Skyler’s Life Saving Flights
Contributed by Linzi Gronning
The Coonhound, with all four paws balanced over two seats, looked out the window of the air plane, tail wagging. “That’s a happy dog,” Linzi Gronning thought as she told the hound to “sit” just before her son, Skyler Gronning taxied their Piper Cherokee-6 towards the runway for take-off. The Coon Hound did as she was told and sat with tail still wagging, thumping gently on the seat as she watched out the window as the plane picked up speed. Once air born, the hound curled up on the blanket covering the seat and went to sleep for the one-hour trip from Lake in the Hills airport in the Chicago area to the La Crosse airport where the fourth plane of the day would be waiting to transport the hound and three other dogs also on board the Gronning plane to Redemption Road Rescue in Minneapolis, MN.
The Coon Hound was traveling with two female terriers enclosed in separate kennels and a male blue heeler mix who had already decided sleeping in his seat was preferable to watching the ground move further away from the plane. The terriers, one young golden and an older gray were content in their kennels which had been placed where seats normally are in the six passenger plane owned by the Gronning family and hangered at the La Crosse airport. The seats had been removed just prior to the trip to make space for two portable kennels borrowed from the Vernon County Humane Society, where Linzi serves on the Board of Directors. The kennels, seat belted in where a perfect fit to temporarily house the two smaller dogs and the two larger dogs would have their own seat in back of the plane.
The air transport was coordinated by Pilots N Paws (PNP), a rescue organization that provides transportation for dogs, puppies and other small animals that can safely travel in privately owned planes. Pilots N Paws boasts of over 3,000 pilots nation-wide who donate their time and expenses to assist with the rescue of homeless pets from high-kill shelters, bringing them to rescue organizations, foster homes and no-kill shelters where these pets can be adopted into quality homes.
The air rescue that took place this past Saturday involved four PNP pilots, including Skyler Gronning, who holds a commercial pilot’s license and first earned his private pilot’s license under local flight instructor Dwain Munyon. Gronning, on his first PNP trip, was the middle leg of the transport which originated with PNP pilot Tom flying the four dogs out of the Taylor County Airport, Kentucky earlier in the morning. Tom landed at the Indianapolis Executive Airport where PNP pilot Bogdan then flew the dogs to the Chicago area landing at Lake in the Hills Airport, Illinois.
The flight departure date and pilot scheduling is initially coordinated by PNP and then through text or email messages between the pilots as they adjust time schedules based on weather conditions.
On Saturday, the weather was excellent for the four-state air crossing and Gronning landed at Lake in the Hills Airport a few minutes behind Bogdan, attesting to some great planning and timing on the part of all the PNP pilots. After sharing greetings, taking the dogs on a potty break and learning that this was one of many trips Bogdan had made for PNP, the four dogs were loaded into Gronning’s Cherokee-6 and with “wheels up” were airborne heading for the La Crosse airport where they would land at 1:30 p.m. There they were met by PNP pilot Ben and his girlfriend Jane and the four dogs were loaded for their last flight to Minneapolis and Redemption Road Rescue.
All four dogs handled the journey as if they had been born to fly. No barking, no messes and each well-behaved. At one time, they had been somebody’s dog and somehow had ended up at the Taylor County Animal Shelter in Kentucky as strays that were never reclaimed. Gronning noted, “They were friendly dogs and just happy to be with people, and if it weren’t for the PNP organization, they would have been euthanized.” These four dogs were given a second chance and went on a journey for a new life and new home thanks to the generosity of PNP pilots and the Redemption Road Rescue.
Pet overpopulation remains a serious problem throughout the country. Spay and neuter programs have gained ground and have helped reduce the number of unwanted pets, however in southern states over 70% of all shelter pets are euthanized. Pilots N Paws is helping to change this by transporting pets scheduled to be killed to other areas of the country where they can be more readily adopted. Pilots N Paws also coordinates other hardship missions and one of the most touching was the recent transport of a dog from Florida to his owner who was in a Pittsburg hospice care for terminal cancer. PNP pilots from many states coordinated their efforts to get the dog to his owner in time. Read this story, “A Final Wish” and other rescue stories and find out as well as how to support the efforts of Pilots N Paws by going to the PNP website: pilotsnpaws.org
Everyone can help to control pet overpopulation by spaying and neutering your pets.
Subaru and Petmate are proud sponsors of Pilots N Paws.
Posted by Kathleen Quinn Charleston Executive Director, Pilots N Paws