The road home: Volunteer drives dogs cross-country to be adopted

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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RESCUERS – James Harbor and Lori Armes, along with other volunteers, help move dogs from Texas to rescue groups in other states. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Shiloh was only a half hour away from euthanization when a rescue group came to get her.

The heeler mix pup left the Wise County Animal Shelter and ended up in the home of James Harbor, a former Plano police officer. Harbor originally planned to foster Shiloh until her permanent home could be found, but it turns out her permanent home was with him.

JUMPING IN – Dozens of dogs can be taken in one trip via James Harbor’s RV. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Shiloh was lucky – not every animal on the kill list manages to get out of an overcrowded shelter and into a loving home. Years later, Harbor is trying to make the odds of survival greater for the dogs left behind.

Shiloh’s Road to Hope is an organization that transports dogs from kill shelters in Texas to rescue groups in other states with a shortage of adoptable dogs. From there they’ll be placed in permanent homes.

“When James retired, Shiloh came into his life,” said Lori Armes, a member of Road to Hope. “This is what he does with his retirement. It’s been a lot bigger than we thought.”

Harbor still visits the Wise County shelter where Shiloh came from, filling his RV with cages of all sizes to transport dogs to Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin.

In one trip from Wise County last week, Harbor was taking 25 dogs to Illinois and Wisconsin. He and Armes arranged cages on every available space in the RV – on the couch seats, the bed, the shelves. One little Cairn terrier slept on a bed between the driver and passenger seats.

And, as always, Shiloh went along for the ride, curled up on the couch, jumping up to greet every new dog that Harbor and Armes brought in.

Harbor said he’ll often drive all night to get the dogs to their destination. If he’s lucky, he’ll be in bed after 36 hours straight of loading, driving and unloading dogs – and hopefully they’ll sleep through the night, though he has had to take nine out at a time to pee before.

“When they get on, they sleep like they’ve never slept before. They know they’re safe,” Harbor said. “The first two nights I had Shiloh she didn’t move in the bed.”

Harbor and Armes said the Wise County shelter hasn’t had to put any dogs down due to lack of space in more than a year, but the shelter is still over capacity. That’s why they try to get dogs out and to rescue groups – the rescue groups don’t have to pay for transportation, and the shelter can hopefully keep more dogs alive.

Ready to Go

READY TO GO – James Harbor inspects the crates in his RV before taking a group of dogs up north. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We strive to help them because they’ve been struggling due to budget cuts,” Armes said. “Cathy Sides has been amazing. She wants everybody out alive and healthy.”

The shelter could use more volunteers, Armes and Harbor said, to walk the dogs and play with them.

“That keeps the dogs adoptable,” Harbor said.

To help at the Wise County Animal Shelter, call 940-627-7577. To donate to Shiloh’s Road to Hope, visit

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