For a dog lover, walking through an animal shelter knowing you can’t take home every single dog there can be one of the worst feelings in the world. You want to do everything in your power to give the locked-up pooches all the love you know they deserve. In Texas, one little boy felt exactly the same way—so he did something about it.
When he was just four years old, the boy went with his mother to a kill shelter and was disheartened by what he saw. Determined to fix the situation, he and his mom organized an effort that would change the lives of an unbelievable number of both dogs and people!
At seven years old, Roman McConn could talk your ear off about Batman and pirates or run energetically around you on the soccer field. In some respects, you’d never suspect the cute, blond-haired kid has been changing the world since he was barely four.
One day Roman went with his mom Jen, left, to a kill shelter for dogs in their home state of Texas. They planned to adopt a dog. But Roman was confused…
In the shelter, Jen said, “he kept asking why [the dogs] were there.” And what could she tell her toddler? They were unwanted, abandoned, and awaiting something grizzly? She softened the blow, telling her son, “they’re looking for homes.”
To Roman, that was a silly concept with a simple solution: Just find the dogs homes! That day, the duo adopted a lovely dog named Luna—their first of two adopted dogs—but that didn’t satisfy his interest in helping every single dog find a home.
That was how both Roman and Jen became heavily involved in the animal shelter. The two didn’t just clean out kennels and play with down dogs, either. Instead, they undertook a truly impressive project—and the results were unbelievable.
Naturally, Roman—who “was pretty much born loving pets,” according to his mother—made sure kenneled dogs were happy, sitting beside their cages and reading to them from his favorite books. But he knew that wouldn’t find them homes.
While Roman did his part, Jennifer made videos and took pictures of dogs in need of adoption, below. But her videos, she knew, needed extra spice. So she recruited Roman, who took center stage in the videos, highlighting what potential owners needed to know. For instance…
Roman showed off his “pal Sadie” in a more recent video that scored hundreds of shares on Facebook. “She’s super shy,” he said, “and she hasn’t been trained to walk on a leash, so her new owner needs to be really patient.” The video continued.
“I can tell you [Sadie’s] super sweet,” he said. “But she really needs to be trained to walk on a leash [so she can] be a happy dog like all the other dogs.” You can just feel his love and connection with her and every other dog he showcased.
Roman made special videos for every dog he could. He made a video for lovable Legend, left, a deaf dog; he even made a video for Candy, who lost an eye in an accident. But in 2016, Roman’s filmmaking and Jen’s volunteer work hit a snag.
Roman’s father, left, who served in the Navy, received orders to relocate overseas. Jen and Roman would have to move to Washington state to be a bit closer to him—and further from Texas kill shelters.
But after the move, Jen saw an opportunity. “The world for a dog, generally speaking,” she said, “was so much better up here in Washington than down there in Texas…People take them hiking and there’s stuff to do.”
She joked that she should start an Underground Railroad for dogs, referencing, of course, the 19th-century transportation network that snuck slaves from captivity to free states, illustrated below. But then, she thought, was that such a crazy idea?
That was when Jen founded Project Freedom Ride to bring dogs from kill shelters in Texas to loving families in the northwest. With the help of Roman, who kept on making videos representing the pooches, the duo brought 31 dogs from Texas to Washington!
Since 2016, Jen transported about 50 dogs per month from cages in Texas to loving arms in Washington. Donations alone covered the $11,000 price tag to transport a pooch. The “Underground Railroad” was in full swing—and for Jen, the payoff was huge.
After watching a Roman-made video, potential owners “develop this bond and this love for a dog they’ve never even met,” Jen said. “Then when they have that moment where everything comes together, it’s very overwhelming for some of them.” Jen loved witnessing that first connection.
Unbelievably, by mid-2018, Roman and Jen rescued 1,050 dogs from Texas kill shelters via their doggie Underground Railroad. And Jen knew it couldn’t have been done without Roman’s adorable videos. On Instagram, she wrote, “Roman has literally become the lifeblood of Project Freedom Ride.”
But Roman didn’t let the recognition go to his head. “It makes me feel happy saving all these dogs,” he said. “But it doesn’t just make me happy, I’m sure it makes all the dogs happy.” And it makes someone else happy, too.
All the way across the Pacific Ocean, in Japan where Roman’s father was stationed, Roman had a big fan club. “Roman’s dad is super proud,” Jen said. “That’s his boy.” No doubt, both parents had a lot to be proud of.
You can see why Roman was so effective at getting dogs adopted when you check out his “sales pitch” for Sadie below. Just look at the way he beamed when talking about her. Watching him fall in love with the pooch is an easy way to fall in love with her yourself!
Jennifer and Roman McConn’s Underground Railroad for dogs could revolutionize dog adoption across the country. So many dogs have found homes because of this amazing mother-son duo!
SHARE the Underground Railroad for dogs with your friends who love animals.