Story by Jeremiah Kalb
On a chilly evening in March, Anna Struhs loaded a bag of slip leashes and dog collars into her Honda Pilot in preparation for a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Utah.
The following day, two furry animals named Misty and Queenie waited at the I-15 Exit 344 in Ogden for the next three legs of their “freedom ride,” and Struhs was their driver.
In the “rescue world” where Struhs has played a part since 2019, a “freedom ride” is a magical carpet ride out of an animal shelter and eventually into the loving arms of a new owner.
“They are there because some human failed them miserably, by surrendering or abandoning or dumping them,” Struhs says.
Approximately 3.1 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. About 390,000 of those dogs are euthanized each year.
For this transport, Struhs received a text asking her if there was any way she could also transport some rabbits out of Brigham City.
“I can do that,” she replied.
Any day Struhs has off from operating the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner is a day she is transporting animals within Idaho or across neighboring state lines.
Over the years, Struhs has transported cats, rabbits, potbelly pigs, guinea pigs, and one rat, but mostly dogs.
“It means giving them a chance at a life of love, something they didn’t have before,” she says.
Pet transport is the transfer of adoptable pets from over-populated areas to regions of the U.S. where demand for adoptable pets is high.
In the case of Misty, she came in from Cedar City, Utah, as a terrified dog.
“I don’t know what happened in her life, but she loved me and loved being around people,” Struhs says.
Misty was saved just in the nick of time. Her euthanization was planned just 24 hours before her freedom ride.
“Misty had $450 worth of pledges to help her get out of the shelter because she was not getting the response she needed,” she explains.
Queenie, a heeler, was an owner surrender from the Salt Lake City Humane Society.
Heelers are known for their high energy levels and exceptional ranges of resourcefulness and intelligence.
Queenie was no different.
“As soon as she saw those bunnies, she went wild,” Struhs says.
Struhs sometimes houses her new furry friends in between transport legs. Misty and Queenie stayed the night.
Her brother picked them up the next morning to transport them to Second Chance Pet Rescue in Coeur d’Alene.
This first overnight out of the shelter was their first opportunity to decompress.
Struhs pointed out that shelters are very stressful for dogs because they hear barking all the time.
“They don’t get that time to just relax and be a dog and be loved on, so it’s really important,” she says.
Upon arriving home, she remembered what she was told earlier that day. Queenie is an escape artist.
During introductions to Struhs own dogs, she kept Queenie on a tight leash in the backyard. Eventually, Queenie got to run under Struhs watchful eye.
“I kept the leash on her just in case I had to grab her quickly,” she says.
Queenie and Misty made themselves right at home.
“Misty laid in my Lazy boy recliner and loved herself,” she says. Queenie quickly followed suit.
Fortunately for these two dogs, they got their day with the help of Struhs and her fellow rescuers.
Photo: Anna Struhs saying goodbye to Tink, who now lives with a loving family in Dillion, Montana.