Network offers hope for homeless pets |

Network offers hope for homeless pets


Search for Animal Rescue Relay on Facebook for more information

While Facebook is taking a lot of heat these days, the social network inspired a Douglas County nonprofit that has resulted of the adoption of more than 350 dogs.

Founder Heidi Neilson said Animal Rescue Relay started out when her sister-in-law pointed out that often posts on shelter dogs include a note they would adopt the animal if it was closer.

“We were vacationing when she said, ‘We see all these dogs in shelters and somebody in Oregon says if you can get that dog to me I’ll adopt it. Let’s just start a rescue and do that.’”

The original idea was to use cross-country truckers who were already heading wherever the dog had to go to do the transport.

“It was before we knew anything about rules and regulations,” Neilson said. “Commercially, we can’t do that.”

But Neilson could drive a dog herself, and did.

“I did one transport for somebody locally here, and that felt good,” she said. “This is really cool.”

Her reputation preceded her when she went to the Fresno Humane Society, where they told her to pick a dog.

“Renee Mack was the first one who ended up getting that dog,” she said. “It was too much for her, but she was the first one.”

The 1986 Douglas High graduate recruited others, including Kelly Pettit-Lopez, who helped her make a run to Central California where they picked up nine dogs and a goat.

“I was like a fish on a hook,” Pettit-Lopez said. “You see these dogs in a shelter and once they get their freedom walk and you get them in the car their demeanor changes. They know something good is going to happen.”

The program is completely foster based, Neilson said. While the occasional dog will go into boarding, that is the exception.

“We’re always needing fosters,” she said.

Most of the work they do rescuing dogs is actually in California.

“What’s crazy is that I was born and raised here, and I have more friends in Central California than I do here, because of the Rescue. I have like 1,800 Facebook followers and 1,100 are in California.”

That network allows Nielson to tag people when she needs dogs transported.

“I can tag 10 people and eight of them will ask ‘what do you need?’”

While they save a lot of dogs fro California, they also help animals in rural Nevada communities, like Elko, Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.

She said Douglas County’s shelter is one of the best she’s experienced.

“They’re doing a great job,” she said. “We’re always sharing for their posts. They’re fantastic. Especially with the shelters we have to walk into. You would be heartbroken.”

Nielson said the group always needs fosters, donations and volunteers.

“We always need transporters,” she said.

A “Strutts fo Mutts” fundraiser is 5-10 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Carson Valley Inn. VIP tickets, includes free local wine, swag bag and special seating, are $80 per person or $150 per couple and this is limited seating.

For corporate sponsorship and whole table purchase as well as information, contact Petit-Lopez at (775) 230-4117.