Fly Away Home: Pilots N Paws gives dogs a second chance
By Vida Volkert
GALLUP — It was a bumpy flight over the Mogollon Plateau — even for the experienced flyers Jerry and Nancy Grout.
The retired couple from Mesa, Ariz., and their co-pilot and friend Ron Wilkins landed in a small four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza at the Gallup Municipal Airport Sunday afternoon.
Strong winds made the flight from Payson, Ariz., to Gallup a challenge, and they expected more turbulence on their way back to Glendale, Ariz., but the trio was on a mission, and they had no time to wait around for better weather.
“We were at the tail end of a long relay, and we had to continue the transport,” Jerry Grout said. “We just had to bite the bullet.”
The Grouts are two of more than 2,000 volunteers with “Pilots N Paws,” a national organization of pilots that transports rescued animal across the United States. They traveled in their private plane to Gallup Sunday to pick up two rescue dogs that Dave Sarver, another dog-rescue volunteer, drove from Albuquerque to Gallup.
More than 10 volunteers with different animal rescue groups around the country were involved in this particular mission, and the Grouts joined in the end, to fly the dogs to their last stop in Glendale.
The lucky dogs were Belle, an 80-pound Bloodhound, and Collin, a 40-pound Australian shepherd.
Belle had been rescued from a shelter in Jacksonville, Ark. Collin from a shelter in the Farmington area.
Terry Black, a volunteer with Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of Arizona, was scheduled to pick up Collin and Belle in Glendale.
She said Collin was going to be euthanized at the shelter in Farmington because he is blind. Her organization saves Aussies that were born blind, deaf or both, because of improper breeding. In most cases, the “white 25 percent of a litter” of Aussies is “likely impaired and can’t be sold, so they are killed or thrown away at birth.”
The “Lethal White Aussie,” however, “is just as loving and capable as a normal Aussie with the exception of the need for extra attention in living with special needs,” she said, adding that they can compete in open agility competitions even when deaf or visually impaired, and can also become certified therapy dogs.
“For the most part, they can do almost everything a normal Aussie can do.”
Belle was rescued by South Central Bloodhound Club, a rescue organization in Jacksonville, Ark. The goal of the organization is to provide a system for rescuing, adopting or rehoming bloodhounds within Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the organization’s website.
“Bloodhounds are the oldest of the scent hounds and the breed having the keenest sense of smell,” the website states. “That means the bloodhound is popular as a working dog in tracking a police suspect or in a search and rescue operation … (and) one of the few breeds who’s testimony can be upheld in a court of law.”
Back at the Gallup airport, Collin and Belle were excited and ready to play. The Grouts and Wilkins took time to get acquainted with the dogs, and the dogs seemed receptive, gentle, affectionate and obedient. They seemed to know they were among friends.
Collin and Belle were carried up on to the plane with the help of Server. Nancy Grout sat in a back seat next to Collin. Belle stretched out in the back of the plane, behind the seats, and close enough for Nancy Grout to pet her from time to time to keep her calm.
To avoid the turbulence and keep the dogs quiet in the back, the pilots would have to fly at an altitude of 10,500 feet, Wilkins said.
Nevertheless, the afternoon flight was bumpy, with headwinds hitting the small aircraft, but “the dogs did not mind that at all. They snuggled all the way down,” Jerry Grout said.
The Grouts joined “Pilots N Paws” about five years ago, and have conducted at least seven animal rescue operations in their private plane, including an operation that involved transporting animals rescued from New Orleans after the city was hit by Hurricane Katrina, Nancy Grout said.
“We do it because we can provide a service, and it is another reason to fly,” she said.