When the prospect of flying in a private plane arises, many picture a Lear Jet, with chilled champagne waiting for well-heeled passengers who are off to some chic destination. None of that imagery comes up when you think of dog rescues; kill shelters, and flying puppies. As it happens though, dogs, rescue groups and pilots are all part of the picture for one organization.
Marbleheader Tim Green has a passion for flying and shares it with “Pilots n Paws, a non-profit dedicated to assisting dog rescue organizations, which operates all over the country. It’s made up of private pilots and airplane owners, like Green, who also happen to be dog lovers.
Typically, dog rescue groups will try to find local homes for the animals that come into their care. This isn’t always possible however and that is where the dedicated volunteers at Pilots n Paws come in. Via an online forum on the organization’s website, pilots and rescue volunteers coordinate flights for animals on their way to their forever homes. An interactive map on the site shows the locations of pilots willing to fly animals, host or foster an animal along the trip home or assist with other parts of the rescue mission. It is a network of thousands of volunteers nationwide. According to the website, over 4 million dogs are euthanized every year in the United States simply because there are no homes for them. “Pilots N Paws” volunteers, like Green, are on a mission to reduce that number.
When he’s not looking after his Ace Hardware store on Atlantic Avenue, Green can be found in his beloved Piper Dakota flying with his family and friends. He said he was always interested in flying and while he started in 1980, getting his full license didn’t happen until 2010. The experienced boat owner said being in the sky is really where he feels at home.
Recently, he invited me to come along on a rescue flight to bring a dog from Long Island, NY to her new home in rural Maine.
We started off at Beverly airport where Green keeps his plane. There was actually a Lear Jet on the runway waiting for passengers who soon arrived with Louis Vuitton suitcases and big smiles. I’m sure they were off to a fabulous adventure somewhere and I could practically smell the champagne that had to be waiting for them, but the plane we were getting ready to board was going to bring a dog home. No contest, we had the better ride for sure.
Soon we were zipping down the runway and lifting off into a brilliant blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud for miles. Planes the size of Tim’s Piper fly at lower altitudes and this makes for a gorgeous view. We flew west and then south, over Connecticut and Rhode Island and then across Long Island Sound. Before long we were on approach to Brookhaven Calabro Airport. Like a lot of smaller airfields, there is no control tower or air traffic control here. Pilots landing or taking off “self announce” their location and altitude as they head in and out of the airfield. Once on the ground we met our passenger, Masquerade, or Maddie for short. She’s an English springer spaniel who had been a show dog and was now retiring to Maine.
With Maddie safely secured in a crate we took off again, this time to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where Maddie would catch another ride for the final leg of her journey. Once on the ground we met Jim McUrdy, another “Pilots n Paws” volunteer who was waiting with his Cessna 172 all ready to go. It’s typical for pilots when they get together to talk about planes and flights but not Green and McUrdy. These two guys immediately started talking about dogs and the different ones they had flown with lately.
“A plane is big piece of metal. These flights are about the dogs and getting them home,” Green said.
We bid Maddie goodbye with head pats and slobbery dog kisses and were off for a third time, headed home. We had touched down in three states and covered almost 500 miles in three hours of flight time. Green said that combining two things that he is passionate about—animals and flying—makes the time he spends with “Pilots N Paws” very rewarding.
“If someone had told me 10 years ago I’d be flying my own plane around bringing dogs all over the place I would have thought they were nuts, but here I am,” Green said. “The rescue organizations are so grateful to the pilots, but for me, I’m thankful I get to do this. It’s so worth it when you’re part of rescuing an animal and getting them home.”