Photo: Aaron Tator
When Christa Pare’s father, Jim, died of cancer in November 2017, finding a home for Tundra became a priority. The five-year-old dog, a husky-Lab mix with boundless enthusiasm and a thick coat of white fur speckled with auburn, had been Jim’s constant companion. Pare had arranged for two of Jim’s good friends to adopt the dog, but there was a snag: the couple lived in Thunder Bay, a 13-hour drive from the Pare home in Renfrew, Ont., 95 kilometres outside of Ottawa. It would cost more than $800 to fly Tundra north, and Pare, a radio host, was already logging extra time in the booth to pay for funeral costs.
“Tundra’s future was weighing heavily on my shoulders,” she says now. A relative who had heard of Pare’s dilemma directed her to the Facebook page of Furry Hobos N Hiway Heroes, hoping the group might help. The four-year-old organization is the brainchild of Margaret Foster Hyde, a retired trucker who dreamed up the plan of pairing dogs in need with long-distance truck drivers when she realized how expensive it would be to get her newly adopted English springer spaniel, Barkley, from Sudbury to Thunder Bay. Back then, Foster Hyde called up a friend who worked the route and asked if Barkley could hitch a ride. “The idea just blossomed and caught on,” says the 66-year-old.
When Pare heard back from Foster Hyde, she was so relieved that she cried. “Beyond the cost, to have to crate Tundra and put him on a plane by himself after he lost his best friend would have been awful,” she says. He loves being in a vehicle—this was a perfect solution.” (Here are 50 things your veterinarian won’t tell you.)
At her home outside Thunder Bay, Foster Hyde has three whiteboards set up in the living room. One tracks the drivers’ routes, one is for the dogs who need rides and one is for the dogs already in transit. Since her group’s inception, Foster Hyde estimates they’ve transported between 300 and 400 dogs across Canada and the United States. “We used to move litters of puppies, but we try to avoid that now because it can get hard in the trucks,” she says. “Too much poo.”
Requests come in from private owners, veterinarians, rescue organizations and shelters. Once Foster Hyde has identified her charge and where it needs to go, she sketches out a route with as few hand-offs as possible. Then she’ll get on the phone with the drivers and pair them up with dogs in need.
It’s not unusual for a group of truckers to hold a conference call in the middle of the night and spend hours joking around once they’ve made logistical arrangements. “It feels like a family,” says Foster Hyde.
At first, she enlisted drivers she knew, but after a while, new recruits came her way via word of mouth. She currently partners with more than 20 truckers, a number of whom have ended up adopting their shelter bound cargo themselves.
The Hiway Heroes never charge a shipping fee, asking only for baked goods and Tim Hortons coffee in return. (They have received everything from homemade Oreo cookies to cheese platters to loaves of bread.) The supplies drivers need—leashes, blankets, dog food—are paid for by Foster Hyde or donated. Over the years, the group has escorted a stolen pit bull back to its owner and ferried a pair of St. Bernards from the east coast to Calgary. The longest distance a pup has travelled is the 2,315 kilometres between Los Angeles and Lethbridge, Alta.
As for Tundra’s comparatively short-haul trip from Renfrew, it was made possible by a driver named Greg Rumbolt, who dropped the husky off at the Pass Lake truck stop near Thunder Bay this past January. The instant Rumbolt opened the cab’s door, Tundra leaped out onto the snow to meet his new owners. He was home.
For more volunteer inspiration, check out the story behind Bear Clan Patrol!