Nearly 300 animals were lifted off of ‘death row’ in North Carolina on Saturday morning and flown to no-kill shelters, with the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport in King & Queen County serving as a changeover point.
Thanks to the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association and Pilots N Paws, I was allowed to go along for the ride to New Jersey.
Sixty pilots were involved in moving cats and dogs from Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport (KEQY) in Monroe, North Carolina, to more than a dozen airports in several states, including: Virginia, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York.
The animals arrived at the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport around 10:30 a.m. They were unloaded one by one, and handed to local volunteers at the airport, who walked them around the grassy areas and gave them plenty of love and attention.
This is when we finally learned a little about our furry passengers. The six puppies were lab mixes and all related, despite various coloring – some were tan, while others coal black.
At the airport, the PilotsNPaws organizers recorded the puppies’ names for the volunteers in New Jersey.
As it turned out, these puppies, Hermie, Ash, Reagan, Mango, Caper, and Buckles, as well as the older dog, Waylon, were considered “quarantined,” meaning that they had all their shots but had not been held in seclusion long enough to be considered safe to travel with the other animals.
After our dogs had been walked, we put them back in crates and got them ready for the 232 mile-long flight in Richard’s 1978 airplane (model R182).
At a mere two hours, the flight felt surprisingly fast, and all the puppies slept soundly in the plane, probably due to the vibration and noise, Richard said.
Waylon, on the other hand, was none too happy to be flying – after all, he had some damage to his legs, and it may have been uncomfortable to fly. After a little “baby talk” and attention, he lay down and watched out the window.
The moment that we landed at Essex County Airport, the animals started stirring, as if they knew it was their time to come home.
When I opened the “co-pilot” door, a crowd of what felt like hundreds screamed, “Welcome to New Jersey!” This crowd was complete with a cameraman from the New York/New Jersey CBS and a photographer for “The Record,” who were covering the event on their end.
Nine rescue groups, including Pet ResQ Inc. and Puppy Love Pet Rescue, welcomed us and started unloading our puppies.
Just like in King & Queen, volunteers put the animals on leashes and walked them. This time, though, they were fed, and boy, were they hungry!
There was sheer joy spread across the faces of each and every member of the rescue groups, both children and adults, as they handled the puppies, dogs, and cats that had arrived in several planes.
A woman named Linda drove into the airport and picked up Waylon, who I learned, had been in several shelters, and like the puppies, was set for euthanasia due to overcrowding.
Many of the volunteers thanked the pilots for their selflessness and goodwill, and promised that the animals will find good homes.
Richard admitted that like me, he is an animal lover, and enjoys helping PilotsNPaws.
We said goodbye to the puppies, knowing they were good hands, and got back on the plane about 20 minutes after we landed. Just as quickly as we arrived, we left. I watched out the window, as the crowd grew smaller.
A total of 75 dogs and cats were delivered in New Jersey that day and saved from euthanasia, thanks to generous pilots like Richard.
For more information on PilotsNPaws 2012, visit: pilotsnpaws.org.