By Susan Spisak
“Saving Lives, One Rescue at a Time” is Underhound Railroad’s motto, a nonprofit formed in 2009 in Connecticut. The original goal of the 501(c)(3) corporation was to pull and rehome innocent death row dogs in that state, but efforts expanded to include rescue and foster communities in Maine, North Carolina, and other states. They’re run by a Board of Directors, and today they’re all Mainers. Through their efforts, they’ve saved hundreds of dogs from undeserved deaths each year.
They have a one hundred+ volunteer base with a strong representation in the South. Kate Zupan became involved with and helped grow Underhound’s North Carolina foster community years ago. Once her husband’s career brought the family back to their home state of Maine, she stepped into the role of Director.
Before each dog is placed into a loving foster home, they ensure that its medical, emotional, and behavioral needs are taken care of by veterinarians and trainers. They utilize professional boarding facilities as well, and to keep the dogs active, volunteers walk them on “pup dates.” Once the foster has a good handle on the dog’s personality and shares the specifics with the adoption team, they work hard to find the perfect home.
Zupan agrees that fostering is essential to their group, and they’re happy to accept new Maine applicants. Not sure? There are regional foster Facebook community pages for questions, concerns, or to seek advice. You don’t need to be a long-term foster; you can get your feet wet with short-term hold or temporary placement fostering. They also need traditional fosters and those for injury care, rehab, hospice, seniors, puppies, and pregnant moms. (underhoundrailroad.org/foster-info/.)
Underhound’s social media pages are full of their “Happy Tails.” Zupan excitedly shared that recently Peppa, an Underhound pup who escaped on her way to her forever home, was recovered after twenty-five days on the lam. The tiny sweetheart was lured to safety using mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. “It was such a big boost for everyone.”
Another favorite is Solomon, a heartworm positive boy pulled from a high-kill southern shelter. Once healthy, he was transported to Kittery, Maine where he was fostered until the skittish boy bolted from the house. Underhound volunteers and other groups searched extensively, yet he alluded all. Fast forward two years, he was spotted in Hull, Massachusetts living in an abandoned shed. Eventually he placed his trust in a neighborhood family and stayed put. The adopters believe he walked from Maine to find them. His story is covered in Solomon: One Dog's Improbable, Two-Year, Thousand-Mile Journey to Find Home, written by Gail Gilmore, a volunteer with Missing Dogs Massachusetts. Zupan said it’s a beautiful book.
These victories are why Underhound Railroad continues to chug along! To see their available dogs and adoption process, visit underhoundrailroad.org/, click on “adopt.” Monetary donations are welcome – they go towards vetting and emergency medical attention. For tangible donations, see their Maine and North Carolina Amazon Wish List at amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/KJFRQ4GC9UVG?ref_=wl_fv_le. Check their website for info on their GoFundMe fundraiser to offset recent medical costs.