From South Carolina To Weyers Cave, Stray Dog Finally Finds A Home
January 27, 2012
By Samantha Cole, Daily News-Record
“Yay! Getting adopted?” the PetSmart staff called out across the aisle.
“Well, they’re here to look,” laughed Melissa Bahleda, holding Angus’ leash as Jack Ward leaned down to say hello.
To call this black Border Collie mix “death-defying” might not be an exaggeration. He’s had a wild past, flying from South Carolina to Weyers Cave to land in Bahleda’s PARTNERS! Canines rescue.
After surviving a six-week heartworm treatment, he’d put some weight on his ribs, a little shine in his coat and had a few tricks ready to impress the family coming to meet him.
Bahleda said Angus “slipped through the cracks” to make his way to her organization.
A rescue group in South Carolina she’d worked with before called to plead Angus’ case. As a large-breed mixed dog, his chances for survival in that area’s overcrowded shelters were slim.
But someone in the skies stepped in: transport program Pilots N Paws.
The non-profit organization is devoted to bringing animal rescues and volunteer non-commercial pilots together to relocate animals from overcrowded, tenuous circumstances to more stable situations, whether to a new family or another rescue program.
Through their online bulletin boards, pilots and rescues arrange transports nationwide. According to co-owner Debi Boies, they’ve collaborated with pilots in 50 states, and even have international ties in Canada and Mexico.
Pilots volunteer both their time and finances. “It’s a very generous gift,” said Boies, who helped found the organization in 2008.
Throughout the years, she’s seen cases she described as “heart-wrenching.” She said the worst situations prompt nightmares, but she passionately believes in the mission of Pilots N Paws: to give animals a second chance, and educate owners on responsible pet care.
Volunteers don’t have to be plane-savvy; to get involved in a variety of capacities, visit pilotsnpaws.org.
Although she’s drawn to rescuing Border Collie mixes, a heartworm diagnosis would normally be a deal breaker for Bahleda.
Luckily for Angus, she didn’t know the extent of his condition until the pilot left him — and his heavily highlighted paperwork — in her care.
Heartworm is curable when treated properly, but the six weeks and more than $600 in medical expenses were no small undertaking.
“When I told my husband what would be involved in treating him,” recalled Bahleda, “he was like, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s like 10 percent of your annual budget!’ But [Angus] has proven himself so worth it.”
His life in South Carolina was likely spent outdoors, Bahleda guessed. He was dirty, thin and “a pretty wild child” when he got off the plane. “He had no manners,” she said.
PARTNERS! Canines, which earned its non-profit status in 2001, blends Bahleda’s love for dogs in need with her skills in training. Last year, the organization gave more than 1,000 dogs a second chance. Visitpartnerscanines.org for more information.
Bahleda works mainly with local shelters, taking in and adopting out dogs with great personalities, but whose time in the shelter systems is up. Transporting animals is also a large part of the organization, taking up to 28 dogs at a time to other programs with space.
“I really feel like they know that I’ve helped them out,” said Bahleda.
Angus’ gratitude is apparent. “He knows that I’ve saved his life, and he thanks me every day.” She turned to the Ward family: “And whoever adopts this dog, he’s gonna be like that, too.”
Here To Stay
In the training area, Angus made rounds from Tammy Ward, to Jack, to their teenage children.
“I need a walking buddy!” Tammy said, Angus’ tail swishing in response.
During a vet visit following the death of the family dog, a flier about Angus caught their eye.
At the first meeting at PetSmart, the family stood politely around Angus and asked questions. After all, they were just “here to look.”
But, as their concerns about his health and behavior melted away — thanks in part to an Angus-led search around the store for a tennis ball — the decision to adopt became easier by the minute.
Angus’ long journey culminated last weekend when he arrived at the Ward home, ready for a new start.
The family has welcomed him with open arms.
“He is such a wonderful, loving dog,” Tammy said. “He’s awesome. We love him.”
Contact Samantha Cole at 574-6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org
***Special Thanks to PNP Pilot Mary McCutcheon for flying Angus to his new home.***