After two Christmases away from her family, Halloween the cat was returned to her family on Dec. 20 in Elgin, Oklahoma.
Halloween is part of a military family stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia. The arrival of Hurricane Irma in Sept. 2017 forced them to evacuate to North Carolina.
During a stop in South Carolina to take their dog for a walk, a startled Halloween jumped out of the car and ran off. The family looked for nearly four hours before stopping as darkness fell over the swamps where they searched.
The next day, the family made their way back to Georgia against the evacuation traffic in hopes of finding Halloween to no avail.
Come Thanksgiving 2019, Halloween was picked up as a stray by animal control nearly 1,000 miles from where she was lost in Rockford, Illinois. Halloween was identified by her microchip, and Rockford Animal Control tracked her family to Elgin.
“Obviously someone had picked him up,” said James Harbor, president of the Shiloh’s Road to Hope dog transport organization. “She was in good shape, she was healthy and chunky with a good coat.”
An administrator of animal services reached out to Harbor to help reunite Halloween with her family. Harbor readily agreed and escorted the first cat to ride in his Shilohmobile 1 to spend Christmas with her family.
“You can't say no,” Harbor said. “It's a military family. The cat's been missing for two years, so we couldn't turn it down. I had Halloween in a 36-inch box with food and water with a litter box and a bed, and she was right behind me in my RV. When we stopped, I would take her out and play with her, love on her a little bit. We spent one night on the road in my RV, and I found out that even though we do dogs, cats are actually easier because you don't have to take them for walks. You just put the litter box in there with them, and they're happy. That's the first cat we've really done, and you have to do that in those circumstances. Halloween was very happy, and the family was ecstatic to get Halloween back.”
Shiloh’s Road to Hope is a Plano-based nonprofit dog transport organization that for the last four years has transported dogs from high-kill areas to out of state adoption centers, so dogs who might otherwise be put down might have a second chance.
“I adopted my dog, Shiloh, in May of 2015,” Harbor said. “She was 30 minutes away from being put down. When I got her, she was terrified of everything. She was about five months old, weighed 20 pounds, and I had to carry her everywhere for the first couple of months that I had her. She finally opened up, and she was playing in the yard. I just didn't have the heart to send her in transport to make her have to start all over. I ended up keeping her, and that got me involved in rescue. I actually had no clue that rescues took dogs out of state at that time. I was a police officer in Plano for 31 years, and I knew I was retiring at the end of the year and needed something to do, so the more I dug into it, the more I decided that it might be something would help rescues pull more dogs.”
As a nonprofit, Harbor makes sure every dollar goes toward transporting dogs to the adoption centers they need to go to.
“We don't charge for transport any rescues,” Harbor said. “We survive on donations only. Nobody in our organization makes a dollar out of it. Everything is all volunteer. We reimburse for expenses, but nobody has ever made a dime out of this organization. Every dime we get goes to pay for expenses, and nothing goes to any person.”
To further ensure he is maximizing his ability to transport as many dogs as possible, Harbor works from his home instead of renting out an office.
“If we were to rent a place to do this, let's say it was $1,000 a month,” Harbor said. “It costs about that much to take a load of dogs to Wisconsin and back, so the way I look at that, that's about 20 or 30 dogs that wouldn't get out because we're using that money to pay rent.”
To transport the dogs, Shiloh’s Road to Hope uses two motorhomes. One has the bed and bathroom still installed while the other has been gutted to replace all of the furniture with built-in kennels to transport more dogs.
“The motorhome with the built-in kennels has been having a lot of mechanical problems, so we've got our eye out looking for something else that we can gut and put our kennels in,” Harbor said. “At one point, we broke down, and I had to spend most of the day taking care of dogs that were all in Missouri while they got my RV running again, and it was more stressful on them because they're in it longer than a normal trip. We don't want to get back in that position, so we're looking for one right now that we can convert to fit our needs, but again, we don't want to spend $20,000 on one because that's a lot of trips up north and a lot of dogs that can be moved out.”
Since its start, the foundation has moved over 3,000 dogs over a span of four years and has covered over 164,000 miles to deliver dogs to no-kill shelters.
“This year, we've transported 1,081 dogs and one cat,” Harbor said. “I was looking at the numbers last night, and combined we've done about 75,000 miles this year transporting dogs. We're trying to make a little dent, and I think we are.”
More information can be found at shilohsroadtohope.com or on the Shiloh’s road to hope Facebook page.