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Kleppner: Canine Rescue

(Host) Commentator and socially responsible Burlington business man Bram Kleppner recently learned that there's a lot more to any new mutt in the neighborhood than meets the eye.

(Kleppner) I took my dog for a walk in Burlington the other day, and along the way we met four other people out with their dogs. I don't know what breed my dog is, and I was surprised to learn that three of the four people we met didn't know what breed their dogs were either.

Ditto the two dogs that now inhabit the back yard of our new neighbors. Ditto two of the dogs at the dog park last Saturday .

Like our new puppy, all these dogs of unknown breed were rescues.

For many years, the only time I heard the word rescue applied to dogs was with greyhounds that were being rescued from the racetrack.

Now there are rescue dogs of all sorts all over Vermont , some rescued from abusive homes, some from illegal dog fighting operations, some from natural disasters like Irene and Sandy, and some from being euthanized at shelters.

It's great that there are so many dog lovers who are willing to open their homes to dogs of unknown origin and unknown levels of emotional and physical trauma, but even more impressive is the story of all the good people behind those adoptions, who actually rescue the dogs.

A vast network of rescuers, rescue services, and foster families connects these animals to their new homes.

Big-hearted volunteers keep an eye on the kill lists at shelters across the East Coast. Whenever they can, if a dog is slated for destruction, a volunteer jumps in his or her car, drives to wherever the dog is, and brings it back to Vermont .

In the case of our pup, the rescuer drove 17 hours to a shelter in South Carolina to save her from being put down - then turned around and drove right back.

I've also heard of a rescue group here that runs a rescue bus on long sweeping trips through the South, picking up dogs along the way until it's full, before returning to Vermont .

Once a dog is rescued, it goes to a foster home, with foster parents willing to open their home to a needy dog, potentially fall in love with it, and then a few weeks later say goodbye and move it on to a permanent home, making room again in their own home and heart, for the next dog that needs fostering.

This network of shelters, rescuers, foster homes and adoptive homes is like an Underground Railroad for dogs. Vermonters can be proud of the fact that our neighbors work hard to keep this train running. And notwithstanding the fact that our puppy has chewed her way through a few pairs of our shoes, it's a very worth while effort.

Bram Kleppner is CEO of Danforth Pewter, Board Chair at the Population Media Center, and Co-Chair of Vermont's Medicaid & Exchange Advisory Board. His mission is to take steps large and small to fight global warming and to bring the world's population into balance with its renewable resources.
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