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McCullers helps rescue dogs find new homes

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- A black lab mix named Gunner sat in a wagon on the tarmac at Hobby Airport on Saturday morning, loving every ounce of attention he was getting. The dog -- content and unafraid -- had been shot twice a few months ago and lost the use of his hind legs.

"I think he knows that we're here to help him," said Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who along with his wife, Kara, has helped facilitate the transport of about 150 dogs and cats to California in recent weeks to new homes and new lives.

HOUSTON -- A black lab mix named Gunner sat in a wagon on the tarmac at Hobby Airport on Saturday morning, loving every ounce of attention he was getting. The dog -- content and unafraid -- had been shot twice a few months ago and lost the use of his hind legs.

"I think he knows that we're here to help him," said Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who along with his wife, Kara, has helped facilitate the transport of about 150 dogs and cats to California in recent weeks to new homes and new lives.

The McCullers, with the help of NFL referee John Hussey, on Saturday assisted with the transport of 21 dogs, including Gunner, onto a small plane to be shipped to their forever homes or rescue groups that will foster them until they can find a forever home.

"We're sending these dogs to well-equipped and spacious rescues," Lance said.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Here are more pics from @MctaggartErin of @LMcCullers43 and @karaleighhh helping send dogs to California. pic.twitter.com/skOEIT7uGM

Saturday's trip was the third such flight to California from Houston in recent weeks, and the first one The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation has been able to fund on its own. Cloud Nine Rescue Flights donated the jet, and McCullers' foundation covered the cost of fuel and maintenance, which was about $9,000.

"It's been pretty cool to just be able to connect with a lot of rescues in the area that have taken a lot of dogs from [Hurricane] Harvey and continued to take in dogs after that and get them out to places that have room for them, that have the quality of life they deserve to live," Lance said. "We're really excited to be able to get these dogs to California."

The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation creates resources for promotion of pet adoptions in the hope that no animals are euthanized. Last year, it began a partnership with Houston Pets Alive!, a pet rescue which assisted in Saturday's transport.

"This is something we're both very passionate about," Kara said. "It's an amazing thing to see, and we're so happy we can be a part of it and fully fund one of these transports, and we hope to continue to do this many times in the future."

Two months ago, California became the first state to pass legislation that requires pet stores to sell animals from shelters and rescue centers only.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Better pic of puppies born during Game 7 of World Series pic.twitter.com/VzmWv0SOzF

The animals that have been shipped to California in the last couple of weeks have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in August and dumped a record amount of rain on the Houston area as a tropical storm. The dogs were either homeless or brought to shelters because the owners could no longer take care of them.

"Obviously, when Harvey hits, a natural disaster hits like that, everything gets backed up," Lance said. "So being able to do this and get a large amount of dogs to a new home really helps."

Gunner was a priority on this flight. His spine was shattered by a buck shot, and by the time he was rescued, he had been dragging his hind legs so long they were almost worn to the bone. The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation helped pay for his medical expenses so he could rehab to the point where he was able to travel to California. He will be fitted with hind rollers so he can walk using his front legs.

"Stories like this and being able to meet people that have the same passion as us have kind of propelled us to where we are today," Lance said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr.