When the family of Boston author and sometime Sullivan’s Island resident Peter Zheutlin said they wanted to get a “rescue dog,” he at first thought they meant a whisky-carrying St. Bernard, you know, the kind of canine who rescues humans. Zheutlin quickly learned that it was the dogs that needed to be rescued, although one could always argue about who was saving whom.

After a web search, Zheutlin found Albie, a yellow lab mix and former stray who had been brought to a high-kill shelter in rural Louisiana. The family took the dog home to their Boston home and discovered a curious fact. “It was surprising how many people we met who had dogs who came from the South. I didn’t know why dogs were coming from the South to New England,” Zheutlin says. 

Looking for answers, Zheutlin called the man who had ferried Albie from Louisiana to Boston, Greg Mahle of Ohio, a professional dog rescuer. “Greg is the real deal,” Zheutlin says. “He will tell you he feels like he’s trying to empty the beach one grain of sand at a time. It’s just a matter of saving that next dog and making room for another one in the pipeline.”

Over the course of his time as canine savior, Mahle has reportedly driven more than a million miles rescuing thousands of dogs and taking them to new homes. Zheutlin was so taken with Mahle’s selflessness — most trips involved taking pups from the overpopulated South to homes in the North — that he convinced Mahle to let him tag along. The result: Zheutlin’s Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway, a New York Times best-seller.

“I am so deeply impressed with [Greg’s] commitment to what he does and the way he does it, the absolute sense of joy and love he brings to a stressful, physically demanding job that barely allows him to survive,” Zheutlin says. “From a narrative point of view, he is the physical link between the adopter up North and that dog who is languishing somewhere down South.”

On Feb. 19, Zheutlin will be speaking at Halls Chophouse. Tickets are $30 for the event, while an additional $15 will get you a signed copy of Rescue Road. For tickets, call (1-800) 838-3006.

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