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Alabama Transport 2020

In September of 2020, Mark and Jaclyn embarked on a 5,000+ mile round trip transport from Oregon to Alabama. The goal of the trip was 2-fold: bring a van full of donations down to Free State Four Paws and bring 25 Winston County rescue dogs back to Oregon. Many months of careful planning went into making this transport successful. With the help of the community and a very generous dog food and supply donation from Green Dog Pet Supply, they were able to pack a van full of much needed supplies.

When Mark reflects on the transport, he always laughs at how handy the weight of the dog food was in the van for when they hit a powerful wind storm while driving through Wyoming. Had the van been empty, they would have had to pull over and wait out the storm which would have delayed their trip.

Mark and Jaclyn left on a Saturday and arrived in Double Springs, AL the following Tuesday. They were finally able to meet with the incredible foster volunteer network that makes up Free State Four Paws, a true highlight of the trip. Mark and Jaclyn spent the next day loading up the van, getting last minute supplies, and getting the crates set up for the return trip. The biggest challenge would be keeping the dogs cool as they traveled through the more hotter and humid states in the South. Mark and Jaclyn worked out a meticulous system of bringing high powered rechargeable fans and back up battery packs, that would be rotated out during each scheduled stop and charged overnight during blackout driving times. They set up a thermometer in the back of the van and checked the temp during each scheduled stop. 

For every 6-8 hours of travel, Mark and Jaclyn would map out a stopping point. If it were nighttime, it would be at a hotel that Jaclyn would book a room at an hour in advance. This would allow Mark (who did the majority of the driving) to get some much needed uninterrupted sleep. Jaclyn would remain in the van with the dogs at all times for safety. 

Music was an essential tool on the trip. Prior to leaving, Jaclyn had prepared some puppy music playlists that would offer soothing tunes to help calm the pups on board. She had it connected to a wireless speaker that she positioned towards the middle of the van. This allowed everyone to hear the music without blasting it from the front speakers.

Scheduled stops were the most chaotic part of the trip. Jaclyn and Mark wanted to make sure each dog had a chance to get out of the van and stretch their legs. Mark was mostly in charge of the puppies and Jaclyn was in charge of walking the adult dogs. The puppies were rotated in groups and had to stay in a playpen with plastic covering on the ground to prevent them from coming in contact with contaminated soils which kept them safe from contracting deadly diseases like Parvovirus. While the puppies were in the pen, Jaclyn would clean out the crates, switch out the puppy pads, and refresh water bowls. Meanwhile, Mark would feed the puppies and allow them a chance to relieve themselves before going back into their crates.

After several days of being on the road, Jaclyn and Mark made it safely back to Portland, Oregon, 7 days after departing for Alabama. The dogs were dropped off at their respective receiving rescues and have all since gone on to be adopted into wonderful homes.

As stressful and chaotic as the trip was, Jaclyn and Mark are both open to the idea of doing it again. Watching all the rescued dogs go on and become adopted into loving homes made all the stress worthwhile. Because it was their first transport, there was a huge learning curve. If they were to do it all over again, Jaclyn says that she would have a much better idea of how to map out the return trip and better space the driving time with the scheduled stops.

“We had very valuable lessons along the way like not bringing bug spray,” she says. “It definitely would have come in handy during our first scheduled stop that unbeknownst to us, happened to be next to a wetland. It was after midnight when we got there and it was too dark to see the landscape behind the hotel that Mark would be staying at. Despite being after midnight, our temperature gauge was reading in the 80's. It was awfully humid out and that coupled with our proximity to water, which we didn't know was there until sunrise, made for the perfect conditions for mosquitoes. We were ambushed by mosquitoes and it was so bad that I was rubbing straight vinegar on my arms to try to deter them from biting me. That was the worst night of the trip- every time I started to doze off in the van, I would feel a mosquito buzzing around my face. I had hundreds of bites covering my body. In all the meticulous planning I had done for this trip, I forgot to bring mosquito repellent. It was a lesson learned for sure."

The Transport was an eye opening experience for both Jaclyn and Mark. ‘It’s one thing to hear about what’s going on but it is another to witness it in person,” Jaclyn says. “Seeing stray dogs wandering around the streets while people go about their day like nothing is unusual was a harrowing sight,” she says. “I remember being back in Oregon my first day after the transport and I had just gotten a rapid Covid-19 test done since after traveling through so many states, it was the responsible thing to do. After receiving my negative results, I remember leaving the clinic and while walking back to my car I see a water bowl left out on the sidewalk next to a frozen yogurt shop. It was a warm day and the employees had put it out for any dogs of patrons walking by. Just a few days previous, I had been in an area where stray dogs walk the streets and no one bats an eye. Now I am back in my home state and here is this frozen yogurt shop leaving a bowl of water out for dogs. It was in that exact moment that the reality of these two very stark experiences really set in.”

Mark and Jaclyn still stay in touch with one of the puppies they brought back during the transport trip. Their good friend adopted Joe, now named Tigger. Jaclyn especially loves that Tigger has become friends with Pokey (Alabama rescue and Mutt's Coffee ambassador). Though they are different ages and from different litters, they have become Oregon buddies. Jaclyn and Tigger's owner plan to take the two to the pacific coast soon where they will visit the ocean for the first time. 

To learn more about the stray dog population of Winston County, Al, check out the article “The Puppies of Winston County” located under the “Meet the Mutts” tab.

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