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Pilots N Paws

A PnP & Rescue Primer

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Gina Gore shares her experience on how to make Pilots N Paws work for rescue.  It can take some perseverance, as she relates in her story…

Every day animals need to be rescued, and every day we try our hardest to make it possible for those animals to get a second chance. I am an animal rescuer. I have been rescuing for 20 years and have been familiar and worked with Pilots N Paws for the past 4 years for several missions. I have had dogs flown to me through PnP from shelters in Georgia, Kentucky, and from the Louisiana Oil Spill. I even had a personal friend of the local flying club I belong to drop down into Kansas on his way home last fall to pick up a dog in need. Every transport is different, and every animal is worth the coordination, efforts and volunteering of the pilots, their planes, the shelters, the foster homes and the receiving rescue. It really does take a village.

Toby was no exception. He needed to be rescued, and he needed a miracle. He found himself relinquished to a shelter in Bowling Green, KY after his owner had passed away. Another family member tried to help Toby by taking him into their home; however their dog did not take to Toby. Toby is an 18lb, miniature poodle, usually a much sought after breed in shelters and rescues due to their size, non-shedding characteristic, and intelligence. At 13yrs old with cataracts and a history of seizures, adopters and rescues were few and far between. I rescue dogs; my favorites are the underdogs of any breed but especially poodles or poodle mixes of any size. After years of rescue you learn as a foster parent what kind of foster meshes the best with your family.  For us, it was an older dog with medical needs. Toby was the perfect mix I was looking for to add to my family.  Through adoption, I had the perfect place for him to call home the remainder of his life.

PnP was the perfect solution in getting Toby to me after his adoption was approved and my veterinarian confirmed my reference check. I started the process to find a pilot, and the shelter put out an APB on a foster home to take care of Toby for a few days until we could arrange transport.  That allowed cage space to be freed up for animals in need and Toby to relax in a home environment.

Ashlea, a shelter foster home volunteer, offered to take in Toby until his transport could be arranged. I had mentioned to the shelter that PnP would be the best option for Toby as it would reduce the stress of a usual 9 hours or more ground transport to Iowa. My race was on to locate a PnP pilot who could fly from Kentucky to Iowa or suburbs of Chicago, IL where I was willing to drive and meet for pick up. I have learned through working with PnP that you have to remain flexible, determined, look at every PnP board possible, post on the forum, and personally contact PnP pilots.

I wanted the shelter to have a great first experience with PnP and hopefully move more animals to rescue in the future using them as another option. In March 2012, the shelter Toby came from took in 660 animals; 470 were adopted- a 79.5% adoption rate! (31% or 287 animals went to rescue). This shelter like others tries very hard to use rescue and move animals to these rescues with ground transportation. I had the knowledge, experience, and success of using PnP and knew that if it could be arranged PnP air transportation is simple process, easier on the animal and gives them options for adopters and rescues even further away willing to help.

Gina's standard poodle Tiki on the left and Toby on the right

Leah, a shelter adoption counselor, was open to the new idea of using PnP. Toby had sat in the shelter for 6 weeks with no interest by anyone, not even rescue. I had posted a request and sought out area pilots in KY and IL.  Nothing happened, and I started to panic. I scoured the PnP boards further and found a posting on the board’s “Pilots Volunteering Services”. That is when I landed on Mark Kozak’s listing to help with transport to or from TN to IL in the range of days needed. He stated he had an empty plane and my thought was, “Not anymore!” I sent Mark an email, and he called me a few days later. It was such a relief to hear his voice on the other end extending this huge gift to my rescuee waiting so far away. We set up transport. He was willing to fly from Tullahoma, TN and drop down into Bowling Green, KY to get Toby. It added less than an hour to his flight home to Illinois.  The plan was to meet at either the Whiteside airport about 45 minutes from my house (first choice) or at his home in Illinois if the weather was too bad for him to make it to Iowa (a 2.5 hour drive). The flight plan would be filed in a few days, and the final details would follow. I had to educate the shelter why the details were so vague until the actual day of flight due to weather, headwinds, etc. since this was their first PnP experience. They were patient, flexible, and understanding to do what was best for Toby.

The night before the flight, Mark requested Toby be at the BWG airport by 7am but would call at 5am to confirm due to some weather issues. Mark faced heavy storms and strong headwinds coming into BWG that morning, and we delayed the flight till 10am but would re-confirm at 9:30am. Leah and I spoke by phone at 5:30am, and I shared Mark’s dilemma and prayed for good weather to come. At 9:30am Mark said he would like to have Toby at the BWG airport by 11am and he would have to land at home due to strong storms located at the airport near me, so I would have to drive the moment we got off the phone to get to him in time. The race was on; I called Leah, and the shelter sprang into action to get Toby to the airport.

My son and I jumped into the car and headed to Mark’s airport 2.5 hours away so we could meet the plane in time. A wrong turn had me in a panic for a bit with no GPS and no internet on my phone, but a quick call to my friend got me back on track.  We eventually found the Mark’s airport, but we were amazed to find it was a small subdivision with its own private airstrip and houses with hangars attached. It was a nice detail that Mark forgot to mention since my son plans to be a pilot and we both love planes, especially war birds. I found a neighbor who said that I was indeed in the right spot. He went in to check Mark’s flight plan and informed us he was still an hour out due to storms and we could wait and check out his plane in the meantime. In our conversation he mentioned Mark’s love for helping animals in need and how Mark has flown several rescue missions for PnP. He also mentions he is the President of the War Birds and has an AT6 in his hangar, my son’s favorite plane. He let Brandon, my son, sit in it and we chatted about rescue, planes, and the coordination it takes to accomplish such a great endeavor.

Gina, Toby, and PnP pilot Mark Kozak

Mark landed safely and Toby, the lone passenger, jumped out of the plane onto the wing and onto the ground. Not too shabby for a 13-yr old dog that no one showed interest in. I bent down to see how he was and he came right up to me, gave me kisses, and pranced around waiting for his next adventure. Toby gets along great with my standard poodle and acts like a younger dog through his goofy antics and playfulness along with his 3 mile daily walks.  He barks and spins for those walks at the same time every day. I thought he was to be old and fragile at 13, but this dog has become my personal trainer with his insistence and makes us laugh a lot. He does not show any signs of his age.  According to his vet records, he has only had 2 seizures in his lifetime and none in recent years. My vet and I are cutting back his meds and seeing how he does, so far so good. Mark and I have made the connection for future animals in need, and I have in turn informed other area rescues and shelters of his availability and flight area. I have also helped educate other shelters that have high intake and low adoptions due to low populated areas, a poor economy, and lack of sterilization about PnP’s possibilities to move mountains for animals red lined for euthanization.

Toby came in to a shelter through the previous owner’s friend after she passed away, the shelter coordinator took him in, he was vetted and evaluated by a vet and shelter staff, he was posted on Pet Finders by the shelter staff, I was his adopter, Leah was his shelter contact, shelter staff cared for him, Ashlea was his foster mom, Mark his pilot, shelter staff member his transporter to the airport, my friend was my human GPS, and Rick, Mark’s neighbor, was Toby’s informant for his flight arrival. My vet is now his caretaker, and all the toll booth employees who offered him a treat on the way home and loved his story were his bonus people. All these people played a huge roll into making a difference for just one-a difference that took a village!

~To the world you may be one but to one you may be their world~

4 thoughts on “A PnP & Rescue Primer”

  1. Amy Long says:

    You Guys Rock! Thank You for all that you do!

  2. Pat Booher says:

    Great story Gina. Houston Collie Rescue loves Pilots n Paws!

  3. Tammi says:

    This warms my heart – Thank You Pilots n Paws – you guys are the best – :)

  4. Ashlea says:

    Oh, Gina! This story is so wonderful! Toby has such a personality and presence that I will not soon forget the week and a half I got to share with him. Toby has truly been on a once in a lifetime adventure!

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