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Real Life Dog Delivery
Meet John Ashworth, a handsome young man who works for a dog delivery service transporting rescued strays to new owners.
Feb 2015 | TheDogPress.com
Dell Arthur, Features Writer
After an arduous four day trip "Jake" is delivered to Kathleen Macmillan, his new forever home.
Photo by Dell Arthur
It all started when John Ashworth was 10 years old. Now in his early 20’s he has spent much of his life rescuing and re-homing stray dogs. That sometimes leaves him with bite marks but for Ashworth, that matters little. To John every dog is important and deserves a home.
In California where Ashworth lives he estimates that 95 per cent of the stray animals captured are destroyed within days. For him that is unacceptable and as a consequence he now works for several animal rescue centers transporting all sizes and breeds of dogs to new homes where loving pet parents open their hearts and homes.
“I first started delivering dogs with my mom’s pickup. Then I met Kevan Boston who operates a delivery service,” he recalled. For the first two years Ashworth delivered rescued dogs across the lower part of California but now he covers several states. And as far as transporting dogs being considered a business, “…it is and it isn’t. Kevan will deliver dogs to new homes for free if need be,” he stressed.
“We only transfer dogs from proven, ethical sources and before the animal is delivered it has to be inspected by a vet for any problems,” he explained.
And it’s a good thing. On a recent trip his van was stopped by the Douglas Sheriff’s Office at Roseburg, Oregon, and he had to unload some crates for inspection.
Fortunately all the paperwork was in order, the dogs were deemed in good health and he was allowed to continue on his trip. “We have to comply with state laws regarding the rescued dogs’ health. Before we deliver them they are checked for heart worm or other illnesses by a vet before we ever leave on the trip.” When the once-stray dog is delivered, the new pet owner is furnished with paperwork documenting all the shots given including certification for rabies for transporting across the United States border to Canada, and signed by a licensed veterinarian who did the work. In addition, all dogs are neutered.
Occasionally Ashworth will take part in a dog rescue but now his primary time is spent driving all across the western half of the United States delivering pups to new homes. His van now has over 320,000 miles and this type of wear and tear on a 1995 Ford van has proven a problem with breakdowns.
He noted these expenses can take a large “bite” out of operation costs. “We charge by the crate and transport as many as 30 dogs or more at a time. If I have any problems the money comes out of the fees. Awhile back I had a water pump go out and after getting it fixed I was really running short.” And that is where cutting back on travel expenses comes in. Staying in motels or eating at restaurants is usually a non-existent luxury.
Starting out at San Diego, Ashworth heads north. His route stops at many smaller communities where the new pet parents anxiously await their new family member. Time is a factor and the further north he travels the more care and concern he has for his charges. “We try to deliver the dogs
as clean as possible,” he explained. "There is the need for the animals to be able to relieve themselves and not mess up their cages."
Exercise for the animals is difficult since the trip from San Diego to the Canadian border can take up to four days and weather can also be a factor.
"In the summer time the trip is usually pleasant but winter time can be something else."
“When I’m on the road I sleep in the van with the dogs. When the cold weather hits its usually not too bad since the dogs generate a lot of body heat,” he said with a chuckle. But one thing for sure—the accommodations aren’t the Hilton.
Another factor in transporting is the need for rest and eating. Rest consists of brief breaks sleeping in the van and the food isn’t on a gourmet menu. “I eat a lot of fast food stuff but now and then after I deliver a pup the new owner will buy me breakfast or lunch.” When this happens it is greatly appreciated. But the real joy for Ashcroft is to see the expression of the new owners’ face when they first see their new pup.
As far as the actual delivery is concerned all arrangements are made in advance. Now and then there is a missed communication and that is where his cell phone comes into play. He said everyone is given his number and he also has theirs. Fortunately, he said, it’s very rare that the connection is missed.
If anyone thinks of delivering dogs as a career they should first be motivated by love. Tabulating time-which Ashworth says can run to 80 hours a week-he figures he’s making anywhere from $2 to $4 an hour! Once the trip is over and he is back at San Diego, his first goal is a hot shower, a good meal and a soft bed. He can rest satisfied that he has endeared himself to several happy pet parents and the dogs he delivered have been rescued from certain death.
Sometimes money isn’t everything.
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