TODAY | April 25, 2014
>>> today's american story with bob dotson stars in rhode island , a remarkable trip that saved 74 lives.
>> are you ready?
>> reporter: some journeys lead to a better life .
>> good home, new life.
>> reporter: some, to life itself. these dogs were destined to die, before greg maley began a remarkable odyssey.
>> new england or bust.
>> reporter: twice a month, he leaves his home in zaynsville, ohio, hugs his wife and son, and drives 4,200 miles.
>> he's going to new york. he's going to be a yankee.
>> reporter: linking volunteers who rescue unwanted dogs.
>> good boy!
>> reporter: with others who offer a loving home.
>> reporter: greg is as constant as the need.
>> right in your arms.
>> reporter: he's made this trip every other week for nearly a decade. that's more than a million miles . imagine driving 42 times around the world. some nights, you can see those miles on his face. to succeed, he has to count on more than his fingers.
>> reporter: an army of volunteers show up at each stop to walk, feed, and love 74 dogs.
>> this is sweet lori.
>> reporter: greg charges so little for his service, it barely pays the bills. some weeks it doesn't. but --
>> i like the world i've created. i'm happy in it.
>> reporter: a world where a dog named nigel can keep a single mom and her 5-year-old daughter close. even while christine davies was deployed with the national guard in kuwait.
>> what does it say?
>> woof, woof!
>> reporter: they fell in love with nigel 's face on the internet. gave lily something else to talk about besides missing mom.
>> we talk about all excited we were, all the places we were going to take him.
>> reporter: of all the puppies in the world, why did you pick nigel ? did you like his eyes?
>> they're brown like mine, and my hair.
>> reporter: greg saves thousands of dogs like nigel , but every year, backyard breeders produce millions more than they can sell. most are abandoned. some shelters in the south are so swamped with strays, nine out of ten are killed to make room for more. greg doesn't just haul pups to a better place . he beds down next to them in the truck, cuddling little ones to keep them calm.
>> i'm going to make sure they're happy, i'm going to make sure they're bouncy, i'm going to make sure they're clean.
>> reporter: before they greet their families.
>> when the dog comes out of the truck, i want it to be just like the plate coming to your table.
>> reporter: a feast of happiness. that's a lesson he learned while working in his family's restaurant for 27 years. greg 's wife adelea was once a waitress there. she still works long hours, getting him ready for the road.
>> it's hard. you know, single mom status every other week.
>> reporter: but she knows what it takes to deliver smiles. on day five, in a putnam county parking lot, greg presents one more.
>> he's wagging his tail for you.
>> reporter: there are some moments in life that develop slowly, like a tear.
>> nigel !
>> nigel !
>> reporter: after all the anticipation, the longing, lillian's puppy became more than a picture under glass.
>> she's going to remember nigel when she's 80. she won't remember me or any of this, but she will remember nigel and nigel will have taught her something.
>> reporter: to surrender a dream leaves life as it is and not as it could be. for "today," bob dotson , nbc news, with an american story in warwick, rhode island .
>> nigel lacks happy.
>> so since it's friday, i'd like to conduct a quick vote for guy of the week on the show. we give it to greg . that's fantastic.
>> love it. mine came from a kill shelter down south. she ended up with us.
>> greg dotson with another great story.