move and could not take them. Whatever the reason, these pets find themselves in need of human help. The organization does not transport animals used in the show circuit or from/to for-profit breeders unless they have been retired and altered. There are many pets in kill shelters right now that are pure-bred animals, and many people who would love to have them. Roger was one of these animals until Sue adopted him. Just three months after Hurricane Katrina, Roger crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge” and became the organization’s heavenly mascot. And although he may be gone, Roger’s legacy lives on so that other pets in need can continue to get help every day, every week, and every month.
Operation Roger needs volunteer truck drivers to transport animals, as well as layover homes and shuttle drivers to give them shelter between trips. Every once in a while, they receive requests to move donated pet food or other pet items from rescue to rescue. For this, they need drivers who perhaps can’t transport pets but would be able to get a few bags of food or supplies to a needy animal rescue. The organization is also in need of corporate and individual sponsors to help defray their moderate expenses. To do this, go to their website and find the sponsorship information. If you so desire, you can also volunteer your time and/or resources. All these pets want is to be loved, and a chance to love in return.
The website has all of the details you will need to get involved as a truck driver willing to do whatever you can. Or, if you have or know of a pet needing transportation, all the applications and information is also available there on the website. Door-to-door delivery is not offered. The driver’s schedule is what the “shipper and receiver” have to agree to. Generally, arrangements are made in advance with the driver to meet the person sending the pet at a nearby truck stop. The driver then checks the pet’s paperwork and is given at least 10 days of food, a crate (if the pet weighs less than 30 pounds), a collar or harness, toys and a leash. Once at the destination, the person who is waiting for the pet agrees to meet the driver at a predetermined location where the pet is then handed over to the new owners so it can start its new life in a forever home.
A shuttle driver is someone who can drive the pet from driver to driver, driver to a home, a home to a driver, or any other combination. Anyone who is interested in doing this should please check out the website and get involved. If you are a driver and you have a pet lover at home that would be willing and able to offer a “layover” home, they are needed as well. Making all of this work takes a lot of effort and coordination, and the ones who appreciate this effort the most are the pets spared from becoming another kill shelter statistic. A minimum $25.00 non-refundable, tax deductible application donation is required per pet at the time the application is submitted to list a pet on the Active Pet Board.
There are lots of stories on the website from drivers talking about the satisfaction it brings to help save the lives of these pets, along with stories about the ride, and how many of these drivers develop a love and affection for the animals they transport. Most say that the joy of getting a pet to its destination, that might otherwise have been put down but instead went to someone who wants it, is a wonderful feeling. If only more people would get their animals spayed and neutered, the problem would be so much less. And please, make sure you buy your “baby” from a reputable place and NOT a puppy mill! These places are another reason so many animals are ending up in shelters, because they don’t care about the health of the animals, they are just breeding them over and over again to make a few quick bucks.
According to ChaCha, a dog dies in an animal shelter every 9 seconds because of the limited space and limited budgets to care for these animals. In most cases, a dog in a place like this will be euthanized anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on available space. Some shelters will automatically euthanize the harder to place dogs, such as pit bulls, and most dogs with medical needs will also be put on the unadoptable list and face the needle.
Operation Roger is part of the Canine Underground Railroad that works to save dogs. There are also other groups like Pilots N Paws and Animal Rescue Flights. These pets can’t just stick out their paw and hitch a ride to someone who wants them – they need people who care about saving a life and making the life of someone on the other end better because of it. To date, there have been 631 pets transported. Sue is hoping to get at least 100 pets a year transported to new, loving homes (the need is so great and the alternative is so sad).
I would like to thank Tracie Rhany for sharing some of the pictures she used in the Operation Roger wall calendar for this article. Tracie and her husband were devastated when they lost their beloved Mollie, but both of them have fond memories of the pets that they have transported. If you would like to get involved, I urge you to visit their website or call them at (682) 622-1172 for more information. The life you save could turn out to be your best friend!