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