An email conversation with Steve Clegg: Pilots N Paws pilot talks about getting involved
Karen Gallagher, Staff Writer
How has your transition been from longtime commercial pilot to one whose passengers speak only “woof”?
I have flown thousands of passengers, including movie stars, political personalities, sports legends and Fortune 500 executives all over the world during a very long airline career, but I have never flown more deserving and grateful passengers than the ones I fly now. Never a complaint, just appreciative to be flying somewhere with me! Knowing that their lives have been spared, due to my efforts, just makes one feel good.
How did you become involved with Pilots n Paws?
I first heard of Pilots n Paws, when I adopted a 2-year-old Lab, named Olive. She by far is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had. The rescue that I adopted her from, when told that I am a pilot, started telling me stories of getting dogs sent to them by volunteer pilots of this organization. After a little research, I knew that I could help, and the rest is history!
I try to make a rescue flight at least once a month. In October, I flew 10 dogs from Charlotte, N.C., to a rescue in Tampa that had room for them. In November, my rescue flight was to the Dothan, Ala. area to rescue more desperate dogs and cats and get them to a location where they can be safe. On the rescue to Charlotte, the paperwork on each of the puppies that I was transporting said “TIME EXPIRED,” “URGENT.” We all know what that means, and giving these pups a second chance at a life is what it’s all about!
Do PNP pilots keep in touch?
Yes, sometime we do relays. One pilot will fly from Indiana to Alabama, and the second Florida-based pilot will meet them, and make the second leg of the rescue. There have been relays that involved several pilots and planes to complete a mission, not to mention the volunteers who sometimes drive them for hours to get to an airport. The PNP organization just had its annual nationwide fly-out rescue, where more than 50 airplanes met at Charlotte’s Monroe Airport and flew with furry passengers in all directions in the U.S.
Among the fret and rush of these rescue missions, do you have any funny stories to share?
Well, one not exactly funny, but there was a case where we had pre-arranged an airplane full of puppies from Montgomery, Ala., to a rescue in Tampa. Once we arrived, the shelter lady was standing there with a full-size German shepherd that was not on our passenger list.
She said: “I know you don’t have room for her, because you’re already full, but she (the German shepherd) was going to be euthanized on Thursday, but they didn’t have room in the freezer over the weekend, so they are waiting until early this week. I know there’s no room, but I brought her anyway.”
I said, “There is NO WAY I will leave her here, she’ll just have to stand all the way to Tampa, because I don’t have a crate big enough.” So my co-pilot, Mary, took a few of the baby puppies out of their crates, and held them on her lap, and that made just enough room for the shepherd, and we chalk up one more close save! I heard from the shelter later that she was adopted to someone in Sarasota within days of our arrival in Tampa.
Anything you’d like to add?
Saving the lives of innocent animals is probably the most rewarding thing anyone could do. Pilots N Paws represents the very best of humanity. Giving these animals a second chance is all the thanks I need.
— Karen Gallagher, Staff Writer