Furry Friends

Underhound Railroad to the rescue

Posted:  
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 9:30am
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Nancy Pedersen holds Jingles
Nancy Pederson holds Jingles. Below: Coda, a well-mannered lab mix, is the only dog who wasn't adopted February 23; Jemma and Sprinkles; Jessica Jones holds Beck; Sprinkles gives Nancy Pederson a kiss. Courtesy of Lizzie Lewis

In the 1800s, the Underground Railroad delivered thousands of slaves from oppression in the South to freedom in the North. Now, a dedicated group of animal lovers has adopted the abolitionists’ methods and name to free Southern dogs from cruel fates.

Underhound Railroad transports dogs slated for death in high-kill shelters in southern states to northern states, where they are cared for in foster homes until they can be placed in permanent homes. Theirs is an animal love story that is saving lives.

On February 23, the Maine branch of Underhound Railroad held an adoption party at the Animal House in Damariscotta. 

For three hours, there was enough puppy love to warm even the coldest winter heart. By the end of the day, four Georgia dogs and one cat from the Lincoln County Animal Shelter had found new homes.

Maine Underhound Director Hope Cruser and her group of volunteers are continuously bringing rescued dogs into the state, fostering them in volunteers’ homes and working to find each one a forever home. 

As many as 30 “underhounds” may be waiting in foster homes in Maine at any given time.

Maine is a dog-friendly state, with high shelter adoption rates and low kill rates, which makes it an ideal destination for underhounds, Cruser said. Cruser laughingly added, “Here, if a dog is running down the street loose, there are 20 people trying to save it.” 

Theresa and Paul Nizio of Lincolnville traveled to Damariscotta on Saturday for a little shopping and a stop at the Animal House event. 

The Nizios are no strangers to rescue. They are volunteers for Maine Greyhound Placement Services and have seven rescue dogs of their own. Theresa Nizio said they would never consider a pet shop or dog breeder.

“It’s always best to go to a rescue group,” she said. “So many dogs need homes and would be euthanized otherwise.”

Saturday brought love at first sight for Jessica Jones of Topsham and Beck, an irresistible yellow lab mix pup. Jones has a terrier at home but had been looking for another companion. In short order, three more pups, Jingles, Sprinkles and Jemma, all found adoptive families.

Adoptions are not considered final until a home visit is made, references are checked and the prospective adopter’s veterinarian has been consulted. Underhound volunteer and foster mom, Nancy Pederson of Trevett, said all those steps are essential. “It’s got to be their forever home,” she said.

Wendy Yeaton of Camden has been an Underhound volunteer and foster mom for three years. “It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It has changed my life,” Yeaton said. 

Yeaton said the organization is run entirely by volunteers and relies on private donations and volunteer foster homes. 

The group is looking for more volunteers and more individuals willing to foster dogs while they await adoption. “The more foster homes we have, the more dogs we can save,” Yeaton said. 

At the end of the day, only Coda, a well-mannered, handsome Lab mix, had not been adopted. While he waits for his new home and family, Coda is staying with his foster mom, Breanna Norris.

For more information, to volunteer, or simply to brighten your day, visit Underhound Railroad on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/CT-Underhound-Railroad/155094829187/.  

If you are interested in adopting an underhound, contact Renee Coombs at recoombs2012@gmail.com/. 

Sue Mello can be reached at 207-844-4629 or sumello@boothbayregister.com.