A Book Review: Rescue Road
Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway follows Greg Mahle on one of his “rescue road trips,” as author Peter Zheutlin joins this intrepid man on his bimonthly journeys from Ohio to Gulf Coast. There Mahle meets up with a handful of dog rescue organizations to pick up as many rescue dogs as he can safely fit into his transport vehicle, a tractor trailer that’s been outfitted to comfortably support up to eighty dogs. There he and the dogs head back up north so the pups can meet their new forever families. Transporting rescue dogs is Greg’s livelihood and his passion; the work is intensely rewarding but also challenging and at times quite chaotic.
Zheutlin divides his narrative between Mahle’s transport of rescued dogs and the handful of women and men behind the scenes who are involved with the rescue organizations and shelters and who are responsible for saving the dogs Mahle transports. The stories of these dedicated and emotionally robust people are inspiring and in places heartbreaking, as we see the multitude of challenges they face. The women and men who devote their time, their hearts, and often huge sums of money from their own bank accounts, to saving dogs in need are heroes, and Zheutlin’s book deftly introduces both the world of dog rescue and some of the extraordinary people involved in that world.
Zheutlin also writes about the dogs; he relates what background is known about them and how they ended up abandoned, and follows them on the highway to their forever homes. He relates the horrors that some of them faced before they were rescued, and the fate of some that couldn’t be rescued in time. The reader can’t help but feel attached to these dogs, even though we’ll never meet them. Zheutlin also ably expresses the depth of love people are capable of feeling for dogs, and the profound bond that can develop between them.
Rescue Road also shows the cruel truths about the ways many dogs end up in Southern high-kill shelters and how they are handled and disposed of if they aren’t rescued in time. While Zheutlin is able to portray this without overdoing the gory details, the bare facts are enough to provoke tears in dog lovers. That being said, it’s a hard look at things that need to be addressed. Zheutlin’s book is an eye-opener to the great urgency there is in rescuing dogs from high-kill shelters, as well as an eye-opener to how much rescue organizations need our support. This book is, ultimately, heartwarming and filled with hope and optimism, but it is not an easy beach-read that you can breeze through.
After reading Rescue Road you may find yourself interested in learning more about the rescue world, and how you might help, whether that’s by donating time and money to a rescue organization, or fostering or adopting rescue dogs. Zheutlin includes some information about the adoption process and how to recognize a reputable dog rescue organization, as well as information on how you can support rescues. He also includes some very thoughtful points to consider before jumping into adoption. If reading this book sets a fire in your heart, I urge you to learn more and discover the many ways you can help dogs in need.
Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway
By Peter Zheutlin
Sourcebooks, Inc, 2015
Paperback, 236 pp