Pi­lots N Paws help­ing man’s best friend

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Barry Schultz and pas­sen­ger near Wal­ton, Va., at 7,500 feet two weeks ago, part of the Pi­lots N Paws pro­gram.

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