Greg Mahle drives a tractor trailer 4,200 miles across the country twice a month. He’s not carrying supplies for a major retailer or delivering packages for a shipping company.
He has precious cargo on every trip—dozens of dogs in need of a good home.
Mahle runs Rescue Road Trips, which takes abandoned dogs from the South and matches them up with new owners in the North. Mahle saw a supply and demand need in the dog rescue world. There’s just way more abandoned dogs in the South than in the North. So after being in the restaurant business in Ohio for 30 years he began picking up dogs and delivering them to their new owners.
One of those new owners was journalist and author Peter Zheutlin, who used Mahle’s service to adopt his family dog Albie. He learned about Mahle’s cross-country operation and was amazed.
Mahle leaves his home in Ohio on a Monday morning and starts heading south through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. That’s where he begins picking up dogs from local veterinarians and rescue groups. He has a fellow driver with him named Tommy. They take turns sleeping and driving, barely stopping to rest. Then they head back across the Gulf states hitting Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi. They can cart as many as 85 dogs in the back of his trailer. Then they make the trek up north towards New England. By Friday, they’re in Pennsylvania and the last stop is Massachusetts. On Sunday, he heads back home to Ohio, where he stays home for a week, cleaning the trailer and fielding calls for more adoptions, before doing it all again.
Who can resist this face? (Photo: Rescue Road Trips)
Zheutlin asked Mahle if he could join him for a trip and ended up driving 7,000 miles with him and Tommy last year. The result is a new book called “Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway.”
“I really wanted to find more about where Albie had come from and who else had extended their hearts and hands to get Albie to us,” Zheultin told Yahoo Travel. “It really does take a village to save a dog.”
The dogs have to be let out for walks along the way. The truck will pull over and Mahle and Tommy will quickly walk each one of them. It’s quite a sight to see.
“Everybody sees the dogs and thinks I’ve just scooped them all out of a shelter and I’m just out giving them away. That’s not true,” Mahle told Yahoo Travel at a recent stop in Austin where he was picking up a lab/shepherd mix named Dewey. “I try to explain to them that I’m like the UPS driver. All of my packages came from a destination and are going to a destination. You can’t just walk up to the UPS driver and ask for a package because it’s not yours.”
“I have other designated stops where I use something called ‘Angels’ and that’s volunteers that will stop out and help me,” he said. “A lot of times I’ll have as many Angels as I will have dogs. So each dog gets to stay out on the ground three or four hours, it gets hands put on it, it get loved on, it gets reassured It calms the dogs and makes everything better.”
Yet another satisfied customer. (Photo: Rescue Road Trips)
Mahle, who has four dogs of his own at his home in Ohio, says this job is a calling for him. He relies heavily on donations and often just breaks even with every trip.
“The world has tons and tons of problems. I can’t help with every one of them. This is one of the problems I can help with. This is a problem I choose to help with. Everyone picks and choose their own battles and this is the battle I’ve chosen,” he said.
Being on the road is tough and taking care of the dogs—and the truck—is demanding work. “This is a tiring job. It is. This is a physical job on top of everything else and it’s a truck-driving job on top of all of that,” he said. But he loves every minute of it.
“There is no time on the road, really, to stop for yourself. I pass through so many great places that I would love to stop and spend some a day or so. But when you’re with 100 dogs, that’s just not feasible,” he said. “I see a lot of things. I get to see a lot of the country. That’s fascinating to me. I’m a northerner. Just seeing the South is always a treat for me. Even on this trip down I noticed the cotton’s in bloom. It’s beautiful. And for a northern that didn’t grow up with that kind of stuff, it’s fascinating to me.”
Pick up “Rescue Road” for your favorite dog lover. (Photo: Amazon)
Zheutlin got to see first-hand just how demanding the job is.
“For the hours he works, he could make more money flipping burgers,” Zheutlin said in amazement.
To support Mahle, visit his website Rescue Road Trips. And follow his journeys on his Facebook page, where he posts regular updates from the road. And to read the amazing story behind his operation, pick up Zheutlin’s book on Amazon.