For those of us who are dog rescue pilots or rescue groups that are trying to get rescued dogs to new forever homes, shelters, relocation from kill shelters, or to medical care, 2016 is going to be a game changer.
As a dog rescue pilot I used to participate in a popular forum where pilots could volunteer to fly legs to get dogs their destinations. There were times when some trips would get cancelled because a pilot could not be found for that leg of the transport or had to be scrubbed at the last minute for some reason like weather or a mechanical issue. There would be disappointment all around.
But a recent series of events led me to take a closer look at a new website to assist dog rescue groups, pilots, and now ground transporters. This blend of both ground and air transport is unique as far as I'm aware and it's awesome. Here is why.
Tomorrow I have a scheduled dog rescue flight but it was going to get scrubbed because a pilot could not be found for the first part of the trip. These were two medium sized dogs that were being moved from a kill shelter to adoption up north.
For the first time we jumped into using Doobert.com and within an hour the first ground transport volunteer stepped up to transport the dogs. Within about another hour the second person volunteered and the rescue trip was good to go. Simply because of the solution Doobert makes available, the rescue became a combination of drivers and pilots. That's not something that could have ever been accomplished through any other site I'm aware of, till now.
If you are someone who is interested in playing a role in saving the lives of dogs and can volunteer your time to drive a bit or fly a bit, please take a look at Doobert.com and if you like what you see, consider volunteering as a transporter.
Chris Roy is the guy behind Doobert and naturally as a journalist I felt compelled to interview him. Here is my interview with Chris.
Q: Tell us about how you started rescuing dogs and why it is a passionate mission of yours.
A: I'm a general aviation pilot and always looking for an excuse to fly. I got started in rescue transport in 2008 when a friend of mine who did a lot of animal rescue work asked me if I was able to fly down and get 3 dogs from Kentucky and bring them back to Milwaukee. It was exciting to have a "mission" to fly, and to know that I was a part of getting these dogs to a place where they would be adopted out was icing on the cake. After that first transport, I was hooked and wanted to do more and more transports because it combined my passion for aviation and my passion for animals together in one activity. I realized how many animals were out there with no one to save them. Now animal rescue is a part of my being, and my purpose.
Q: Somewhere along your journey of volunteering to rescue dogs you decided to apply your experience as a software designer to build Doobert.com. What prompted you to do it?
A: One of the things I quickly realized when I started doing transports is that there are dozens if not hundreds of animal rescue relay transports that take place every week in the U.S. So once my name got out there, like a lot of other volunteers and pilots, I became in high demand. Pretty soon, as my name got added to different distribution lists that rescue groups shared, I was getting emails from rescues I didn't know, from as far away as California (I live in Wisconsin). I think it was when I had 6 different transport requests in varying stages of planning during just one week, that I started drawing up the specs for a system that would help me manage these requests on my own. I was so confused as to who was transporting which animal, which day, which location that I just said "There HAS to be a better way!" From there the concept of Doobert was born.
Q: As a dog rescue pilot myself I find the Doobert platform to be an awesome way to bring volunteer ground transporters and pilots together to help rescue dogs get to their new forever homes. What gave you the ides to coordinate both air and ground transport volunteers?
A: Ironically enough I initially was just focused on making Doobert to coordinate the aviation side of rescue transports as I was not fully aware of the number of ground transports that took place each week. But as my connections in the rescue world grew, I realized that there was a tremendous need to link the two groups together since many transports are not done solely by air but need a ground transport on either end, or even in the middle to get these animals to safety. So I quickly changed course to ensure that Doobert could support both of these groups of volunteers as they operate very differently from one another. And now my eyes have been opened to so many more opportunities to coordinate with other rescue transport groups like over-the-road truckers, commercial transporters, and even airline employees. The possibilities with these unique transport groups are definitely viable if we can provide them the forum and tools to seamlessly connect and coordinate transport easily.
Q: What is your background as a software developer and do you see more ways to leverage programming skills to help save the lives of dogs?
A: I've been doing software implementations for over 20 years now for many large companies so I've had the opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of how custom software is built. I am very honored to be able to apply my skills to bring technology to the vastly underserved mission of animal rescue to try and make the process more efficient. There are so many ways that technology can enable people, save time, and automate what are usually very manual processes like planning a rescue relay transport. I wanted to take my software and combine the basic principles of social media platforms like Facebook that started with a simple concept of connecting people together, and apply them to the vision for Doobert to link the rescues, shelters, volunteers and adopters together for the specialized tasks they are doing. In 2016 why are we not able to quickly search for, find, and adopt an animal like we do when finding a dating partner? Animals have personalities, styles, and needs. Finding a way to fit these traits with matching homes is what it's all about. The transport to actually make that happen is just a logistical problem. I believe there is much more that we can do to technologically enable rescue transports and ultimately eliminate the euthanization of otherwise healthy animals just because of an oversupply in one area of the country. I hear people often say "There's got to be an app for that." Well now there is!
Q: For those who want to do something like you've created with Doobert, what are some surprise lessons learned along the way? Was it harder than you expected it to be or maybe you ran into some very unexpected hurdles?
A: This has definitely been a journey of learning for me, but one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Three years ago when I secured the Doobert.com domain, I was over the moon with excitement. Then I said to myself, "Um, now how do I get the software to point to this site that I just registered, and how do I get people to find out about it and sign up?" I had never built a website before let alone a custom software delivered through the website. I had not even founded my own company so I had a lot to learn about running my own business. From there to today where we have over 7,000 awesome volunteers across the country has been an incredible experience. Initially, I naively thought that people would flock to Doobert.com when they heard about it because it's free and custom built to support animal rescue. That was probably my toughest lesson and one that I still struggle with today because with over 200 million licensed drivers in the U.S., we've only signed up a tiny percentage of them to be volunteers to save animals. I know many more would sign-up if they knew about it and how it helps the rescues and shelters save more animals. I'm a technology guy, not a marketing guy, so I've really had to learn a lot about how to create the awareness about Doobert. People are so inundated with email, Facebook posts, and even snail mail that it is very difficult to get them to stop for a second to consider that this was built to help them.
Q: Many people are aware of sites like Pilots N Paws that lets people post nonprofit transportation requests for pilots. Is there room for more than one software provider in the dog rescue transportation endeavor?
A: Definitely. One of the biggest challenges is that many rescue organizations have their own groups or forums where they collaborate or try and plan rescue relay transports. Pilots n Paws is large enough to have a website but many organizations use Facebook or Yahoo groups to support their networking and transport coordination. The problem is that none of these (Pilots N Paws included) was custom built to solve the problem so these tools have varying levels of success since they were not built for the purpose. Doobert is the only software that plots the route on Google Maps, and automatically notifies both drivers and pilots about a transport near them based upon a profile they manage. We even have all 3,000+ airports in the U.S. loaded into the software so pilots can easily click the airports they want to fly from and to in order to participate in the transport. I think Doobert fills a niche in the rescue transport world that was previously unfulfilled by any other software. Doobert combines great technology like Google maps and iPhone and Android phones with custom design and features focused on saving animals. If the technology I've built with Doobert enables, empowers, and makes other groups more efficient, that excites me because I know they will use the the time saved to save even more animals.
Q: How does Doobert.com help to make sure the people submitting requests for transport or the transporters themselves are reliable and trusted people?
A: Doobert has multiple types of accounts and levels of verification to ensure we do our part to make it easier for organizations and volunteers to decide who they want to work with. The way I built Doobert is that everyone can be a volunteer (driver, pilot, foster home, etc.), but that only approved rescue, shelter, transport groups and other organizations are able to access the functions to create transport requests and fundraisers. In order to create transport requests and fundraisers, I require the organization to apply for that level of access so that we can verify they are a legitimate organization before unlocking those capabilities. On the volunteer side we also have a verification process if you want to be Doobert Verified. It's not required but it adds an additional level of trust for the organizations creating transports that the volunteers are willing to submit to reference checking so we can be sure they have the best intent for the animals. I want to do my part to ensure the Doobert software is used to empower legitimate animal welfare organizations to save animals.
Q: Can you share an incredible success story about a transport that came together with a host of unknown volunteers to get a dog from the start to their new home?
A: There are so many awesome stories, but one recent story that comes to mind is about Jake. Jake is an 8 month old Sharpei mix who was hit by a car & suffered a broken leg. Jake was brought to a vet as a euthanization request because of the cost that would need to be incurred to repair his leg and the owner simply did not want to pay for it. The vet saw that Jake had a long life ahead of him, contacted the local animal shelter. Then, a shelter friends organization stepped in to try and network for Jake and find him the help that he needed. Together they were able to raise the funds so Jake could have surgery to repair his leg, and after his leg was set and his injuries treated, he was transported by Doobert volunteers to a foster home in upstate New York where he did most of his recovery. After he recovered enough and got his cast off he was transported by another group of Doobert volunteers to a training foster in western Pennsylvania. Finally, after a few weeks in training, Jake did so well that he was adopted and was transported by yet another group of Doobert volunteer transports back to upstate New York where he will enjoy a long and happy life. Three separate transports for one dog. Another great story that could only have come true thanks to the literally dozens of volunteers that helped save just one dog. I am beaming with pride that Doobert played a part to organize these awesome volunteers and help get Jake to his happily ever after.
Jake after surgery in his cast.
Jake looking out the window on his journey.
Jake and his wonderful volunteer driver.
Q: You've done such an incredible job of building Doobert.com but what is the next goal you'd like to accomplish with Doobert?
A: Thank you for saying that. It's definitely been a process but one that I am very glad that I undertook. Since starting Doobert, I have learned so much more about the world of animal rescue and the tools, processes and of course technologies that would benefit these great organizations, and ultimately save more animals. And while we currently have an iPhone app, an Android app and much, much, more, you will see many more features coming in Doobert in 2016. One that I'm particularly excited about is the ability for any Doobert user to enter an upcoming trip (think vacation or taking a child to college) and then having animal rescue groups be able to schedule an animal on your trip. This will tap into trips people were planning to take, and allow them to easily save animals at the same time. There's so much that technology can do to join people together to save animals.
With all that being said, Doobert is just the platform supporting these awesome rescues, shelters and volunteers, so it's not just about us. Tens of thousands of people are involved in various aspects of saving animals every day, and my goal is to empower and enable them with technology while bringing the focus to their efforts and helping them sustain their operations. They are the ones that deserve the credit, and thank yous, and I am humbled to support them by bringing my technology skills to these people. My goal for 2016 is to bring the efforts of the rescues, shelters and volunteers to the forefront because they deserve to be recognized for their brand, their stories, and their dedication to saving animals. Doobert may be the technology powering their efforts, but without them, Doobert does not exist.
Q: Why should a very busy and technically challenged dog rescue group take a serious look at registering and trying to use Doobert?
A: Fair question and one that I hear often from rescue groups. These dedicated volunteers are so busy and so focused on the animals that they hardly have time for themselves, let alone time to sit down and learn new software. It also pains me to think that while a rescue group is spending time to get registered on Doobert, and then learning to create the transports, that they will be turning their focus away from the next animal that needs their attention in the near term. I can only hope that they remember that Doobert was built BY animal rescuers FOR animal rescuers and I am fanatical about making it as simple to use as possible because I know how limited their time is. I usually ask them to think about how it was when they started their rescue and how many things there were to learn. And then to look at how far they have come and imagine how they could have gotten there more efficiently. Yes Doobert will take you a little time to learn, but if it makes you 10x more efficient and you can rescue 10x more animals after you've learned it, isn't it worth the investment? I am always available to do training with people one on one or with their team, and I have YouTube videos walking you through step-by-step every aspect of the software. I am as passionate about saving animals, as are they, so I want to do whatever I can to help them be more efficient. Just give it a shot and I'll be here to help every step of the way.
Q: Putting together Doobert.com must have been a labor of love since it's free to use. So what keeps you motivated to spend so much time building it?
A: Like many, I have been an animal lover all my life and I have personally been involved in transporting hundreds of animals in the last 8 years. The animals are what motivate me. Their innocence, their loving spirits, their unconditional love for people, even after many of them have been severely abused or neglected in their short lives. I know that I cannot personally save and transport each animal that needs it. However if I can provide a platform that allows other passionate animal lovers to get involved, I know that together we can save more animals. That's all the motivation I need.