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Would you drive 2,800 miles to save a dog you fell in love with? If you’ve ever looked on PetFinder and had an instant connection with a dog or cat (or you are reading this article), you may be able to relate to Mario Rodriguez. His love of pit bulls spurred him to make a cross-country drive to rescue a pit bull. Now they hit the open road together. Get to know Mario and Hickory.
13. For the Love of Pit Bulls
When it comes to pit bulls, Mario Rodriguez has a definite opinion: he loves them. Although many people regard the breed as dangerous or undesirable, that is just a myth. There is nothing inherently wrong with pit bulls. Rodriguez had two pit bulls and knew them to be loving and fun pets. “They are such lovebugs. Looking at Hickory’s picture, I could tell he just wanted to be loved.”
12. Just One Problem
Rodriguez’s wife had been on Facebook and she told him that there was a 2-year old pit bull on the kill list at Animal Care Centers of NYC. Hickory was a smiley dog whose energy leaped right off the screen. Rodriguez wanted the dog right away and knew he was running out of time. There was just one problem: Rodriguez was in California, and the dog was in New York.
11. The Long Game
Rodriguez is a long-haul trucker and he was in California for work. But Rodriguez knew he had to get that dog. “I told my wife, ‘I need to go get him,’” he said. “‘I’m on a mission to rescue this dog.’” The couple came up with a plan, but first Rodriguez would need to get his employer’s help.
10. I Would Drive 2,000 Miles
When Rodriguez told his employer he needed to get to New York to pick up a dog, they helped him with his schedule. They came up with a delivery to New York. Rodriguez immediately told the shelter he was on his way. He was about to drive 2,800 miles to pick up a pit bull.
9. And I Would Drive 800 More
It was a long drive – thousands of miles – but Rodriguez kept calling the shelter to assure him he was coming. “I was pushing through traffic and calling the shelter every single day, and by the third day, they knew my number,” Rodriguez said. “They were like, ‘He’s still here, Mario, he’s still here!’”
8. Six Days on the Road
It took six days of constant driving, but Rodriguez made it to the Brooklyn Shelter on August 20. For Rodriguez, the excitement about meeting Hickory was building. “I parked my truck and rushed inside,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as Hickory saw me, he literally almost jumped through the kennel door. I said, ‘That’s it, buddy! We’re going home!’ He started wagging his tail going crazy. He immediately started jumping on me, licking my face.”
7. It Must Be Love
The connection between man and dog was instantaneous. Rodriguez was thrilled, but so was Hickory. In fact, it seemed like the dog just knew that he was meant to join the Rodriguez family. “It just looked like he was expecting me,” Rodriguez added. “It was so weird. We had an instant connection. I’ve never had a dog get attached to me that quickly in my whole life.”
6. On the Road Again
After Rodriguez’s adoption was approved, he took off for his home in Georgia, with Hickory in tow. Hickory ambled into the truck as if he had been doing it all his life. They were two peas in a pod. Hickory was off the death list and bound for home.
5. Brothers in Paws
Hickory finally met his new family, which includes two brothers, Cooper and Angel. All three dogs are pit bulls. Although Hickory was shy at first, it only took a matter of minutes before the three raced into the yard, thick as thieves. The older dogs started playing and seemed so thrilled to have a new younger brother. “They immediately just started playing like three little kids,” Rodriguez said. “It was a sight to see.”
4. TLC Time
The Rodriguez family made sure to get Hickory the best care possible. The local vet treated him for a minor respiratory infection. He started to eat like a champ. He settled in by making friends with Rodriguez’s grandson. “Everyone in our family grew up with the breed, and we raised our kids with the breed as well.”
3. Road Dogs
Hickory loves Rodriguez best of all. Since Rodriguez would be leaving soon for work, the family decided that Hickory should try going on the road with his new dad. Hickory is taking to trucking life like a duck to water. “He’s seeing so many things he’s never experienced before,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve stopped off places all the time, like to the park, or to farms out west where he’s met some horses. He’s barked at cows on our way down the highways … He’s really having fun.”
2. Fit for a King
Rodriguez sleeps in the truck cab’s bed and at first, Hickory slept by him. “The first couple nights he was with me in the truck, he laid with me and fell asleep as I was petting him.” But Rodriguez also set up a dog bed and after a few nights, Hickory took to sleeping on it. “He sleeps on that thing like a king.”
1. Saving Pennies
Rodriguez is making every mile count for dogs just like Hickory. Rodriguez is saving one cent for every mile they cover, which he will donate to cover adoption fees for other at-risk dogs. Rodriguez will be retiring in about five years, and his dream is to start a pit bull rescue. Until that day, he will have a best friend at his side for every mile of his journey.