Just plane fun…

What would you do if you had: A plane, free time, and a desire to be useful?

Studley has all of the above. For the past two months, he’s shared a gig with me that may be the most delightful volunteer job imaginable.

The network of animal rescue organizations is robust and highly organized. Large or small, the people involved are devoted to saving animals from terrible circumstances, and finding loving, safe, permanent homes.

Since becoming a foster dog momma, i’ve learned just how extensive this network is… Frantic pleas go up: “I need someone to drive to Carbunkle, Kentucky to pick up a new mom and her puppies.” “Is there anyone in Fleahaven, Connecticut that can pull this beauty from a kill-shelter before Monday?” “Can someone pick up a transport leg between Hoarkston, Indiana and Fartknocker, Illinois on Saturday?”

It turns out, there are also volunteer pilots who do specialty transport for animals that can’t tolerate ground transport – through Pilots and Paws. Studley decided that this was the definition of an exceptionally good reason to fly!

He checked the mission board for locations, and checked our calendar for availability. Weather was a factor, even though he’s rated to fly in crappy weather, it’s not as much fun. Complex multi-leg transport missions required coordination with other pilots. It took some work on his part, but it finally came together.

First mission in October was to pick up a Lab and her nine puppies. They were about 2 months old, and as squiggly as a bucket of octopii! And adorable!

Gracie's puppies

We met the woman with the rescue dogs at a small airport in Tennessee, and she immediately handed us two adorable, squirmy pups! Loading them in the plane presented a small challenge, but the crate full o’wiggle was safely in the back seat.

Pilot with paws

My job? Dog wrangler. Just ride shotgun, keep an eye on the critters, feed Studley snacks and scream “PUPPIES!” every few minutes…

gracie in flight

The little bits howled for the first few minutes of the flight, then settled down for a good snooze… Mom eventually got comfortable on a nest of blankets on the floor.

into the terminal

At the destination airport, our cargo got a good bit of attention. Workers provided a luggage cart to help get the dogs into the terminal. A passing pilot decided mom needed a good scritch behind the ears…

It was another month before the timing worked out for round two.

A momma Beagle and ten week-old puppies! Too small to touch, they were crated from pick up to hand off. As Studley says “about the size of biscuits”, they were all bellies, paws and stayed in a tiny fur ball the entire time.

Ashley and Pups

If you look at the grand challenge of abandoned animals? It’s overwhelming. You can’t save them all. It’s worth an effort to do what you can, though. Human or canine, there are many good creatures out there – and it simply feels good to contribute (even if i’m just ‘meat in a seat’ screaming “PUPPIES!” every ten minutes).

The network is powerful, and politically agnostic – a collection of strangers working together to solve a problem. More of this, please…


Birdbrains – A Fugue In Three Parts

Birdbrain 1:  Got home from work yesterday afternoon a little early to begin preparations to attend an office-related awards banquet.  Mr. Pickles the Wonder Dog was happy to see me – as always –  and I’d noticed that I’d left the door to my deck open.  i remembered opening it at lunchtime, and must have forgotten to close it before fluttering back to the office.  No harm – doggie was fine, hadn’t leaped 10 feet to his death.  Other than the possibility that he’d been barking the afternoon away and annoying the neighbors… but i am convinced that my nearest neighbor is deaf* so even this was no trouble.  Still, not a good plan to leave the back door open when I’m gone – if for no other reason, every bug on the planet will invade my bedroom, hide in my underwear drawer until dark, and then feast on my flesh and blood once I go to bed.

Birdbrain 2: I set about getting ready for the dinner.  Stripping down to my undies, i started piling my hair up on my head for the semi-formal dinner event.  Although i couldn’t quite identify the sound, i kept hearing something that sounded like a wood-chipper, or generator, outside**.  Went to the front of the condo to look out the window, but couldn’t pinpoint the noise.  Strange.  Walking back to my bathroom, i successfully geolocated the sound – looking up to find a hummingbird beating itself to death against one of my skylights.  About 20 feet over my head.  This is a deep well skylight – and standing there in my underwear, I was at a complete loss as to how to get a small bird out of my house when it’s stuck in a skylight. 

It had to be tired – hummingbirds have to eat constantly to sustain energy to flap their wings like, well, hummingbirds.  Having no idea how long it had been there, I was concerned that the damn thing would just fall to the carpet.  The white carpet.  And then be eaten, shredded and splattered everywhere in a mass of feathers, bone and blood by my dog.  Somehow, i had to rescue the white carpet bird before leaving for the dinner event…  Grabbing a washcloth, I balled it up, and threw it toward the bird – hoping to drive it 5 feet downward, out of the skylight well, and back toward freedom…  I managed to hit it a few times, but this only served to freak it out – making it more frantic.

“Shit.  Now what?”  Went back to the bathroom, and began working the face paint, while continuing to munch over options.  Cripes!  How do you get a hummingbird out of your house?  Who do you call?  How big of a mess would Mr. P make of a tired hummingbird?  Will eating a bird make him sick?  Give him the shits?  What do you use to get bird blood out of a white carpet?  Dog poo containing bird blood?

Birdbrain 3:  Just then, i hear a ‘thud’ behind me.  The bird had apparently dropped from the well, followed me toward the bathroom, and smacked into a closet door directly behind me.  About 3 feet in front of my lounging dog, who barely moved… He looked up, groaned a groan of tired annoyance, rearranged his dulaps***, and went back to his nap.  The bird looked pretty seriously dead.  Grabbing a hand towel, i covered the bird – and felt him still moving.  i also discovered that hummingbirds have a nice little chirp – so he wasn’t quite dead yet.  Racing for the deck****, i opened the towel figuring I’d set him on the deck, allowing recovery without the “canine assist”.  The damn thing looked at me – i swear he sighed – and then took off.  Walking back to the bathroom, i finished getting ready – and wondered what the hell kind of watchdog i’ve got.  He’ll bark randomly in the middle of the night when receiving a signal from the dog planet, and yet a bird can fly past his nose inside the house and he barely moves.  

Which is why i continue to sleep next to a 24″ blade, and have a wooden baseball bat tucked securely under my bed….


* No complaints yet about noise, and there have been some seriously noisy things going on at my place.  All related to “moving in”, of course…

** Not uncommon at the moment – still lots of folks with no power.  And i ain’t just talking about the Democrats at the moment…

*** A “dulap” – at least as i recall – is what you call those hanging lip thingies on a dog snout that they are so fond of rearranging.  For hours.  All night long when you are trying to get to sleep.  A quick bit of net research led me to an alternate definition – which makes the story funnier…

**** Yes.  Still in my underwear, but sporting a nice “up” do with the hair…