Dog lover David Smith has spent the past three days at the Montgomery County SPCA, on an early leg of a long journey.
Smith and his two dogs are walking across the country to raise awareness about animal overpopulation and have waited out the weather for the past three days at the Route 5S shelter.
Smith, of Ashland, N.H., plans to walk to San Francisco, Calif., stopping at various animal shelters and pet stores along the way to educate whoever will listen about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, pet adoption and service dogs.
Smith does have some company. His companions are his 4-year-old malamute/chow mix, Sandie, and his 5-year-old Labrador retriever/bluetick hound mix, Mollie.
The trio travel with a square metal trailer that Sandie pulls. The trailer contains all the essentials: camping equipment, food, the laptop, extra shoes and salve for the dogs’ paws.
Smith said Sandie, Mollie and every other dog he has ever owned he has either rescued or adopted. He rescued Mollie from a family in Montana where he was sure she was abused. He asked the husband if he could take her off his hands, but he said no, then the wife pleaded with Smith to take her. Smith said he rescued Sandie from a family in New Hampshire who had her tied to a tree outside all day long.
Smith is sort of a rescue project himself, however. As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, he makes the journey part of his treatment; the dogs, he says, take care of him as much as he takes care of them.
“They keep me focused.”
Mollie is a trained service dog and knows to take care of Smith, who suffers from anxiety disorder. He said he got a grant to send Mollie to the White Mount College for Pets, where she learned her skills.
“She helps me cope with anxiety and stressful situations,” Smith said. “She has a way of comforting me.”
After struggling with drugs and alcohol for most of his life, Smith said he has been sober for nearly two years.
He had previously been sober for four years, but slipped back after his father died.
“This time is totally different for me because I realized a few things that I hadn’t realized before,” he said.
The dogs help too.
“They are there for me with their unconditional love and they are a good distraction from life … you know,” he said.
Smith walks about 25 miles per day, but has had some unforeseen setbacks along the way. His trailer broke so he had to rebuild it, which set him back a few days, and the weather when he reached Montgomery County was so bad that he decided to camp at the SPCA.
Debi Crandall, the shelter manager, said she admires Smith.
“He’s got a vision and a mission and he’s on it.”
Smith has spent his days volunteering at the shelter. He walks the animals and helped dismantle an outdoor pen.
“It’s amazing these girls work in these shelters,” Smith said. “I can walk 30 miles a day, but I follow these girls around here for a day and I’m pooped.”
Smith is documenting his journey and collecting donations through his Web site at www.tractorpaws.com.
He’ll walk out on Route 5S around 9 this morning and head west.
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Categories: Schenectady County