‘Copilot’ flies high with hope: Daytona Beach pilot one of many rescuers
By Karen Gallagher
FROM THE BOOK JACKET: HOW DO YOU SAVE THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF DOOMED DOGS STUCK IN THE NATION’S MOST HOPELESS ANIMAL SHELTERS? YOU CALL IN THE AIR FORCE.
There’s a new breed, in case you haven’t heard.
Each member has its own distinctive personality and talent. This breed is tender and tough, determined, resourceful and directly related to angels.
They are the people who participate in Pilots N Paws (PilotsNPaws.org).
“Dog Is My Copilot” shares the stories of some of the folks in the organization, also called PNP, who perform some of the most humane feats on Earth – they rescue animals from hopeless situations.
Author Patrick Regan subtitled his book “Rescue Tales of Flying Dogs, Second Chances and the Hero Who Might Live Next Door.” Aptly named.
A beagle mix named Eyelet is nursing her six puppies amid autumn leaves when two teens in rural Alabama discover her. She’s “skinny and covered with sores,” said one of the teens, Sawyer Thompson. Fortunately, Thompson knew what to do.
He first checked with the owner for permission to take the dog and her pups. Since he had volunteered at a local animal rescue for a couple of years, he also knew to carefully load the frightened animals in his truck and take them to Sonya Smith, who founded Two by Two Rescue in nearby Helena.
Smith immediately saw Eyelet’s poor condition and the desperate situation of her and her puppies. She sent out an SOS to the rescue community.
“Concerned emails poured in from across the country, and generous strangers chipped in nearly $500 to cover vet costs. Although malnourished and full of parasites, the little family received a positive prognosis. After just a few days, the three- to four-week old babies were thriving,” the author writes.
One email stood out: Kelley Curtis of Lucky Ones Rescue in Tampa agreed to foster the canine family while a search for permanent homes took place.
The network of animal rescuers buzzed, when Smith found out a PNP pilot, Steve Clegg of Daytona Beach, would be flying dogs out of Alabama that very week. So, Stephen Kelly, another Two by Two Rescue volunteer, drove Eyelet and her pups four hours from Helena to meet Clegg’s plane. Clegg had at least 10 other dogs set for his trip to Florida but said he had room for more in his Piper Aztec.
Curtis met Clegg in Tampa. “As I walked Eyelet to her waiting car, I whispered in her ear that she would now get the life she deserved,” Curtis says.
The author continues: “PNP pilots rarely see their canine passengers once a transport is finished, but several months after flying Eyelet and her puppies, Steve Clegg got that chance. He was flying another plane load of rescue dogs to Kelley Curtis, and called before leaving Alabama, to let her know when he would be on the ground in Tampa. Before hanging up, he asked how Eyelet was doing, and Curtis said, ‘I’ll bring her out.’¤”
Clegg says: “When I had last seen (Eyelet) she was almost dead from malnutrition and could barely walk, and here we are about eight months later, a whole new dog. She had body fat and was wagging her tail and walking around like a regular dog. It was really great to see the change. It makes you feel good.”
Author Regan shares 25 “Flight Tales” in “Dog is My Copilot.”
Grab the book and a box of tissues and make sure your four-legged friend is at your side. Then read and learn about the new breed – the one directly related to angels.