A long road trip with a backseat full of kids can be bad enough, let alone a backseat filled with 41 barking dogs.
That was the case for Kathy and Mike Nobles last week, who drove 12 hours overnight last Thursday — from Tulsa, Okla., all the way up to Oak Park. They brought a van full of dogs without a home from several shelters down south, ranging in age from 10 days to 10 years.
It’s a trip that Mike Nobles, 71, has made many times, but one he never hesitates to take again. Most of those dogs were relegated to tiny shelters in Oklahoma with limited space and no budget, and many would have been dead come Monday. Some of the counties, he said, still euthanize by way of a gun.
“No question, whatsoever, the majority of the dogs we brought up there would have been dead, puppies and all,” Nobles said.
Twenty-nine of the pups were deposited at the Animal Care League in Oak Park. That’s the largest number they’ve received all at once, according to Executive Director Tom Van Winkle.
Nobles, his wife Kathy and a group of volunteers unloaded the dogs Friday morning as snow started to fall. Each frightened little pooch would get a quick walk around the block to stretch his or her legs and go to the bathroom, before going inside for their vaccinations and some food.
Van Winkle, who has no shortage of admiration for the Nobles, said the dogs should be available for adoption starting next week.
“It shows an incredible heart on their part,” Van Winkle said. “They obviously care very much about the animals down there in Oklahoma. I’ve been down there personally and seen what these dogs are up against. It’s a very needed service, and Mike and Kathy do it right.”
Mike and Kathy Nobles got their start about seven years ago, when a plethora of pups was left homeless following Hurricane Katrina. The retirees decided they had nothing better to do and drove over to Mississippi, living out of a tent for two weeks while helping in the rescue effort.
Then, a few years later, they decided to start their own nonprofit, Going Home Animal Rescue and Transport. Since then, they’ve logged tens of thousands of miles on their van (about 10,000 a month on average), transporting dogs out of state, mostly to Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois.
Mike Nobles said they always travel overnight to encourage the dogs to sleep on the way. They bark for the first 15 minutes or so, but doze off quickly after. Nobles and whoever drives up with him (Kathy often stays back to tend to the office) stop every two or three hours to check up on the dogs and give them a snack if need be. A stable of 20 or so volunteers whom Mike calls “saints” rotates in and out to help with the couple of trips they take each week.
After unloading in Oak Park on Friday, they took some 1,500 pounds of dry dog food back to Oklahoma to give to shelters, which was gone by Sunday. Nobles was right back at it Monday, driving up to Sioux Falls, S.D., to deliver a couple of strays.
“I don’t have any talent other than driving, so I drive,” he said with a chuckle.