Pediatric neurosurgeon Herb Fuchs insisted on keeping his promise, even though he’d just lost his mom.
“I said you don’t have to do this,” Pilots N Paws founder and president Debi Boies tells PEOPLE. “But he said, ‘No, I need to be there, I want to. My mom would be proud.’ It just shows you the dedication these people have – our pilots are so wonderful.”
Herb is one of a dozen pilots who spent the last three weeks helping fly 100 animals from flood ravaged South Carolina to rescue groups in the northeast, where the animals will be placed in permanent homes.
The nonprofit organized the transfers, making room in South Carolina’s overcrowded shelters for an estimated 300+ dogs left homeless by the historic and fatal flooding that recently hit the state.
This past Sunday, Herb and the others gathered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to pick up 50 dogs — from puppies to fully-grown corgis — and fly them to shelters and rescue groups in Washington D.C.
Debi says, “When you see the love and the light in the eyes of these animals, you can tell they know they’re being rescued and they’re lives have changed.”
She says it’s like a giant — and joyful — jigsaw puzzle as pilots remove backseats and try to squeeze multiple crates and dogs into their planes.
Since she founded the group in 2008, Debi says they’ve moved more than 75,000 animals, even building a pool in the back of a plane for a dolphin that was separated from its pod.
“Our pilots are so giving and they literally flew the extra mile these last few weeks to make room for the animals,” she says. “It’s very heartwarming, it touches your soul. There are always tears and smiles at the same time for me.”