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Animal rescue group adding flights to its mission

Dog rescue group finding new ways to save strays

It's a dark, misty morning in San Antonio as more than a dozen volunteers gather around a large, white van.

Inside the van, dog kennels are neatly stacked to one side.

On each kennel is a name and a picture of a dog.

One by one, the volunteers hand over their dogs to Virginia Davidson, who loads each dog carefully into its marked kennel.

The volunteers are part of a small army of foster families who help Alamo Rescue Friends, a nonprofit group that rescues dogs from the city's overcrowded Animal Care Services.

Each family has taken a dog, sometimes several, and kept them for the past few weeks.

Now it's time to say goodbye and send the dogs off to their new homes in New Hampshire.

Davidson started Alamo Rescue Friends in 2010 as a way of getting dogs out of ACS and into homes.

She had to find a place where there are more adopters than stray dogs, and that place was a shelter in New Hampshire.

"I just thought it would be a great way to help out San Antonio when I heard about the problem that we had with euthanasia," she said, "I wanted to find a way to help out."

All 43 dogs on today's transport were slated for euthanasia before being rescued by Davidson. 

The drive to New Hampshire is a two-day trip, with Davidson and her husband taking turns at the wheel.

They do make stops to feed, water and walk their four-legged passengers.  Once they arrive in New Hampshire, it's like a homecoming.

The once-stray dogs are like celebrities.

"The shelter knows which dogs are coming, they know them by names, so when we arrive, the staff and volunteers clap and they welcome the dogs by name," said Davidson. "They're so excited, each one has a favorite, they are treated like special creatures, which is exactly what they are."

How popular are the former strays?

Potential pet parents are lined up to adopt.

Some take off work to go to the shelter and see the dogs.

It's an attitude about animals that is strikingly different from San Antonio.

Tara Arthur has been a foster caregiver for ARF for three years, and she lived up north.

"They're so friendly," she said of the New Hampshire residents. "Their pets are real important to them. They're more responsible with spay and neutering. They take a pet for life. It's just a different type of mentality."

Although Alamo Rescue Friends has always done transports, the group has recently added private flights to its efforts.

They can now send a couple dozen more dogs to New Hampshire from San Antonio with a pilot who has volunteered to help.

The partnership with Cloud 9 Rescue Flights started in January, carrying 21 dogs.

Another flight is scheduled for May.

Davidson hopes she can continue to transport, by both land and air, and save as many San Antonio strays as she can.