Meet the Rescues: Underground Railroad Rescue

What matchmakers do 

Underdog Railroad, a small nonprofit rescue in Portland, saves dogs locally and from high-kill California shelters. Dogs are fostered until healthy, then placed in forever homes.

It all started five years ago, when URR founder Jody Kurilla saw a 10-year-old Poodle on Pet Connect who was to be euthanized the following morning in San Bernardino.

Jody booked a flight (two to get there, two to get home), and the next day had Fifi onboard. “She cried and cried, so I held her, and told her she was going home. She went to sleep, and slept all the way home.”  Fifi’s been home ever since.

Pet Connect thought Jody did a great job, and soon called about another dog. Jody responded, and this one — also scheduled to die — was adopted quickly.

Intrigued, Jody contacted local rescues, asking: “Am I crazy? Should I do this?”

“Pixie was one . . . she said she thought I’d do great work and that I should.”

URR is devoted to those who will be killed if not rescued, who “no one is coming for,” including “medical, old, or behavioral dogs,” says Jody, adding that they take all ages and breeds — “a variety of dogs.”

Jody says the rescue isn’t “looking for numbers,” but for great matches, one tail at a time.

“We’re like dating . . . a matchmaking service.”

And they’re serious. Recently a woman with cats was considering an adoptable dog. Volunteers did a home visit, spending no less than two hours, “just to make sure the dog and cats would do fine,” Jody smiles. They did.

The all-volunteer group is foster-based, “so we really get to know the dogs and can make great matches.” They share stories and photos on Facebook “from the time they’re received until they go home,” says Jody, adding, “People love it.”

This inspired the creation of a video — launching soon as part of a new campaign — based on a piece by a performance artist at MOMA. Jody hopes the film will move others the way Fifi moved her.

The stories are endless. A favorite of Jody’s shows the before and after of a little guy left in the drop box at a shelter. Ugly with mange when he arrived, Jody says his ‘after’ shots “make you go What!? Can’t be the same dog.”

Following the mantra of one tail at a time, Jody says if they are anything, it’s careful. “We’re taking the dogs that no one has responded to . . . headed for euthanasia. Then we’re working to get them in front of that someone (they are out there) for whom this is their forever dog.”

In five short years, URR has written countless love stories that without them would have ended before they began. Their dreams for the future are no less profound, and continue their legacy of love.

Because that’s what matchmakers do. And Underdog Railroad does it well, one tail at a time.

Get to know them and see stories you won’t forget (for all the right reasons) on Facebook, and at

—    Kristan Dael