Pilots N Paws helping man’s best friend
Do you like dogs? I’ve been a dog person my whole life and come from a long line of dog lovers. Life is just better when you have a four-legged friend to spend it with.
Companionship, love, devotion, call it what you will, but there are few bonds stronger than the relationship between a dog and its person.
When I was growing up, we always had at least two dogs, if not a couple more. “The more the merrier” was my parents’ motto, and that went for dogs and cats, as well as horses, to be truthful.
I spent nearly all of my childhood outdoors, doing chores and taking care of our animals, and our dogs were constantly by my side. My parents had a soft spot in their hearts for rescue dogs, which took some extra work and patience,
and usually more visits than expected to the veterinarian as I recall, but it was worth it. Owning a rescue dog is one of those endeavors where you get out of the effort at least as much as you put into it.
Rescue dogs are special cases. They’ve usually been the victim of some level of trauma and require a serious commitment of time, love and (usually) money to help them return to physical and emotional health. But once they are on the road to recovery, they return the love shown them many-fold.
The sad reality is too many dogs are euthanized each year because they can’t find homes, especially in regions where shelters are overwhelmed, and they are living on borrowed time. Sometimes they are
victims of natural disasters like the recent flooding in our southern states and can’t be reunited with their owners.
The capability of rescue organizations to save these animals are often limited because of simple geography. It’s fairly often that a dog could be saved, that a new potential owner could be arranged, but the distance between the dog
and new owner is so great that a rescue is just not possible. This is where an amazing organization called Pilots N Paws comes in.
Founded in 2008, Pilots N Paws was originally a partnership between animal-lover Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg. They teamed up to rescue a Doberman that was on the verge of being put down. The dog needed transportation from Florida to be placed with a potential owner in South Carolina, so Wehrenberg volunteered his time and
plane and pilot’s license to fly down to Florida and pick up the dog and drop it off in South Carolina.
After that success, the duo created a website, www. pilotsandpaws.org, which enables rescue organizations to announce needed transports, identify willing pilots and coordinate flights. Today, the organization has over 5,000 pilots and more than 12,000 volunteers who work together, facilitated through the website, to save thousands of lives each year.
The organization operates throughout the nation. Most transports fly over only a state or two, but when needed, to include flights halfway across the country, the pilots coordinate to fly different legs of the trip. It isn’t unusual for two or three pilots to work together to complete one mission.
This network of volunteers across the United States make miracles happen every day for animals that need to get from Point A to Point B. And flights aren’t just limited to dogs. Cats, birds, rabbits, and even reptiles have been given a lift by volunteer pilots. If an animal can fit in a plane, it goes.
Some of those incredible pilots who donate their time and fuel to help save the lives of animals in need live in Southern Maryland.
Barry Schultz of Waldorf is one of them. He’s flown all up and down the east coast in his Piper Warrior II with dogs (and a few times, cats) as passengers. He just flew his 70th mission this past Saturday.
Barry Schultz and passenger near Walton, Va., at 7,500 feet two weeks ago, part of the Pilots N Paws program.