About Mark

By Corey Van't Haaf - Modern Dog

Dedicated to the Rescue Effort

As president of a furniture company, Mark Gilbert often volunteered or donated to different causes, but three years ago he became heavily involved with dog rescue, but behind the scenes. Mark transports dogs from high kill shelters to other rescue groups throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, all from his home base in Eugene, Oregon. The work involved starts before a dog ever gets inside his Mercedes Sprinter van, which is large enough for him to walk through when loaded with kennels. It is necessary, he says, to have access for safety and clean-up. “It takes about five hours to set up the van,” he says. He knows how many and what size dogs he will be retrieving, so he sterilizes kennels and starts securing them in the vehicle. He repeats this routine three times a month. “I can get 60 dogs in there, three in a kennel if they’re small dogs. We match dogs up who have previously been kenneled. If they’re scared, they ride in the passenger’s side with me.” He volunteers with START (Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team) which has moved more than 11,000 dogs so far. START provides his pickup and delivery destinations (there could be as many as six). He prepares for doggy spills and sickness by rolling up towels and sani-wipes between cages. He also has fans to help circulate the air conditioning from the front to the back of the van. “I leave around four or five in the morning. I work with the dogs [when arriving at his pickup point] to get them ready,” he says, helping with paper work or veterinarian visits. He sleeps overnight and is up again early “to beat the flies and high temperature in California. It takes an hour to load the van and all are delivered by that evening.” He was asked, when delivering furniture, if he could move a few dogs, and the first year he moved 60. The second year was 200 and he now does a thousand or more each year. “You stand in front of them looking at them and do whatever you can to help.” He says it isn’t the travel that motivates him to help (it’s the same road over and over again). And being a volunteer driver means you need to be willing to do things without a pat on the back. But he knows exactly what the dogs get out of his efforts. “They get life. You save the ones you can.”

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