Rescue dogs

10-year-old’s mission to save dogs lands him a TV show

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Asher is a three-legged shepherd who loves to wade through water bowls and chew on tree branches. Miss Kitty is a black Chihuahua mix that runs around the yard at the speed of a cheetah. Layla, who is part pit bull, prefers licking human faces to chasing tennis balls.

The three shelter dogs have very different personalities, but they have one thing — or, more accurately, one person — in common: Roman McConn. The 10-year-old helped them find their forever ‘child’ in his new Disney XD series, ‘Romance to the Rescue’.

“I love working with dogs,” said the sixth-grade student who lives in Georgia with her mom, dad, four dogs and various foster pets. “I want to give them a second chance.

Roman was 4 years old and living in Texas when he learned of the plight of some shelter dogs. On a trip to a pet store, he saw dogs in crates waiting to be adopted. His parents explained to him that due to overcrowding in shelters, animals that did not find families quickly enough were at risk of being “put down” or euthanized (pronounced YU-than-ized). This means that they are given drugs that kill them quickly. This heartbreaking reality motivated Roman to take action.

“I dove in head first,” he said of his new mission to find a home for every shelter dog in the United States.

To achieve his goal, Roman creates playful videos of individual dogs at local shelters, which his mother shares on social media. When he chooses his stars, he’s not looking for the puppies with the fluffiest fur or the most floppy ears. It highlights the underdogs.

“We pick the ones that have been around the longest and have the saddest story and are less likely to be adopted, like pit bulls, labs and other big dogs,” said Roman, who hosted a YouTube show about rescues on the Dodo Kids Network when he was 8 years old.

About a year after Roman started making the videos, he and his mother founded Project Freedom Ride. The nonprofit organization transports unwanted dogs from Texas, where their survival rate is often low, to northern states, where their chances of adoption are higher. Since 2016, Project Freedom Ride has rescued more than 4,200 dogs, including the 17 that appear on “Roman to the Rescue.” (The network released the first seven episodes in February; the other 10 will be available this summer.)

“Roman has had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of animals for more than half of his life,” said YuJung Kim, group editor at Dodo, which produces the series for Disney. “Although he’s just a normal kid at the end of the day – he loves Legos, ‘Star Wars’ and playing with his friends – Roman shows us that it’s possible to turn a passion for animals into a significant change at any age.”

In each episode, Roman focuses on a dog. First of all, it determines the character of the puppy (sporty, shy or clingy) and its favorite activities (rubbing the belly, swimming or giving kisses). Then he pitches moviemaking ideas with a creative team of young celebrities, like Issac Ryan Brown of “Raven’s Home.”

Once the video is posted, Roman and Aziza Glass, a veterinarian, sort through the applications and select the best kid for that dog. Before handing the pooch over to his new family, he gives his four-legged friend one last hug – a bittersweet experience.

“I feel so happy when the dog is adopted,” he said, “but sometimes it’s so hard to let the dog go.” However, there was one he couldn’t wait to say goodbye to: a terrier named Honey who, according to Roman, would “look at you and poop.”

Roman posts photos and videos of shelter dogs in Texas and Georgia on Project Freedom Ride’s Instagram account. The organization’s website also includes information about its volunteer work and rescue dog events. Roman said children of any age can help shelter dogs. He recommends contacting local shelters and asking if they need donations (blankets, toys, treats), help walking or spending time with the dogs, or even creating videos of dogs that might have need some extra love.