NORTH CLARENDON — There were a lot of tears and a lot of slobber Friday night as Tom Turkey finally arrived in Vermont.
Tom, a 10-month-old disabled Labrador retriever mix, was flown from Missoula, Montana, to the Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport in North Clarendon, from which he went to his new home in Mendon with Tracey Fowler.
“There are no words for thanking people, no words for what people have done to make this happen,” Fowler said. “A pilot and a private jet? Who gets that?”
Tom received the star treatment on a chartered private plane made possible through a fundraising campaign. He brought with him the most luggage of anyone aboard, a large blue duffel bag filled with toys and cards from his fans in Montana.
“I’m really, really happy for him,” said Varen Chapman, Tom’s canine water therapist. “I’m sad I have to say goodbye, but this is what he needs, a forever home with somebody who understands his needs.”
Tom suffers from an unknown neurological disorder that causes seizures and makes it hard for him to walk without a supporting cart.
As he was carried off the plane, Tom was greeted by Fowler and her family and friends, and representatives from HandicappedPets.com. Fowler learned about Tom through a calendar contest sponsored by the company.
Accompanied by the Montana shelter staff members, his first foster mother and his water therapist, Tom left Montana at 9:15 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, aboard a 13-passenger twin turboprop Beechcraft King Air B-100 aircraft. After a brief stop in Duluth, Minnesota, Tom was on his way to the Green Mountain State, arriving around 7 p.m.
“It was good. Tom did great,” said Emily Adamson, development director for the Humane Society of Western Montana. “It’s a little more overwhelming than I expected it to be. It’s absolutely incredible. This is finally a reality for Tom.”
For almost a year, Tom lived at the Humane Society of Western Montana. He and his siblings, Green Bean and Pumpkin Pie, arrived at the shelter in Montana two days before Thanksgiving. While his siblings were adopted, Tom stuck around and become a shelter ambassador and local celebrity.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Lora O’Connor, executive director of the shelter. “Tom brings out the best in everybody.”
Having a celebrity animal was a first for Mike Tuinstra and Mike Beal, pilots for pilots of Neptune Aviation of Missoula.
“It was cool to see. He obviously has many friends and inspired a lot of people,” Tuinstra said of Tom’s sendoff.
Alicia Buonamano, a customer service representative for HandicappedPets.com, based in Amherst, New Hampshire, drove in to greet Tom and help get him situated in his cart. Pulling out larger wheels and additional straps, Buonamano got Tom’s cart settled while he played with Fowler and took a break from the spotlight.
Fowler said she will spend the weekend introducing Tom to the rest of the fur family, Heath, a 2-year-old disabled cattle dog-heeler mix and two German shepherds, Nordic, 7, and George, 2.
“We’ll be taking it slow and going out walking,” she said.