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Pilots N Paws

“A Final Wish”

Through the efforts of countless volunteers and pilots working together with Liz Bondarek at the helm, Pilots N Paws was able to grant this wish.  From Liz:

A final wish,
Friday seems so long ago as I write this.. but it really was only Friday afternoon, the email that changed my life appeared in my inbox.
From Denis:
“The director of volunteer services at a local hospice in Pittsburgh, contacted me this morning. He was inquiring about a situation he is trying to deal with. A gentleman came to Pittsburgh from Florida for a liver transplant. Long story short, he now has cancer and is terminal and is in hospice/palliative care.
His dog (Bailey) is still in Florida.
It is this gentleman’s last wish to have his Bailey back by his side as it is now apparent that he will not be returning to Florida.

The very special Bailey awaits her first pilot!Family friend Sherri gives Bailey a hug goodbye.....


Bailey meets her first pilot, Rob Takacs

Can Pilots N Paws help?”

Now, I have to say that the email generated  dread in my heart and a moment of doubt, but I should have known better..

Why yes, yes of course the Pilots with Pilots N Paws can help.

Volunteer helps Bailey board Rob's plane

By late Friday, I have to admit, I was tired.. a long day of getting contacts for Bailey and finding a reasonable route. But now, finding the words to ask for help had never been so hard. There were 3 attempts in my drafts, but none that even came close.
By 6:00am Saturday, I had finally found what I hoped were the right words and hit ‘send’ for the last time.

Bailey making sure Rob is on the correct course home!

Almost immediately pilots were sending me emails telling me that they were willing to help. When I tell you that I have been dumbfounded by the outpouring of people to help, it would not even come close to the actual numbers of emails.
In a frantic fury, I was scribbling down names and offers and trying to connect the dots! Trying desperately to respond to offers and to piece them together..

Our leading crew..
Rob Takacs (SAV, Savannah, GA) Rob emailed me to say that he could help, but the problem is, he was only available right now, please call as he was on his way to the airfield..
As Rob immediately went to the airfield at about 10:00am, and camped out at the FBO(Fixed Based Operations at the airport) monitors…

The elusive John Lee taken during another transport:-)

John Lee (PKB)(W.Parkersburg, WV) emailed me to say that he too could fly right NOW and asked if I had anyone to connect.. so, I called Rob (who by now was on his way to the field) and asked him if there was a chance he could do the FL route instead of going north.
Rob and I were monitoring weather from his field on the phone together.. as the weather was marginal down there.. we were looking at VRB(Vero Beach, FL) where Bailey was. We were watching and talking and I said what about MLB(Melbourne, FL) instead? And then he says “ooo, yes, the weather just cleared.. I’m wheels up now”

John Lee's lovely wife Cathy and son Michael foster Bailey overnight

Quickly, hanging up the phone, I called John Lee back; ‘here’s Rob’s number call NOW to catch him and pick a field!!’ John flies out of WV but lives in Marietta, Ohio.
In the meantime, I was frantically calling Sherri in Vero Beach who was given custody of Bailey and all but shouted in the phone.. LOAD UP, GET NORTH TO MELBOURNE FL, WE’RE LEAVING NOW.
(poor woman, I’m convinced she thinks I’m a lunatic)

Bailey Smiling, she knows she is going to see her family soon!

Pilot Rob gets Bailey settled in Pilot John's plane!

Not only did John fly all the way down to meet Rob at BNL(Barnwell, SC), but he offered for Bailey to stay overnight in his home AND fly out in the morning. John had offered to fly Bailey all the way to Pittsburgh that night if time turned into our enemy, I received an offer from…Brad Childs and Rob McMasters (AGC,Allegheny, PA) They were both apprised of the situation and immediately offered to assist John if he landed in AGC for the night. They offered to chauffeur Bailey (and John) to her home so that the family didn’t have to leave Roger. Or, they would fly down to meet John tonight and bring Bailey home.

Pilots Brad Childs and Rob McMaster make the final leg home.....

Another hard phone call; John (thank you) called Jim to ask if we had time. Could Roger wait until morning?

Bailey will have her pilots license by the time Rob and Brad get to PA!

Collectively it was decided that John should land at home, and keep Bailey.
After a long day of fighting headwinds, John finally made it home at 9:45pm. His very understanding wife Cathy, and his son Michael were on hand to make Bailey comfortable. I have been told that Bailey was kind enough to push him out of bed during the night.

PNP Pilot Brad Childs with Bailey!

Sunday morning and true to their word, Brad and Rob flew in to PKB(Parkersburg, WV) to bring Bailey home.
I have to laugh, in as much as I reminded everyone that the clocks changed. Everyone was a bit late. Of course it didn’t help that John was unceremoniously kicked out of bed by a 100# Labrador.

Uncle Jim arrives to greet Bailey and meets two of her pilots Rob and Brad

While Jim was on his way to the airfield (BVI)Beaver Falls, PA, Beaver County we were talking on the phone, he indicated that he snuck out of the house this morning so he wouldn’t spill the beans and tell Roger that he was getting Bailey.

Final destination, take me home to see my family please Uncle Jim!

During the course of our conversation, a bit more information came to light;

Rod as he’s called by family, had been in remission for 5 years. He and his wife had even planned a trip to Key West, when 2 weeks ago they were called back up to Pittsburgh for routine tests. It was at that moment the cancer was found to have returned, and Rod was only given days to live. In an instant, things had turned and a hospice nurse had been brought in.

"I'm Home Mom!" as Debbie greets her with a big hug


"Dad, it's ok, I am here with you now!"

Jim further told me that all this has been especially hard for his sister Debbi (Roger’s wife) as she suffers from MS.
Only as an afterthought, did he tell me that Bailey was in fact her Service Dog.. ‘Oh yes, he laughed, you just ask Bailey to go get something and she’ll do it; she is so used to getting the newspaper, that she was stealing the neighbors when we stopped delivery’

"There's no place like home"

It was probably right about then that I fell apart for the 100th time this weekend.

It’s been an emotional ride no doubt.
The strength of these people has been a humbling experience and not one that I am likely to ever forget.
It has been very hard for me to detach from this as my priority is always to focus on you the pilots and the dog’s needs. It’s hard to emotionally come to grips with a man’s true dying wish.

There are simply no words.

Bailey is with her favorite people and her favorite toy.....

The family would like to thank everyone, not only the pilots that flew Bailey home, but to the entire family of PilotsNPaws and the rescue volunteers along the way that were willing to step in on a moment’s notice should Bailey be grounded on her journey.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with you Rod, Debbie and family"

There were so many that offered to fly that I hadn’t been able to connect, and everything came together in mere hours, that I am still sitting here wondering if it were real.
There are a few others that I would like to make particular mention of;

Pat Hatch (VRB) was SO upset that Bailey would in no way fit in his little RV! He spent the entire morning calling in to all the pilots in VRB to see who could fly. When he found Dave Caswell, we were already in the air (again, my apologies, I just couldn’t keep up with my inbox)
Dave, I am so sorry that you didn’t get to fly, but WELCOME TO PILOTSNPAWS nonetheless and I hope to see many dog snooties on the windshield in the future.

The Commander Club in MI.. Mark Bradley had somehow been notified that ‘we’ needed help~ he almost immediately stepped forward offering his clubs services. Thank you Mark!

Many thanks to the FBO’s that were visited along the way.. they made sure that fees were waived, discounts were offered and assistance was given.

Hospice director Nick Petti, who put all of this in motion and found Denis Kowalski through an old connection and…
Denis Kowalski who connected me to the family

Kathy Smola with Rescue Railroad and her volunteer drivers throughout the country. Her group was immediately put on standy to play catch should Bailey get grounded, or drive further north to connect if necessary.

"You are one special girl Bailey, you bring so much joy to your family"

 Thank you so much my friends, I am grateful to you for being there, not only for Bailey, but for all my hounds in need. You have made the world a more caring place and in a blink of an eye, have made a difference in the lives of so many folks across the country.

Fly Safe and Fair Winds my friends
Liz Bondarek
Transport Coordinator
(overtired volunteer)

Note from Co-Founder, Debi Boies: Special thanks to pilot volunteers Jeff Bennett and James Kleen for your willingness to help as needed.  I am so blessed to know all of you volunteering with Pilots N Paws! Our hearts and prayers are with the Calvert family……

49 thoughts on ““A Final Wish””

  1. Jessica Keller says:

    OMG tears streaming down my face. This story is so beautiful in so many ways.

  2. Jeanine says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you guys do…. and for posting this story. For the Calverts… I pray your time together will be sweet as your sweet Bailey is now by your side. I am sitting here crying.

  3. Gale says:

    Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and Pilots N Paws who offered help and made this happen. I am so proud to be a member of a JCCare a rescue group and I admire all the other wonderful volunteers.

  4. Leah Renae says:

    ok after a box of tissues I just want to say God Bless EACH AND EVERY ONE of the Air Angels (as I call them) this completely just made my day.

  5. Wonderful, wonderful tale of people helping people and dogs!!!

  6. Kyle Z says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Such a wonderful display of true human compassion, love and charity. This truly expresses how we should all live and treat each other…by the Golden Rule. Congratulations to all involved.

  7. Donna Shelton says:

    Wonderful story about some absolutely spectacular people. Blessings upon all who participated in getting Bailey home. I home you are rewarded daily for such kindness.

  8. It is so wonderful to see that there are so many wonderful people willing to do so much for our furfriends while putting their own lives on hold to make sure these babies get to their destination safely. Thank you all and may God continue to watch over you all and your families.

  9. Shana says:

    I couldn’t stop crying or finish the story. Pets give so much love and ask little back.

  10. Trac says:

    Reading this in Spain and it has restored my faith in human nature, have been following pilots and paws for a while and you guys are fantastic!!!keep up the good work you are achieving what is really important in this world,so happy you could reunite Bailey with his family xxxxxx

  11. Daphne says:

    What great story! I know what a comfort having your furbaby with you is. I have a lab that looks so much like Bailey. These pilots provide such a wonderful service! I know there will be a special place in heaven for these pilots!

  12. DAWN says:

    What a touching story. So hard not to shed a tear and thank you to everyone involved for getting Bailey where he needed to be.

  13. Dianna says:

    Wow, a special thanks to everyone involved in this transport!
    I know there’s no greater comfort to me than my dogs and I’m so glad Bailey made it to PA. XO

  14. Marianne says:

    Thank you for all you do Pilot’s N Paws!It’s great to hear about how many people want to help others! Please keep on doing what you do so. You have made such tremendous impact on people and animals lives!

  15. winedoggie says:

    When my husband was terminal, he too wanted our dogs by his side. When he passed both dogs were by his side and I know that they made his last days a bit easier. Bless you all for what you do and helping this man. Bless you!!!

  16. Patty says:

    Thank you to everyone involved in this save as well as all of the animal saves that Pilots N Paws have done for the animals. They fly our animals all over Texas to get them to their furever homes!

  17. Cindy Hopper says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience! So much love and admiration being sent to everyone involved! Strength and best wishes to the family!
    I am going to go kiss all my dogs right now!!
    Pilot N Paws ROCK!

  18. Andrea says:

    You guys are awesome, every last one of you!!! You are all an inspiration.

    Baily’s story or one of your other rescue stories would make such a great children’s book that could bring profits to the organization and spread awareness.

  19. Pat says:

    We already knew we love Pilots n Paws for everything they have done for us, but this story is fantastic. Well done PnP!

    Houston Collie Rescue

  20. Dottie Kell says:

    God Bless all of you, you are truly Angels… ♥ xoxo

  21. Linda Webb says:

    This is one of the most heart warming stories I have read to date about rescues as well as Pilots and Paws. I am so grateful to know that folks like this are out there. I cried from beginning to end, joy and sorrow. GOD BLESS you all and I pray for your safety always and for Baileys family.

  22. Dawns Rescue says:

    I have the utmost respect for pilots that are making dreams come true and saving lives. I have had the pleasure of meeting
    pilots on my life saving missions, and it
    is with the highest regard that I say
    “thank you, pilotsnpaws, for all you have done to save lives and give hope around the world”

  23. Jim Bordoni says:

    Great work coordinating this Liz and great work by the pilots. All missions are important, but this is the type of mission we all hope to fly. Blessings to all, especially Rod and his family.

  24. Evelyn Jacobs says:

    It is difficult to write, think and cry all at the same time~I can say that all of you who volunteered to make this wish come true, are true heroes in this life. Your kindness and generosity is priceless. I am so, so happy that Debbie and Roger have their Bailey home with them. Thank you to all involved with this journey~ You are the best.

  25. Jacquie coffel says:

    Thank you just does not seem to be enough. I’m sure this family is so very grateful. This was amazing. Fantastic job! Tears and more tears.

  26. cheryl says:

    Awesome story…my heart goes out to the family. My husband has flown to rescue dogs and my brother just got a dog rescued from other pilot N paws pilots Peter and his pilot wife Karen… All these pilots are angels!

  27. Dave Caswell says:

    I would like you to know, Liz, that it was Bernie Freeman that offered to fly Bailey from Vero Beach. I was the middle man and would have accompanied him. Many thanks to Bernie and all the caring people that were involved. We’re so happy that Bailey got home.

  28. Thanks PnP! Awesome work. We love you! This is a true showing of Volunteer Power.

  29. This story is testimony that there is a God and angels in heaven and on earth working together for mankind and pups. Amen! to all who came when called to help. You didn’t know the “bigger picture” until the end…Bailey was a service dog!… a missing link to unite a family in their time of need. My tears, prayers, and best wishes are with you all. God Bless.

  30. Barb Rudicel says:

    Beautiful heart rendering story. Thank you for this wonderful organization and all that you do!

  31. Ed says:

    Glad to hear Bailey made it!!! It took me about 30 seconds to reply to the transport request Saturday morning. Wish my plans could have fit in, but WELL DONE!! to the pilots who made it happen!!! THIS WONDERFUL ORGANIZATION IS SECOND TO NONE!!

  32. Beth Hutchens says:

    God Bless everyone involved in making this miracle happen.

  33. This is a story of unconditional love. I recently was involved in a transport with Pilots N Paws and had the great pleasure of meeting a couple that flew for Pilots N Paws and found that they are one of the greatest organizations I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They all love what they are doing and take great pleasure in it. I work with Austin German Shepherd Rescue, volunteering and fostering, and it also is a very rewarding experience working with all of the abused and unloved dogs and bringing them back to health and teaching them that there are loving people out there that want and need them. Tears and prayers to this wonderful family.

  34. nicola armstrong says:

    Through the tears i read such a heart warming story god bless everyone involved .x

  35. Ashley Guidry says:

    You are all angels, thanks you for caring so much to help bring a dying man his best friend to be by his side. People like you restore my faith in humanity. You rock!

  36. This story is so very touching and like most of the people before me I read with misty eyes

    We have been very honored to have had dogs flying with Pilots N Paws and also worked with the wonderful Kathy Smoala & Kathy Gill. The co-ordination that goes into transporting and flying the dogs is truly amazing. The safety displayed by the wonderful volunteers is second to non. Because of all your care and dedication you have saved and changed the lives for so many wonderful dogs and humans. God Bless you all.

  37. Caron says:

    Thank you. As a hospice nurse and a dog lover I know this was a wonderful gift. Proud to call you my friend Rob M. Thanks to all the volunteers who made this possible.

  38. Rebecca Bailey says:

    I used to volunteer with a rescue group in Oklahoma, and I live in Texas. Health for me is up and down, so I since then rescue on my own as God presents these furries to me. In recent years I had a blind and deaf dapple Dachshund that I hooked up with a rescue group for impaired dogs out of Pennsylvania. They arranged volunteers to fly and drive this needy rescued pooch all the way from Houston, TX to Albany, NY. The first or second transport I met in Houston was a Pilots’N Paws individual who flew little Grace to her next destination a few states away. The rest were drivers. I love dog rescue, and the selfless people who gladly donate their time, gas, planes and anything they have to do these wonderful things. God Bless you all. This is a wonderful story about Bailey, and his owner.

  39. Rob Thompson says:

    One of our local stations in Pittsburgh covered this last night. http://www.wtae.com/news/30673218/detail.html

  40. Marion Pett says:

    Wow, lots of people with heart and compassion. Pilots N Paws – you are awesome, wonderful people, and you rock. Thanks from all the four legged friends you help.

  41. Kathy Daily, RVT says:

    Tears streamiing down my face! Thank you, Pilots N Paws, to everyone, who made this come true for this family. And to the family…know you are in my prayers. May God and doGs bless all of you.

  42. Sue Westhead says:

    What a great group of people! Thank you all so very much for your caring hearts and your planes!

  43. Rob M. says:

    I have no confirmation of this, but it was posted on the local news channel’s web site that Rod passed away earlier today. I was blessed to have been a small part of this awesome project.

  44. Basset Rescue of Florida says:

    We were helped a couple of years ago by Pilots N Paws get a senior, terminally ill basset that was terrified of the Florida storms get north to an area of no storms where he lived out his final year with a loving foster family. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the pilots and organization.

  45. Dianne Jenkins says:

    I just donated to this great cause. It’s not much, but I hope it helps. What a great story. I am so glad that the man and his dog got to spend their final days together.

  46. sarah read says:

    OMG what a totally amazing and fantastic service and heart wrenching story, In this day and age of war and woe in the papers and on the TV we need more of this, ordinary people helping others out of human kindness, I am inspired, well done thank you and I am inspired.

  47. What a heart warming and moving story. Bailey is such a good natured and happy dog. Pilots N Paws you are simply wonderful.

  48. Pama Walker says:

    This restores my faith in humans! God bless all of you for this act of kindness. Praying for the family and Bailey!

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