BURLINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Nine hours, a car ride and two flights later, one St. Bernard touched down at the Burlington airport awaiting a new life.
It’s first class travel for anyone rich, famous, poor or otherwise. Tuesday, four of the tickets in a six-seater are going to Sugar. She was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Lexington, Kentucky, and flown in style to Burlington, Vermont, to find a new home.
“She hopped in the back of the plane and she just settled right down and snoozed the whole way,” said D.J. O’Neill.
Early Tuesday, Sugar was flown to Cleveland and then picked up by New York native O’Neill on a private Cesna 185.
“About four years ago, I saw on ’60 Minutes’ they had a special on Pilots N Paws,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill is a volunteer for Pilots N Paws, an organization that flies rescued dogs across the country to new homes. O’Neill donates his time, plane and gas to help the animals.
“I have a plane. I like to fly, and I love animals. So what a great combination, just do all three at once,” said O’Neill.
Once on the ground in the Green Mountains, Sugar was picked up by a representative from the shelter Save Our Strays with whom she’ll live until the right home comes along.
She and O’Neill’s journey started at 9 a.m. Tuesday. What O’Neill gave to Sugar is obvious– safety and the opportunity for a new life. But Sugar and all the dogs O’Neill flies give him back something more subtle.
“I was like, hey, you know… this gives me a chance to make a difference. You always like to define yourself,” said O’Neill.
After all, who can say no to helping animals.