“Of course we love hearing about the dogs after they get adopted, and it’s just great to feel like you’ve made an impact in their lives. We give them a life and a great family. For example, we did a rescue with a bunch of hound puppies, and a couple who adopted one of them reached out to tell us how amazing it’s been, that they’ve loved seeing this dog grow up with them, in front of them,” Daniel told us.
In fact, by the time they land back in New Jersey, Michael and Daniel usually have at least one dog on every flight that they don’t want to give up.
“All the time,” Michael told us. “In every flight there’s always a really sweet dog that I wish I could take home. And I’ve always had rescue animals. When I was a kid, I didn’t even know you could buy a dog.”
“I’ve had some cool moments,” said Daniel, “Where after a long day of flying, the last dog is really scared, cowering in its crate and I stay with the dog for a few minutes or so, and I just talk to it, get it comfortable enough to come out…I’ve had moments like that which are for me, extremely rewarding and beautiful to be a part of.”
(Each dog travels in a crate. Except the 150-pound Malamute from Vermont. Nobody makes a crate that size but we made sure he was safe and strapped in like a human.)
Michael and Daniel learn other things too on those flights. About animals (dogs generally sleep on the plane and like to be all together), about flying (how to land in a snowstorm with limited visibility) and about yourself (like the time Daniel learned you shouldn’t drink coffee right before a flight. Six-seaters like a Piper Lance don’t have a bathroom).
Oh, and Jack the red wolf. Jack wasn’t personally in danger but his entire species was. The red wolf was in danger of disappearing from life outside zoos. So Pilots to the Rescue flew Jack out from North Carolina to a wolf conservancy in New York State where Jack became father to ten wolf pups (a big number at a time when there may have been fewer than 30 red wolves out in the wild).
They’ve flown cats also, a few times. And sea turtles. Once. Mostly dogs though.
If you’re wondering, by the way, Michael says that filling up a plane isn’t all that different than filling up a car.
“Avgas” (aviation gasoline) is made from the same petroleum as the gas we use in our cars. And at a small airport, the pilot pumps his or her own gas, just like we do (though it takes a little longer, since the plane has TWO fuel tanks, 98 gallons altogether). But he did tell us you have to remember to watch the wing tips when you pull up to the pump (ok, that’s different).
And if you are a pilot who loves animals, and wants to become a rescue pilot. Or if you would like to support the work, from the ground, or you just like to look at pictures of dogs, check out Pilots to the Rescue.