When Petaluma’s Paul Thomas landed his dream job as head engineer at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill in 2006, a venue Rolling Stone called the best for live music in the city, he couldn’t believe his luck. When the pandemic essentially paused that gig and his wedding audio business last March, he again couldn’t believe his luck.
Because Thomas had something else to devote his time to, a calling of sorts — taking care of and transporting senior dogs at Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary in Petaluma — something he had started doing only three months before.
“Live events vaporized overnight and I was in a panic. I thought the thing that made the most sense was to do something that makes me happy and is rewarding,” Thomas says. “Even though it’s volunteer work, it’ll keep me sane until we figure out what the heck is going on.”
Thomas says it is important to get older dogs adopted so that they won’t spend their final days in a shelter. But he adds that it is equally important to move canines of all ages out of shelters in rural areas to those in urban ones (adoptions have skyrocketed in big cities during the pandemic) where they are more likely to find a home, even if it means a 10-hour road trip. It’s a calling that has changed more than the lives of the animals.
“You realize how incredibly forgiving and resilient dogs are — most dogs are not really permanently damaged despite what some have been subjected to; every time they see a person, they start wagging their tails and walk right over,” Thomas says. “There’s really something kind of magical and special about dogs in particular that just seems undeniable to me.”
As Thomas got more deeply involved in the world of people who rescue dogs — he was added to all kinds of rescue Facebook groups — he noticed something: volunteers would move a dog as far as they could and then hand it off to another person, extending the length of the trip and the number of people the animal encounters exponentially.
“The dog is coming out of a shelter and is already freaked out and now it is going to be in a crate all day and meet eight or nine different strangers,” he says. “Every time that dog gets handed off from one vehicle to another there’s two things that have a huge possibility of happening: it is going to escape or someone is going to get bitten.”
That’s when the lightbulb went off and Thomas’ Roadies and Rescues was born. “Roadies and sound engineers are used to getting up at 4 a.m. and driving 10 hours from Denver to Kansas City,” he says. “We’re all unemployed. Maybe the more efficient and safer way to do this is if I just start reaching out to colleagues, a network of people that I know all over the country. I need to enlist their help.”
With that idea, Thomas has spent the last six months making contacts, building up ideas for routes, soliciting donations and working with his partners, Second Chance Pet Rescue’s Holly Dalton, who was also able to include Roadies and Rescues in her 501(c)(3), and longtime friend Matt Wedgley, a Coachella transportation manager.
For his part, Thomas says that working with dogs has indeed helped to keep him sane during the pandemic. “It really does give you a sense of purpose; it helps give you perspective.”
All the work so far has been done with personal vehicles; donations welcome and will go toward gas, sanitation, pet supplies, carriers, meals, lodging for drivers and more. To donate to Roadies and Rescues and learn more visit www.facebook.com/RoadiesAndRescues.