Wednesday, December 2, was a horrible day for the City of San Bernardino, California. The mass shooting that day claimed the lives of 14 innocent people. At least 22 others were seriously injured. And in the midst of all that chaos, one woman stood her ground at an animal shelter in that city, refusing to leave without the dog she had volunteered to drive to safety.
With the shelter approaching total lockdown, staffers were panicking. They could hear the sirens screaming all around them. Helicopters were flying overhead. Yet Susanna Ruiz, a volunteer transporter for FurFriends Animal Rescue, Inc., stood her ground and refused to leave without the dog she came to save, a German Shepherd named Makayla. She knew that the dog was slated for euthanasia that day; to come back the next would be too late. Makayla was said to be aggressive, plus she was also exhibiting many of the symptoms of distemper, a highly serious, highly contagious, canine virus. If Ruiz left, Makayla may not even have lived through the evening.
Ms. Ruiz had already driven one dog to safety earlier that day from another California shelter. When she got to Makayla’s shelter, the staff there told her that the dog was very ill. But Ms. Ruiz was determined to get her out, and stood in front of the rescue committee, refusing to leave. So the shelter contacted Kasha Batten-Smouse, from the Oregon-based FurFriends, to have her make the decision. And Kasha said that Makayla was going to get her chance. As Ms. Ruiz told Examiner, Batten-Smouse “still wanted Makayla, no matter what.”
If you look at the pictures posted today on Facebook of Makayla, who is now called ‘Miracle’ or, more often, ‘Micky’, you’d never believe it was the same dog. She’s frolicking in the snow at her new home with a canine bestie. The Oregon foster family that took her in decided to make their home her furever home. As it turned out, she did not have distemper. But her second chance would never have happened, if her transporter had left the building. Transporters are an extremely overlooked part of the rescue puzzle, a part that can be very time-consuming as well as expensive. Most times you pay for your own gas and tolls. There’s the wear and tear on your vehicle. You may be up at the crack of dawn, or driving far into the wee hours of the morning. Except for your passengers, you may be alone for much of it, and, if you’re driving ‘legs’ of a transport, you probably don’t know the person who is driving the leg before yours, nor the person you are meeting up with at the end of your own leg.
Transporting is always a journey of faith and trust. You have faith that the person meeting you will give you advance warning should there be a delay. You trust that you will arrive safely at your destination. You hope your phone stays charged, that you don’t get lost, that the weather holds up, that there isn’t an accident on the road. That when it’s time for the ‘handoff’ to the next driver, that the animal you’re transporting is safely leashed, does a quick potty and water break, and doesn’t vomit in your car. You take every precaution possible to insure the safety of yourself and your passengers. But there are days, like the day of the shooting, when events may fly quickly out of control. All you can do is keep calm, and transport on.
As Ms. Ruiz tells Examiner, the entire day was extremely scary, yet she kept her cool. “Everyone was panicking due to the shooting.” She had to be in Yorba Linda, California, before 2 P.M., and it was already almost noon. The streets were chaotic, and she was worried that she was going to get locked in the shelter. At first, nobody wanted to let her into the shelter. Finally, she got into the building. Then, after Makayla was transferred to her car, she drove about 40 minutes to the vet where the dog would have been boarded and treated. When she got to that facility, due to the lockdown, no one was able to help her. She then had to drive further away, out of the area, to a veterinarian in Upland, where she was finally able to drop off a very tired and weak girl. All told, Ms. Ruiz spent about two hours driving that day, and saved two lives.
Certainly this story does not compare to the rest of the horror of that day in San Bernardino. If anything, it is simply to thank one woman for the bravery she exhibited on a very tragic day. And to honor the thousands of transporters across the country, who drive a variety of animals to safety each and every day, and who are very much a key component to the world of rescue. If you would like to become a transporter, you can do a search on Facebook. You’ll find transport groups in every state. You can search on Yahoo.com as well, and include the highway that’s closest to your house, such as the I-4 transport group, or the I-95 transport group. You can contact your local shelter; if they are rescue-friendly, they may be able to provide you with the names of rescue groups that utilize transporters. Welcome to the rescue railroad. Safe journeys and see you on the road!
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