Enter the volunteers. For two days, the 10-week-old puppy - a charming mix of cattle dog, Labrador and who knows what else - was the precious cargo of Kindred Hearts Transport Connection. The nonprofit rescue group is, at its core, a fleet of volunteer drivers, some of whom relayed Athena up the East Coast in early February.
Like the Olympic torch, Athena was lovingly passed from driver to driver. Unlike a torch, she had a few bouts of carsickness and peed a bit on my jeans. Drivers bring collars and leashes, and those who have been on a few rodeos come equipped with blue-lined piddle pads, too.
"I've been pooped on, puked on and peed on," Nick Waldow told me. Earlier, his wife Teresa had quipped that you can tell volunteer drivers by their clothes - specifically, the fine layer of dog hairs on them. (You can also tell the Waldows love dogs from the pickle jar filled with treats tucked in their passenger door.)
Teresa Waldow and Athena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, just before a hand-off. Credit: Ben Guarino