“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals),
Is our first duty to them, but to stop there, is not enough.
We have a much higher mission—
To be of service to them, whenever they require it.”
Saint Francis of Assisi
We’ve all heard incredible tales concerning determined and courageous lost pets who somehow manage to traverse miles of treacherous terrain to find either their homes, or the loved ones they so desperately miss.
My favorite story concerns a pet pigeon. Its human friend was a bird loving 10-year old boy. One day, this boy became critically ill and was rushed to a hospital in a distant town. His prognosis was extremely grim.
His heartbroken pigeon suddenly flew off into the night and somehow found the town, the hospital, and the very room his young human friend lingered in. A nurse discovered this pigeon incessantly pecking at the boy’s hospital room window the following morning. The pigeon was let into the room, and the young boy’s dire condition suddenly improved significantly. This was a happy ending, indeed.
The tale of Turbo the Dog has a much different twist. Turbo had no home or loved one to find. He, like thousands of other unfortunate creatures, was born homeless. He, like thousands of other homeless animals, was found aimlessly wandering a desolate Southwestern highway, desperately searching for scraps of food.
A kind-hearted soul discovered Turbo along that highway one day and brought him to a tiny animal shelter on the vast Navajo Indian Reservation. He brought him to Desert Dawg Rescue, a small one-woman rescue operation founded by Navajo Tribal Member Sharon Morgan. The mission of Desert Dawg - to rescue and adopt out the many unwanted animals of the area, while educating the public about the importance of spay/neuter and proper health care for pets.
One day, a dog loving family visited Desert Dawg’s Internet website, and they soon decided that they wanted to adopt Turbo. There was only one problem. They were in Massachusetts; Turbo was in New Mexico – 2,000 miles away.
That’s when the national Best Friends Animal Network, headquartered in Kanab, Utah, stepped in. They quickly put out the word that Turbo the Desert Dog needed speedy transportation to the East Coast. Devoted animal lovers and rescuers usually respond very quickly to these urgent pleas for animal assistance.
Within hours, a kind-hearted soul named Debi volunteered to drive Turbo from New Mexico to her home state of Missouri. Soon after, another kind-hearted soul named Charlotte volunteered to chauffer Turbo from Chicago all the way to Massachusetts.
Now, there was only one gap remaining in Turbo’s incredible cross country odyssey; someone was needed to drive him from Kansas City to Chicago.
As I sat at my computer reading this urgent message from Best Friends, both my wise old cat, Buddy, and my tiny rescued dog, Chica Blanca, were contentedly perched on my lap.
Suddenly, my two pets looked at each other and winked. Before I knew what I was doing, I had typed ‘I volunteer’ on my keyboard and hit the ‘Send’ button.
I soon began thinking that my two pets had somehow hypnotized me. I quickly snapped out of it and mumbled, “OK, you two got me into this, so both of you are going with me to fetch this Turbo Dog.”
Both my cat and my dog nodded their heads in agreement. So did my lovely spouse, when she returned home from work that evening. Obviously, everyone agreed that this was a marvelous idea.
At 4 AM the next morning, the canine and the male human still thought this was an excellent idea. They were both ready to hit the road. Buddy the cat, however, opened one eye, immediately closed it, and went right back to sleep. My wife opened one eye, immediately closed it, and tried to go back to sleep. I wasn’t about to let my spouse off the hook that easily.
As husband, wife, and dog wearily trudged out the door at 5 AM to fetch Turbo, I glanced over at Buddy who was still lazily curled up on the bed. He seemed to be grinning in his sleep. He was a crafty old cat, after all.
We met Turbo and Debi in Kansas City that very afternoon. They were both delightful creatures. And soon, Turbo the Desert Dog was now speeding his way north towards Chicago. The 9-hour trip was most interesting.
We quickly discovered that Turbo had no idea how to maneuver in or out of a vehicle. Prior to Debbi picking him up in New Mexico, this wild desert mutt had never ridden in a vehicle before.
I soon found myself having to haul Turbo’s stocky jet-black frame in and out of my truck at every pit stop. My wife laughed hysterically each time I moaned and groaned and lifted.
Luckily, I got my revenge. I laughed hysterically on the last leg of our journey as my weary spouse unsuccessfully tried to nap in the back seat while both a 10-pound white city dog and a 70-pound black desert dog constantly jockeyed and bickered for the best position on her lap!
Our arrival back home brought numerous surprises. Turbo had no idea how to maneuver up or down stairways. They completely baffled him. At dawn, he also left several ‘gifts’ in our front foyer. He was obviously not housebroken, since he had never lived in a house.
As my wife and I carefully ‘scoured’ through his generous gifts, we heard a terrified yelp from our little mutt in the next room. My God, had The Desert Dog eaten her?
We rushed in to a most horrifying scene. A tiny, lifeless, disemboweled, white furry creature hung grotesquely from Turbo’s massive jowls. Luckily, it wasn’t our precious pooch. It was my wife’s favorite Teddy Bear.
Our little dog was obviously stressing over the fact that the newly arrived Turbo had broken a sacred house rule – ‘Teddy bears are not to be eaten.’ I quickly yanked what was left of this unfortunate foamy creature from Turbo’s death grip just before he swallowed its head. Close call!
Within a few hours, Turbo had also devoured a pair of my newly washed socks and one of my brand new leather shoes. Our little mutt never yelped once during this feeding frenzy. Obviously, she didn’t care very much about these items.
Turbo also had one other fascinating, but somewhat irritating, personality trait. Being a former wild pack animal, he religiously followed an ancient pack ritual handed down through the ages. He routinely offered homage to the current Alpha male in his pack.
When I called him, he would rush over to me, grovel at my feet, and immediately piddle on my shoes. I was obviously the new Alpha male in his strange new Midwestern pack.
Every time he did this, I would yell out, “Enough of these tributes already, Turbo. We’re running out of paper towels!” Turbo seemed fairly perturbed by my utter disdain for this particular ancient custom. He must have thought I was a rather odd pack leader.
Soon, the hour approached when we would have to say good-bye to our new desert friend and wish him well on his continuing odyssey east. In the few short days we had known him, wild Turbo had managed to endear himself to us, and even to our little pooch – despite his complete lack of social etiquette. Our felines, however, were already gaily celebrating his Bon Voyage Party!
Charlotte phoned and I quickly explained Turbo’s many odd and somewhat frustrating behavioral characteristics. I wanted to make sure that the adopting family in Massachusetts knew what they were in for. Charlotte patiently listened, then proclaimed, “You want to keep him, don’t you!”
Before realizing what I had said, I blurted out, “Yes!” I think Turbo had hypnotized me this time.
Charlotte howled with delight and announced that they could surely find another adorable pooch for the family in Massachusetts. “After all, there are only about 6 million homeless dogs in this country looking for someone to love.”
I thanked Charlotte, called my wife, and told her that we were keeping Turbo. Way across town, my wife sarcastically replied over the phone line, “DUH!” On the other side of the house, my oldest cat, Gabby, disgustedly deposited a huge brightly-colored hairball into my new leather briefcase. I guess I’m the only one in our entire household without any psychic abilities at all.
And these days, Turbo can be found tooling around town in my old truck with his best pal, Chica Blanca, at his side, or 'teaching the rules,' to our latest rescued dogs.
Our extremely intelligent little dog very quickly became Turbo’s mother, mentor, and best friend. She even taught him the many merits of grass. Our desert dog had never even seen grass before he arrived at our home. Now, he can be found at Blanca’s side in our backyard– merrily rolling in it, savoring its pungent aroma, and happily nibbling on it. Blanca also taught Turbo about another wonderful benefit of grass. It’s a great place to heed the Call of Nature.
Turbo’s favorite toy these days is a tiny Southwestern patterned Teddy Bear my wife happened to purchase several years ago while visiting the Navajo Reservation. We call it ‘Navajo Joe.’
Turbo no longer tries to eat old Joe. He gingerly carries him all around our home in his massive jowls – grinning from ear to ear. And Turbo has blossomed into one of the best dogs we’ve ever had – part Cattle Dog, part Shepherd, part Wolf, part Native American, and definitely all Heart.
And since that epic day, when I first volunteered to help transport an adopted animal to a new home, I’ve now volunteered to transport numerous homeless and orphaned animals, all across the country. And, it’s always been a very rewarding experience. I have our good old Turbo to thank for that.
My wife’s only request these days, is that we don’t keep any more of these transported animals ourselves – we’re rapidly running out of room. And, I usually comply with her wishes. At least I usually did, until Hurricane Katrina struck the devastated Gulf Coast, leaving thousands and thousands of additional homeless animals behind.
But that’s another story.
If you have some free time on your hands, and you want to help America’s homeless pets, Pet Transport is a truly rewarding experience; animal rescue groups are always looking for transport help.
Volunteering at an animal shelter is also rewarding, as is Fostering a homeless pup or kitten, to prepare it for adoption.
America’s numerous homeless pets, truly need all the help they can get, especially these extremely sad days.
©2010, Mr. Ed