Four days: Four flights, 16.1 hours, 1,783 miles, 13 dogs
Wade was busy before his wings got temporarily clipped…
When I found out that my knee surgery was scheduled for 3/18/13, and that the weather was finally going to be good for flying (it wasn’t during much of February, a lot of which I spent in a full-leg brace, anyway), I decided to fly as many Pilots N Paws rescue missions as I could before I was temporarily grounded.
In Corpus Christi, TX, James Matt Ray, a kind-hearted animal control officer, took in a nine-year-old heartworm positive pug. Gucci had been surrendered by her owner, who had been informed by her apartment manager that she had one dog too many. Corpus Christi is a high-kill shelter, and James knew that Gucci would be difficult to adopt out, due to her and medical condition. With a little effort, he found a rescue group in Houston that would treat and foster her until she found a new home, and then posted a mission request to Pilots N Paws. On Tuesday, 3/12/2013, I flew down, picked up the little girl and brought her back to Pearland Regional, where she was picked up by a PugHearts volunteer. Gucci set a record for nose and cheeks licks (non-stop), until she had to be crated for the flight. Somehow, these sweet things seem to recognize that they are being rescued and display their gratitude.
The next day, Wednesday, 3/13/2013 was a two-fer (loads in both directions) and part of a multi-leg, multi-state mission. Jeff Bennett, a Florida pilot, was set to fly in a load of dogs to New Orleans Lakefront Airport; two of them were dachshunds (Lady, diabetic, and Gator, paralyzed), who needed to get to their new home in San Angelo, TX. Meanwhile, there were three miniature poodles (Pip, Squeak and Tinkerbell), who needed to get to New Orleans from Houston. At the last minute, two tiny Chihuahua puppies were added to my flight (destined for Alabama). At Lakefront, I offloaded the poodles, and traded the Chihuahua with Jeff for the dachshunds. A real heartbreaker: Jeff also flew another dog from Florida, a little terrier; the owner had become irritated that the pooch was trying to climb a door gate, and had chopped off its two hind feet with a machete. It was destined for a new home and prosthetic feet. (Some of these missions really haunt you.) I dropped Gator and Lady off at my good-hearted vet’s office; they don’t normally board dogs, but had agreed to care for Gator and Lady and to give them their medicine and injections.
Thursday, the next day, 3/14/2013, I picked up Gator and Lady first thing in the morning and was at the hangar by 8:30 a..m. Another heartbreaker: I took delivery of Michelle, a 14-year-old miniature pinscher (also destined for San Angelo with the dachshunds, where they all were being adopted by the same couple who took in Jake, the disabled beagle from Jackson, TN [a previous rescue mission]). Michelle’s owner was surrendering her (both victims of the economic downturn). The farewell was heart-rending, as I loaded the little girl, her bed and all of her toys. I decided to fly her crate-less, in order to minimize the separation trauma. The four of us flew to Boerne Stage Field outside of San Antonio, TX, where I transferred the pooches to Denise Pride, a pilot and new friend, who transported them on their final leg to their new San Angelo home.
Flying back to Pearland Regional alone, images of the week’s innocent faces kept flickering through my mind’s eye. With the surgery date looming and excellent weather forecast, I signed up for one more mission: New Iberia, LA-Houston, with some complications. Given the sizes and crate requirements, there were too many dogs for me to fly; and the destination for one bunch was my home field, Pearland Regional, to the South of Houston, while the other batch needed to get to Hooks Memorial, to the North of Houston). Weeks earlier, I had received a PnP private message from Julian Sanchez, a pilot who flew out of Hooks. He was interested in finding out more about the experience, and we had been emailing back and forth about getting together and going flying. On a whim, I called Julian on Friday, 3/15/2013. It turned out that he had rented a plane for the next day; that his passenger plans had fallen through; and that he was open to flying his first mission for Pilots N Paws. After a little bit of coordination and planning, we were set.
On Saturday, 3/16/2013, I took off in 20223 from Pearland and Julian took off from Hooks in 64556. We rendezvoused at Acadiana Regional and shook hands for the first time. I loaded up a collie, a terrier, an Aussie pup and a Chihuahua. Julian loaded Biscuit, a terrier mix, and her four pups. Refueled, took off, and set courses for our home fields and new futures for eight dogs. Good feeling, lots of precious memories, and two new friends. Congratulations to Julian for flying his first rescue mission!