Making Miracles

Musician enables dog adoption at California TA

Todd Dills

A traditional country singer with a passion for the trucking world and those who populate it has this year taken on a prime role in finding rolling homes for rescued dogs. Her name is Susanne Spirit, and if you’ve been laid over at the mammoth TravelCenters of America East location in Ontario, Calif., on a Sunday or Tuesday the last several years, you may have seen her perform.

Lisa and Edward Slusser pet their boxer/shepherd mix, Dixie, recently adopted at the TravelCenters of America East location in Ontario, Calif., at one of musician and trucking pet advocate Susanne Spirit’s regular shows.

In March, she launched the “Musical Trucking Dog Adoption Program” in partnership with the Ramona Animal Shelter of Riverside County, Calif., which brings spayed/neutered dogs to Spirit’s Tuesday shows for adoption by the legions of drivers who lay over there. “We’ve had days where 13 dogs have been adopted,” Spirit says. “We average about 8 to 12 every show, and every one of them is because a trucker has said, ‘I’ll take this on,’ and they do it with such integrity. When that strong arm embraces that dog, you see a miracle happen.”

Spirit began putting the program together after noticing a wellspring of interest in the pet talent show she began to integrate into her act in 2009. More than 400 dogs have been adopted at the TA to date. One of them, a boxer/shepherd mix, found a home Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the 2007 Peterbilt 387 of Decatur, Ala.-based Lisa Slusser and her husband, Edward, an owner-operator team leased to Georgia-based Kennesaw Transportation.

The truckers are saving these dogs one after another after another at these shows.

— Susanne Spirit

The Slussers hadn’t been looking for another pet to add to their collection of three dogs at home and a ridealong Indian ringneck parakeet when they stopped in for breakfast at the Ontario TA East that day. “We’d not been to that truckstop in several years,” Lisa says. But the Slussers encountered Spirit, then just setting up for the day, and waited around for the Humane Society personnel to arrive with the dogs.

Susanne Spirit and her band

“I was really surprised the Humane Society was there,” Lisa Slusser adds. “I’ve heard many stories where truck drivers go into Humane Societies and, as soon as they hear you’re a trucker, they say no” to the possibility of adoption.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers
The ALL NEW Rand Tablet
Presented by Rand McNally

And as the dogs came out, Lisa says, and they saw “Ginger,” as the boxer/shepherd mix was then known, “it was love at first sight. She wouldn’t get up for anybody else, but when me and my husband would get close to her, she’d come right to us.” Also, it dawned on Lisa that Sept. 7 was a special date for the couple — the date two years prior they’d taken in their prized Chihuahua, Casey, at a truckstop in Sweetwater, Texas.

When, finally, the Ramona shelter personnel told the Slussers that they’d been caring for Ginger for two months and that in a week she’d be put down if she wasn’t adopted, Lisa says she knew “it was meant to be.” The Slussers renamed the pooch “Dixie.”

Says Spirit, “The truckers are ­saving these dogs one after another after another at these shows.” She’s hoping she can get at least one more shelter to make the effort the Ramona shelter has. In the meantime, she’s spreading the gospel via her weekly shows, her Facebook page and website (www.musical­ and a ­corner of the website of Southern California newspaper the Press-Enterprise, where Spirit keeps a blog,

Operation Roger helps pets go home

Carolyn Magner

Five years ago, Sue Wiese, aka Classy Lady, was haunted by the stories of abandoned and lost pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Still mourning the loss of her toy Manchester terrier, “Roger,” she yearned to do something to help but wasn’t sure what one person could do. She says the idea to utilize truck drivers to help transport rescued animals came straight from God, and she immediately began to search for a way to get started. “I didn’t even know what the word transport meant in the context of animal rescue,” she says. But she made it her mission to find out. After reading about and its pet transportation needs, Operation Roger was born.

Roger (now deceased), mascot for Operation Roger

Without anything more than a good idea, Wiese went on the Bill Mack show on XM Satellite Radio, talked about her plan and asked interested truck drivers to volunteer to take pets in need of a home to their new owners. The response was overwhelming. “I had no idea so many truckers would be willing to help out with this program,” Wiese says.

Today, the nonprofit organization, based in Joshua, Texas, is made up of regional and long-haul volunteer haulers who donate their time to transport animals in need of a home. They coordinate their pickups with their freight schedules, transporting pets across the country. Volunteers sign up on Wiese’s website, and she matches them with pets on their route. Her volunteers have transported 486 dogs, cats, birds and even pet hamsters and rats in the five years of operation. The pets come from kill shelters and go to foster or adoptive homes. Many of the animals have been abused or abandoned and she doesn’t take any animals from the show circuit or puppy mills. “This is my critter ministry,” she says.