By Sadie Williams
Long Trail Canine Rescue has flown under the radar for some time. Founded in January 2011 by Lisa LaFlam of Wilder, the organization relies of a network of volunteers to transport rescued shelter dogs to Vermont and rehabilitate them by providing safe foster homes until they are adopted.
Originally serving only the southern part of the state and some of New Hampshire, the operation expanded to Charlotte and the surrounding area in 2012 when Kim Frigault was introduced to LaFlam by a mutual friend. Frigault, a park ranger currently stationed on Mount Philo with her husband (also a park ranger), was able to expand the network of foster and adoptive families to the north western part of the state. Since 2011, Long Trail has placed 164 rescued dogs with permanent families throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.
Most of their dogs come from Darlington, S.C. where overpopulation and crowded shelters have been constant issues. The Darlington County Humane Society took in 4,040 animals in 2011. Of those, 77 were reclaimed, 616 were adopted, 1,358 were rescued through programs like Long Trail, and 1,529 were euthanized. Darlington has a human population of 67,935. Now compare that to Chittenden County, population 159,515 and the Chittenden County Humane Society, which takes in anywhere between 750 to 1,000 animals each year.
Fortunately, a group of volunteers in Darlington created a website to help rescue operations and potential pet owners find adoptable dogs before they are euthanized. Long Trail uses this website, which provides photos, character descriptions, and history for over 100 dogs in need of homes. Frigault and LaFlam try to pull dogs that are on the “48 hour” list, referring to the amount of time the animals have left before they are euthanized. However, if potential adoptive families have given them certain criteria, and they find a dog that fits, they pull it.
Once selected, the newly rescued Long Trail dogs begin their two day journey up the east coast, along with 50-100 other dogs rescued by similar organizations. Early Saturday morning, vans shuttle them up to Pennsylvania, where they rest for the night with volunteer foster families. On Sunday morning, the expedition picks back up as Frigault and LaFlam’s dogs go their own way with a series of volunteer drivers who pass them along until they reach Vermont.
“It’s amazing how many people touch this one dog on its trip to a new life,” Frigault says. It’s true, the amount of effort expended in ensuring speedy and safe transport is incredible. The whole operation happens every two weeks, a significant dedication of time and a testimony to the passion that these dogs inspire.
At their present size, Long Trail generally can’t bring up more than five dogs at a time. Litters of puppies don’t count toward that number, as there’s usually no problem adopting them out quickly. Once the animals have arrived, they are placed with foster families until permanent homes are found. Currently, they work with 15-20 foster families who provide a loving environment in which dogs can unwind.
Long Trail provides foster families with everything they need to support their new guest. That includes dog food, leash and collar, blankets, crates, and a special “Adopt” vest for the dog to wear out and about. All in all, they provide the recipe for a comfortable foster experience for both dog and human.
When placing rescues in permanent homes, the women of Long Trail try to match personalities. An upbeat dog that needs hours of exercise and play won’t get placed with a couch potato, just like an aging dog that just wants to relax won’t be sent to live with an avid mountain climber or a touring musician. Their dedication to finding the perfect home is reflected by the fact that in the three years that they’ve operated, only two dogs have been returned.
Now that they have established a system of foster homes, Long Trail is looking to step into the public eye. When asked if she would like to increase the number of dogs they pulled from shelters, Frigault answered with a definitive “yes.”
They’ll need more foster families to do that, so if you’re interested in sharing your home with a Long Trail dog, you can find an application on their website, www.longtraildogs.org. If you’re looking for a permanent canine companion, you can find an adoption application on the “Meet our Dogs” page of the website. Who knows, you may just find your new best friend.
By Sadie Williams