It was all planned ahead of time. The volunteers were supposed to meet at a New York City subway station and then walk over to the animal shelter. Once there, the shelter would pair each animal lover with a dog to walk, giving the cooped-up mutts a much-needed opportunity to get out, stretch their legs, and strain a bit at the leash.

And it probably would have happened exactly as planned, except for one problem: When the volunteers arrived at the subway, their team leader – also a volunteer –...

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