Downeast Dog News

Rescue of the Month: Underhound Railroad

“Saving Lives, One Shelter Dog at a Time”
By Susan Spisak | May 01, 2017

In 2009, a group of friends in the Hartford, Connecticut area formed Underhound Railroad with the mission of saving innocent dogs from the state’s high-kill shelters. Fast forward to 2017. While their mission remains the same, they now have a wider footprint of fosters and volunteers - most are here in Maine - and they also rescue at-risk dogs from southern kill shelters.

Bristol, Maine resident, Renee Coombs, is Underhound’s president and director. She was a volunteer and foster before taking on what she calls the “24/7” lead role. She counts on her “go-to-girls,” Tara Chase, the director who oversees donations, adoptions, and fundraising, and Irene Williams, their treasurer and southern coordinator, as well as all volunteers, fosters and vet partners - both in the north and south - to keep this 501(c)(3) sailing smoothly.

Busy as she may be managing Underhound’s efforts, she and her husband, Steve, continue to foster, even though they “failed” the first time around. Need a translation? They adopted that dog. They’ve limited their “failures” to four total, and all have been black or black and white because Renee believes dark-colored dogs are often ignored. And for this reason alone, this compassionate gal says black dogs will always have her heart.

Renee and Steve have fostered over a hundred dogs. They’re so dedicated that they fenced part of their land, so the dogs awaiting their forever homes can play safely when outdoors. Underhound’s other foster homes have taken care of and socialized many dogs as well, usually a few simultaneously – this allows them to bring more rescues to Maine (they hold both Maine and Connecticut licenses for the legal import of dogs), and Underhound always needs more fosters.

“We’re always, always, always begging for more fosters all the time,” said Renee, chuckling.

When asked how many lucky dogs they’ve pulled to safety and rehomed, she laughed. “A lot.” After a minute, she said they rescue about a hundred a year, but it’s dropping a smidge. She believes more people are now adopting shelter dogs.

“We exist adoption fee to adoption fee,” she explained, but added that these fees barely cover their vet and transportation costs. That said, they don’t shy away from expensive dogs like the heartworm positive or seniors that require extra funding, nor do turn away dogs with medical needs above and beyond the norm.

She cited the local rescue, a black Pomeranian named Little Bear. He needed a hip surgery estimated at $2k. Then there was Daisy, one of several dogs they rescued after the 2016 Louisiana floods. She was abandoned in a yard in nearby Mississippi. Daisy had a broken hip and knee, and she also needed that same costly hip surgery. Underhound put out a donation plea, and every single dollar needed for those surgeries came in.

“People stepped up in Maine to help,” Renee said. “It was amazing.”


For more on Underhound Railroad, including info on adopting, fostering, volunteering and donating, visit