Celebrating Pilot Peter’s Birthday and 26,000 passengers flown to safety!

As we kick off May, we’re excited to celebrate our 26,000th passenger flown to safety! Our two airplanes have already touched down on both coasts and both borders of the continental United States, and have been ‘Wheels up’ nearly every day transporting hundreds of dogs and cats from overcrowded shelters to the safety of receiving organizations.  

Happy Birthday Pilot Pilot Peter!

This month we are also celebrating Pilot Peter’s, our Founder and Chief Pilots Birthday! Dr. Rork started Dog Is My CoPilot eleven years ago with a single small personal airplane after the passing of his wife. Now in 2023, we have two rescue planes and an army of volunteers to help us save as many animals as we can. To help celebrate Peter’s birthday and the 26,000 animals we have saved, ‘Abba’ and her dad have generously stepped forward to match every gift dollar-for-dollar- up to an incredible $25,000! Please share with your friends and family to help both our airplanes stay ‘Wheels Up’ saving lives all year long!

I am amazed by the growth of our reach.  As I begin another trip around the sun, I want to thank everyone who supports our life saving rescue flights… you are all heroes, especially to the 26,000 lives flown to safety, said Peter Founder and Chief Pilot. 

Passenger 26,000 saved!

One recent rescue flight stands out as particularly heartwarming. We were able to give Shaffer, a 3-year-old gentle giant from El Paso Animal Services, a golden ticket to One Tail At A Time in Portland, Oregon. Shaffer had been at the shelter since September 2022 and quickly became a staff favorite, but despite his sweet face and gentle demeanor, he struggled to find a forever home. Thankfully, he’s now in the loving care of foster mom Michelle, who reports that he’s “just one big hunk of love” and loves snoozing on the couch and keeping an eye out for pesky squirrels. We’re confident that it won’t be long before Shaffer finds his forever family, thanks to supporters like you.

We wanted to take a moment to recognize our amazing partner, El Paso Animal Services (EPAS), who has been working tirelessly to help animals in need. As the only open access shelter in the county, they take in any animal that arrives at their doorstep, which means they face a daunting challenge every day. With 50 to 150 animals arriving daily and only about 10 animals adopted out, the shelter is severely overcrowded, putting a tremendous strain on their dedicated staff and volunteers. That’s where Dog Is My CoPilot comes in. We’ve been proud to partner with EPAS for the past five years, and one rescue flight to their shelter can make a huge difference in the lives of animals and the people who care for them. By transporting animals to other parts of the country, we’re able to alleviate some of the pressure on EPAS, giving them more space, time, and resources to focus on caring for the animals in their care.

Fly along with us and watch this heartwarming film!

Together with Petco Love and Bobs from Skechers, we are giving shelter pets a second chance at life by transporting them from cities where the shelters are overcrowded, to cities where the demand for rescue is high. A win-win for everyone involved and a true mission of love.

We’re thrilled to report that the 2023 rescue season is off to an incredible start, with hundreds of animals already rescued and transported to loving homes across the country. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our pilots, staff, and volunteers, our planes have landed in cities like New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boise, ID, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, to name just a few.

We are looking forward to the next 26,000 animals saved and the hundreds of stories of animals finding their forever home.  We could not do this life saving work without their support,  thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of our Dog Is CoPilot family. 

Here are some heartwarming photos of recent rescue flights and the passengers you have helped to save!

With gratitude,



Saving Lives Together with our Shelter Partners

This Spring, our team hit the road to visit our shelter partners in Texas. This was one of the most impactful rescue trips we’ve ever made! Let me take you along to meet the incredible people and wonderful animals that Lynette Duford (Rescue Flight Coordinator)  and Kara Pollard (Executive Director) worked with as they visited our partners. They witnessed firsthand the struggles many overcrowded animal shelters face on a daily basis. Each worker and volunteer plays a crucial role in the well-being of every animal that comes through their door, as they prepare for a flight to their forever home with Dog Is My CoPilot. 

Lynette and Kara traveled over 2,000 miles, toured over a dozen animal shelters both large and small, connected with hundreds of staff and volunteers, and met thousands of animals in need of a forever home. They were welcomed at every shelter with open arms and smiles, and were humbled by the hard work of each staff member and the army of volunteers that are working to save the lives of the animals in their care.

At first glance the shelters could be seen as sad, tragic places. It can be overwhelming to think that on any one day, these organizations are caring for thousands of animals. The shelters are up against what seems to be insurmountable circumstances because of the sheer volume of dogs and cats in their care. Kara and Lynette were anticipating some tears throughout the week, but the opposite happened. They left this trip inspired, hopeful, and excited to work even harder with their partners to rescue more animals in our upcoming rescue season.

Shelters making a difference

Lynette and Kara visited several large municipal and private animal shelters like Austin Pets Alive, San Antonio Pets Alive, Laredo Animal Care Services, El Paso Animal Services, and Fort Worth Animal Care & Control. At many locations, there were animals in every area of the shelter, multiple animals per kennel.  To meet the demand, sometimes the shelters used tarps outside to house the overflowing numbers under their care. At one shelter visit, it took them over three hours just to walk by each kennel, and of course they made sure to surprise the animals with treats. Kara and Lynette were amazed that the staff and volunteers knew all the dogs’ names and how long the animals had been in the shelter and their backstories. 

In addition to working with Dog Is My CoPilot to provide rescue flights, many of the large shelters are running spay and neuter clinics, community vaccine clinics, and adoption drives, and engaging the local community to help provide homes for strays. Kara and Lynette were heartened to see how the rescue flights not only save lives but also boost morale and inspire the workers at these shelters. They left Texas feeling more motivated than ever to work with their partners to rescue more animals and create positive change.

Small shelters have the same struggle

From some of the largest to some of the smallest, Kara and Lynette got to meet with the staff and volunteers at Luling Animal Shelter that has only six kennels, and Robert Pedraza who created Paws and Strides Rescue out of his home. At first glance you would think smaller shelters would have it much easier than a massive shelter, but it’s all about scale. Fewer dogs means fewer staff, no walk-in traffic of potential adopters, yet every week new animals arrive that need a home. No matter how big or small a shelter, there is always a need for more shelter space.  However, what stood out to Kara and Lynette was the level of dedication and passion that the staff and volunteers put into saving every animal’s life. They were humbled by Robert’s huge heart and all the love this incredible man had for each dog in his care.

Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) has created a unique transportation hub where they collect animals from these smaller rural shelters where adopters are sparse and veterinary resources are limited. APA! then works with receiving organizations and provides health screenings before animals are transported.  Through our partnership with APA! we help fly hundreds of animals a month into homes across the country, both on the west and east coasts. For many shelter workers, knowing that all the hard work and time resulted in an animal finding a home is rewarding enough to come back to face the challenges at the shelters every day. 


Kara and Lynette met Sweet Tia at Laredo Animal Care Services in Laredo, Texas. Shelter and in 48 hours, was with a foster family in Wyoming. Tia, a little cattle dog, had been overlooked for weeks in the shelter but won the heart of Kara and together with the Animal Adoption Center she found a loving home in the Tetons!

What we learned

After reflecting on their trip, Kara and Lynette were struck by the importance of partnerships, the humbling nature of their experiences, and the hope and gratitude they felt.

At Dog Is My CoPilot, the mission to save the lives of animals in need is wholly dependent on the support and collaboration of shelter and rescue partners. As such, it is critical that everyone involved in the organization’s efforts, from its staff and volunteers to its supporters, recognizes and values the vital work being done by these partners every day

One such partner is El Paso Animal Services (EPAS), which takes in anywhere from 50 to 100 animals per day and houses up to 800 dogs and cats at any given time. Given the staggering number of animals in their care, and the fact that only about ten adoptions are made on a good day, EPAS is always struggling with overcrowding. This is why the work of organizations like Dog Is My CoPilot is so important: by flying out 75-100 animals from this one shelter every three weeks, the team is making a significant difference in the lives of the animals left behind. Kara and Lynette were grateful for the opportunity to meet the hardworking people behind the scenes and express their appreciation in person. They left their visit feeling even more connected to their partners, knowing that they are all united in their goal to help save adoptable pets.

Thank you

We are forever grateful to the shelter workers and volunteers who tirelessly care for animals in need. They carry a heavy load, yet they do it with unwavering love and compassion. We are humbled by their dedication and inspired by their selflessness, said Kara Pollard, Executive Director 

In addition, Kara and Lynette saw first hand how your support makes a difference in the lives of these pets. With two airplanes in operation and over 100 flights scheduled all over the country, we are anticipating flying over 5,000 animals to safety this year. 

Thank you to our entire community who have prioritized saving animals, spreading love, and keeping our planes, the Sequel and the Big Dog, wheels up for years to come.

With gratitude,


Flying into the new year with dogs landing in homes!

Quasi was a rescue we met at the end of 2022. He was left by his owners at a large municipal shelter in Merced, California. He had an infection in his body that was life threatening and he needed help right away. Thankfully, one of our amazing rescue partners, New Beginnings For Merced County Animals was able to act quickly and worked with a local veterinarian to address his medical needs immediately. At that moment everyone knew his road to recovery was going to be challenging. Quasi was able to hitch a ride on The Big Dog, sponsored by Petco Love shortly after his operation. Quasi began his recovery at Camp Duford in Polson Montana where he was able to sleep the days away and heal from major surgery. As he recovered, Life Savers Animal Rescue helped assist to find him a home.

Quasi was put in a foster home with our own rescue flight coordinator Lynette Duford. After Lynette removed the staples from his surgery to remove a large mass, the rescuers were able to see what an amazing and resilient dog Quasi had become. Quasi needed a few more surgeries to fix his eyes and get “fixed” head to toe, but as his surgeries were all healing, he was getting some obedience training and began playing with other dogs. After a couple weeks, he found a home in northern Montana. We are grateful to have played a role in Quasi getting a second chance at life and grateful to the shelters and rescues that work tirelessly to save animals just like Quasi. The pictures below say it all, working together truly saves lives!

Although we are not planning any rescue flights for another couple weeks, we are still very busy getting ready for the upcoming season. Our ten volunteer pilots recently attended their annual training at the end of January. This training is mandatory for our pilots and we like to make sure that our pilots are receiving the best training available.

Our planes also get an additional yearly check up in the off season. This year’s annual maintenance is special for “The Sequel” because it will be receiving a new avionics panel so that it is identical to “The Big Dog”. This will make the planes safer and easier for our volunteer pilots to captain. Both planes are having the work done at Yingling Aviation in Wichita, KS. Once this work has been completed, the “Big Dog” will be picked up by Captain Maresca and we will plan a rescue flight with our Texas shelter partners to deliver animals near our homebase in Jackson Wyoming.

We are naming this flight “operation Maxie” because Maxie is a special CoPilot, who was rescued by our partner Underground Dog and she is being adopted by Captain Maresca and his wife Margo!  Maxie was brought into the rural, small Marfa Animal Shelter (6 kennels) along with her sister Lola, a senior chihuahua, and a young shepherd puppy with a terribly embedded collar. All dogs lived in a very small backyard, received little care or attention, and were living in very dirty, difficult conditions. The shepherd puppy went fairly quickly to a rescue and the senior chi found a foster home, but Maxie and her sister languished in the low enrichment shelter for more than eight weeks before going to a spay/neuter clinic in Presidio and then landing short-term foster homes to help them recover from surgery and to get to know them better. Frank and Margo fell in love with her pictures and decided she is “the one!”.  We will be flying from El Paso Texas where Maxie and 50 other dog passengers will board the Big Dog on a truly lifesaving flight!

Be sure to stay tuned for more flight updates in the next few weeks. Please keep an eye on our social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram so you are the first to know when we are back in the air rescuing animals for the upcoming 2023 season.

Happy Holidays, we’re thankful for the 4,600 we’ve saved this year!

2022 has been another amazing year for Dog Is My CoPilot. This is our 10th Anniversary, we rescued our 25,000th animal, and we now have a second rescue plane, ‘The Sequel’!  We have so much to be thankful for and look forward to sharing our journey with you.

Dog Is My CoPilot began after the depths of tragedy. Founder, President and Chief Pilot Peter Rork, lost his wife unexpectedly in 2012 and was encouraged by a friend to do something to deliver from his grief. Peter, a lifelong pilot, began using his small personal plane to transport a few animals at a time from a shelter in San Francisco to a shelter near his home in Wyoming. After visiting a municipal shelter in Merced, CA where over 90% of the animals were being euthanized, he realized more needed to be done. He soon began transporting animals in his small personal plane 4-5 days a week, but the demand for his rescue flights continued to grow.

To purchase a larger plane, Peter mortgaged his house, gave the money to Dog Is My CoPilot, and went from rescuing twenty dogs at a time to up to two hundred and fifty dogs. Dog Is My CoPilot purchased “The Big Dog”, a Cessna Caravan turbine aircraft, from a Canadian mining company. Peter knew the plane was meticulously maintained, but visually it was a disaster. “Chipped paint, ripped seats, it was perfect!! The dogs won’t care what the inside looks like!”, Peter recalls saying. Around this time, Executive Director, Kara Pollard joined the team, Petco Love became a major sponsor and Dog Is My CoPilot scaled up from rescuing hundreds of animals a month to thousands of animals a year!

Tonto captures the heart of many people

One of our long time partners is the small six kennel Presidio Shelter, in far west Texas.  There are many stories of dogs coming from this amazing rural shelter, like the story of a dog named Tonto. This 80lb love bug was surrendered with paperwork that listed the reason: “don’t want him anymore”.  In the shelter, despite being great with people, low energy, and co-kenneled with female dogs with no problems, he languished. No adopter, no foster, no rescue partner.  Tonto was at the Shelter for fourteen months until the City said it was time. If he wasn’t adoptable, he had to be euthanized. 

That motivated our partner, Heather Hall who runs The Underground dog Rescue to step into action quick!.   Without alternatives, in Tonto came as Heather’s foster dog; he didn’t miss a beat. Happy, housetrained, mellow, snuggly, 100% non confrontational with any of the dogs and respectful of the cats. Shared his stuff, didn’t pull on a leash, took treats nicely, slept in his crate, was just so damn happy for a quiet place, a regular routine and a soft couch. We could not have been prouder. He snored. His tongue didn’t fit in his mouth. He had the softest ears. We loved him.

“It can be almost impossible to assess dogs in the shelter environment. For 14 months of waiting there, within 3 weeks of being fostered, Tonto had his rescue ticket with Dog Is My CoPilot our a partner in Bosie Idaho Bosie Bully Breed Rescue. He was set up for success in the best way possible. Fostering can be hard – emotionally and practically. Sometimes they eat your shoes, or cry all night, or pee on your couch. But it’s the surest way to save a dog’s a life, and to have the amazing experience of being supported by so many other people who see your effort and help get your foster dog home. I’ll never forget Tonto, or all the people who came together to give a great dog in a high risk shelter at the middle of nowhere the life he deserves. They understand how bittersweet it is. It will be so amazing when I see Tonto again, finished with all the transitions, safe and secure in the love of his people, snoozing without a worry in the world, on a couch that he knows as home.”

The need for animal transportation services is rising across the country 

Although the pandemic initially led to an increase in the number of animals being adopted, over the last 12-18 months adoption rates have decreased. Shelters are overcrowded because of an increase in the number of homeless animals, a lag in spay/neuter services, and a shortage of animal shelter workers nationwide. This has been a tough year for animal shelters all over the country. Shelters are full and adoption rates are down. The employees in these shelters are working tirelessly to save the pets that walk through their doors. These shelter workers are the true heroes and we want them to know their dedication never goes unrecognized by our team. We are so grateful to each and every person that has devoted their life to saving shelter pets.  Be sure to watch this heartwarming story created by one of our partners, One Tail at a Time PDX. 

We are responding to the crisis 

We could not sit by and watch the crisis go from bad to worse. In 2022, we realized that the time had come to once again scale up, and obtain another aircraft. “The Sequel,” a second Cessna Caravan, became part of our family in June and is based in Texas. The Sequel will have a large impact in the Southwest where there are too few services and a growing population of stray animals. Looking forward into 2023, there will be two planes in the sky, five to seven days a week, transporting animals out of our nation’s overcrowded shelters.  

Yuki needed a rescue after being abandoned at an overcrowded Texas shelter

Yuki, who was found dirty, skinny, and terrified, was one of the lucky pets we saved this year. 

She’s a powerful reminder of why our work is so important. At risk for euthansia in an overcrowded shelter in Texas, she was adopted by a loving family in the northwest just a few days after her transport flight. Thanks to our Texas shelter partners and One Tail at a Time PDX for working together to make sure  Yuki found her family! 

We live a magical life with Yuki.  We are all still learning with each other, there are times that she gets triggered and scared, but we scoop her up and love her and she knows it’s going to be ok. We are so lucky that she was rescued.  Not only is her life better, but our lives are better because of her. Thank you”, Angela and Peter Panagakos, the humans to Yuki Joon. 

With two planes flying every day, we needed ground staff to ensure all of the pets have a smooth ride 

The help we needed came from two long time volunteers: Lynette Duford and Frank Maresca. Lynette Duford has joined the Dog Is My CoPilot team to help with the logistics and planning for our rescue flights. Coordinating with shelters, volunteers, and airports, not to mention changing all of the plans when weather impacts our flight schedule, is a full time job. With her help, Dog Is My CoPilot has become more efficient and is saving more animals than ever before. 

Frank Maresca started as a volunteer pilot and quickly started to spend the most time of any pilot in the captain’s chair. While we was logging thousands of miles in the air every month, we saw the need for better coordination with our team of ten volunteer pilots. Frank’s work, organizing the pilots and coordinating the maintenance schedules of our two aircraft, helps keep Dog Is My CoPilot wheels up and loaded with as many animals as possible.

Recently we rescued our 25,000th animal Bunches

He is a big dog, weighing in at over 80 pounds, and like most big dogs, is loyal, loving, and compassionate. Bunches proves most stereotypes about big dogs wrong. After waiting over a year in a Texas shelter, it only took one rescue flight and twenty four hours for Bunches to find a loving forever home in Utah. Bunches is another inspiring example of how a single flight can change the lives of both animals and humans alike.

Our hearts are full as the end of the rescue season draws near

In ten short years, the growth of Dog Is My CoPilot has created many memories and has helped place tens of thousands of animals into loving homes across the country. Looking ahead to 2023, we will be offering more than one hundred and fifty rescue flights, at no charge, to our partner shelters, saving the lives of more than 5,000 dogs and cats. In the future there will be new partnerships across the country, many new volunteers on the ground and in the air, and more smiles and tails wagging than ever before!  

From everyone at Dog Is My CoPilot, have a wonderful holiday season! 

Thank you for being part of our Dog Is My CoPilot family, we are so grateful to our community of supporters, our shelter and rescue partners, our volunteer pilots and everyone out their working tirelessly to save dogs and cats! Happy Holidays. 

📸 Laura Verhaeghe: https://www.lauraverhaeghe.com/index

Order Now: Dog Is My Copilot apparel!

This fall has been an exciting time here at Dog Is My CoPilot. We have rescued our 25,000th animal and we have special merchandise available for the upcoming holiday season 🎁

The Perfect Holiday Gift 

This year, we have an  entire line up of exciting hats, t-shirts, fleece jackets, stickers that make perfect holiday gifts. If you’re looking for something special to support your favorite cause and show your love for animals, you are in luck. 

A portion of the proceeds go directly to our life saving work. If you want items before the holidays visit: dogcopilot.org/shop and please order before December 2nd!


Big dogs face extra challenges when finding adoptive families.

Many potential adopters think that big dogs need a lot of extra space and are harder to manage than smaller breeds. A lot of myths are out there about larger dogs, but our 25,000th rescue, Bunches, proves all those stereotypes wrong. Bunches, like most other big dogs, are loyal, loving, and compassionate pets. 

After spending ten months in a small rural shelter, Bunches was saved by one of our rescue partners Reeds Ranch and Rescues in New Mexico. Bunches, a mixed breed  “big dog”  (over 40lbs) waited two more months in foster homes before receiving the chance to board one of our rescue flights. Last week, Bunches received the news of a lifetime, the golden ticket on the Big Dog and flew to the Cache Humane Society in Logan, UT.  When Bunches reached his destination, he only had to wait one day before he was adopted by a loving family. It’s amazing what a single flight can do and how it can change the lives of both animals and humans alike.

Bunches was on a rescue flight that was sponsored by our friends at the Lulu’s Fund

This rescue flight was sponsored by our friends at Lulu’s Fund, part of the Timothy T. Day Foundation. They provide assistance to many dogs (and cats) in need and help animals find their very own loving families. Lulu’s Fund was created in memory of Lulu who crossed the Rainbow bridge on June 28, 2019. Lulu, a little pug,  provided 15 years of great joy, happiness and abundant love to her owners Tim and Sandy Day. Lulu will be forever known as their “puppy” and the Day’s wanted to help other families experience this joy by supporting shelters and transportation services for rescued animals. We are thankful to have the support of the Day Foundation and Lulu’s Fund.



Flying our 24,000 passengers!

Last week we were wheels up with two very special passengers! Thanks to a wonderful team in El Paso, Texas and Portland, OR, we flew rescue animals number 24,000 and 24,001, because let’s get real, it’s hard just to choose one adorable rescue to celebrate!

Old Bill’s Fun Run helping shelter animals find loving homes

We are so excited that the Old Bill’s Fun Run Giving season is upon us!  For over 25 years, the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole has leveraged local philanthropy to make nonprofits more effective and our community stronger. 

We’re grateful to be part of this incredible event. Each year, funds raised through Old Bill’s touch the lives of everyone including pets in Teton County! You can become a donor through Old Bill’s Fun Run and support Dog Is My CoPilot to help us fly pets in overcrowded shelters to adoption centers that help each pet find a safe and loving home. 

By donating through Old Bill’s Fun Run during the giving season, the impact of each donor’s gift is boosted through the additional funding provided by Co-Challengers in the form of matching gifts. Will you join us with a gift today and help us leverage the full match?


We believe that collaboration with individual animal shelters and adoption organizations, which manage the placement of animals in their local communities, is key to saving more lives! 

Right here in Teton County, we are so grateful for our strong partnerships with the Animal Adoption Center, Paws of Jackson Hole and Aska’s Animals. Over the last several years, The Animal Adoption Center has been partnering with Dog Is My CoPilot to help make a meaningful impact for animals in desperate situations. Hundreds of our passengers have found homes right here in  Teton County and we are excited to show you the impact that our supporters have made for these animals! 

Meet Foxtrot and her puppies (Bravo, Delta, Lima, Tango, and Zulu). Foxtrot’s story began in Texas where she ended up in an overcrowded shelter and very pregnant. The original plan was for her to go to Aska’s Animals where she would be fostered and have her puppies. But mindflight Foxtrot had other plans and her 5 puppies were born on the plane en route from Texas to the Tetons. We are so thankful for our volunteer pilots who always remain calm, no matter the challenge presented in a rescue flight. When Foxtrot arrived at Aska’s Animals, she was nervous and was hesitant to let anyone near her puppies. But after a few days she warmed up to her caregivers and allowed them to help care for her and the 5 growing puppies. After spending 6 weeks at Aska’s Animals and being socialized, the entire family was ready to find homes through the Animal Adoption Center   


Polly, was a passenger that spent time with her foster home in Jackson – her mom and dad recently checked in with us and had this to say about their lives with her:  “Polly loves to go on road trips and makes a habit of sleeping in the back seat while her owners drive so she is ready to sunbathe, chase balls and bounce along the beach when they arrive. Rolly and Polly still get to see each other regularly and both are thriving! Considering their rough beginning, Polly loves everyone she meets; she is especially fond of young kids and loves to play”.  We are thankful for all our partners that helped bring Rolly and Polly into Teton County and help them find loving forever homes.


Cinnamon, now Goose, came to the Animal Adoption Center via our rescue plane, the Big Dog.  He was one of the largest dogs in the rescue flight and also very timid and shy in the beginning. Initially, Cinnamon was to be fostered by a local family, but it turned into a foster fail, because he was adopted!! Goose is now loving his new home and the adventures his humans take him on. Goose has found his groove and is a goofball, a gentle giant, full of energy, and always up for an adventure in the mountains. 

“When we first got Bernie, he didn’t trust anyone except for women and kids. He was scared and you could tell he had a hard beginning in life. Now, he has found his confidence.  He is an extremely loyal and loving part of our family. He loves to cuddle, bark, and hunt and chase squirrels. If there is a lap to sit on he’s in it! He and his dog sister/life partner Sweet Dee are an inseparable team. He will gladly go mountain biking or river rafting, as long as I am there, he is my shadow. He is our 8 year old daughter’s favorite play buddy and is great and tolerant with kids. He has become a huge part of our family and we love him very much!”


Because of our partnerships with local adoption centers we are able to make these success stories a possibility.

Will you join us in the Old Bills Fun Run giving season? 

New Plane, New Pilots, and New Partners to counter the Animal Shelter Crisis

In early June, the Sequel (our second plane) made its first rescue flight with a new volunteer pilot. We were also able to connect two new partners in Oklahoma and North Dakota. The Sequel is already allowing us to rescue even more animals amidst an ever dire shelter crisis across our nation. According to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at this very moment, about 100,000 more dogs and cats in U.S. shelters are at risk of being killed compared to this time last year.  Because of the pandemic, more pets are entering shelters, fewer pets are being adopted, shelters are short-staffed.

Expanding DIMC requires more volunteer pilots.

Since we now have two planes, potentially doubling our rescue flights, we needed to find some more volunteer pilots. One of our newest pilots is Jason Wojteczko. When Jason is not flying, he is thinking about flying. He comes to us with over 30 years of aviation experience in both private and military backgrounds. Jason currently operates an international aircraft delivery company called Compass Rose Aviation. He also served in the US military for 23 years with multiple combat tours. Learn more about Jason, his four chihuahuas, and the rest of our pilots at https://dogcopilot.org/meet-the-team


New partners in Oklahoma and North Dakota

Ardmore Animal Care in Ardmore, Oklahoma is a brand new animal shelter partner for our rescue team. Our rescue flight picked up 32 animals from this shelter, and another 10 from Tulsa Animal Society of which were a mama and 9 new puppies that were not able to make an earlier transport. Thankfully, an amazing foster family in Enid, OK were able to watch them till our rescue flight in mid June. Transporting pets allows Ardmore Animal Care to have a 90% save rate which is incredible considering the animal welfare crisis in our national sheltering system. We transported this plane load to Souris Valley Animal Shelter, another new shelter partner in Minot, North Dakota. These two shelters are part of a mentoring program established by the Best Friends Animal Society. We are thrilled to be able to offer free transportation services to these amazing organizations.

The State of the Animal Sheltering System 

As we talk to our partners about the need for transportation services for their animals, we have found that there are a few issues that are contributing to this crisis in the animal shelter system.  First, the COVID-19 pandemic paused many animal spay and neutering services. This has created a backlog of treatment and an increase in animal intake to many shelters. Second, as people have gone back to work and “normal” returns, adoptions across the country have slowly decreased while the intake of new animals has increased. Finally, compounding the already very full shelters, there are not enough people to work in these shelters. The staffing crisis across the country has not spared the animal shelter system. New and old partners alike have the same problem, everyone is short staffed. Before the pandemic, shelters could staff multiple positions from basic animal care to veterinary staff giving a full spectrum of care for rescue animals. Now shelters barely have enough staff to care for the many animals that enter their shelter. Many animals are suffering because there is just not enough staff or resources to support all the pets in their care. Sadly, animal shelters, primarily in the south, have had to euthanize many animals because of lack of space. They are confronted with these difficult decisions for the most at-risk animals in their care.

What you can do

You can help your local shelter or rescue in many ways, including monetary donations, volunteering your time at a shelter or even becoming a foster family.  Fostering an animal is the easiest way to alleviate some of the stress on the shelter system. It is going to take help from everyone to get through this crisis and we know our community can help! Now is a great time to adopt a pet and find all the benefits of having an animal in your life.

The Sequel Flying into Action

May has been an incredible month. Our new rescue plane is nearly ready for action; we exceeded our goal for our matching campaign celebrating the new plane in conjunction with Peter’s Birthday; over 22,000 animals have been rescued in our short history; and we just had a sponsored rescue flight with our partners at Wondercide. 

The rescue season has only begun and it is shaping up to be our most impactful season yet!!

Thank you donors!

Thank you to all of the generous donors that shared their kindness, compassion and generosity to homeless pets across the country. With their support, we raised over $50,000 during our matching campaign to celebrate our second plane. The funds will go towards helping us transport at-risk animals to loving homes across the northern half of our country. Our second rescue plane is receiving it’s final prep and will dramatically increase the number of animals we can transport and allow us to serve partners in the northeastern part of the country. The new plane has been repainted, emptied of all the passenger chairs and couches, and medical grade interior installed  to safely transport our furry passengers. When this plane takes its first rescue flight in June, it’s going to feel like a brand new plane and a safe place for every animal. 


Over 22,000 Animals Rescued 

Lucky rescue animal 22,000 is Betty Barker who came from San Antonio Pets Alive! SAPA! is a safety net for the most vulnerable animals at the San Antonio municipal shelter and is the last resort for thousands of sick, injured, or abused animals that would normally be euthanized. Since its inception in 2011, San Antonio Pets Alive! has rescued over 55,000 animals including our special passenger Betty Barker. Our partnership with San Antonio’s Pets Alive! and thier Heading Home Program’,  is saving lives! Betty Barker landed with one of our partner rescues, Life Savers Animal Rescue in Polson, MT.  Lynette Duford our newest DIMC team member is also a foster for LSAR and welcomed Betty right into their home while she  waits for her forever home!  She reports that Betty transitioned quickly to sleeping in bed, curling up on any lap available and loves being with people! 


Wondercide Partnership: A New Leash on Life: Over 50 At-Risk Pets Flown to Safety

We are so fortunate for Wondercide who sponsored the May 10 flight that left out of Austin and flew over 50 dogs and cats to rescues in Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. Their, Creative Director, Chris, rode in the copilot seat with our volunteeer pilot Frank, capturing special moments of the day. Flying from Wondercide’s hometown of Austin TX, we partnered with Austin Pets Alive!.  Austin is the largest and longest-running no-kill city in the nation because of a partnership between a non-profit organization called Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) and the city’s shelter, Austin Animal Center. And APA! is pioneering innovative programs designed to save animals most at risk. Their team coordinates with the most under-resourced shelters to identify pets who are running out of hope, offers transportation assistance to their facility, and provides medical care. 

This flight was special because we were able to collaborate with Matt Beisner, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and star of the Disney+ show, “Dog: Impossible”. Matt donated his time to sit with the dogs before their rescue flight and get to know each and every one. He offered support, and passed on any observations that may improve the dogs chances of landing in a forever home. We also had a special passenger named, Camper who was saved by our partner Erath County Humane Society.  Camper is a larger breed which typically takes much longer to find a home.   He’s a big dog with big love to give. Karen Brophy of Erath County Humane Society explained that Camper came into their shelter as a stray, and no one came to claim him.

“I think the number one question I get about Camper is ‘What is that dog doing in a shelter?’ I think that’s a common misconception that only “bad dogs” or “sick dogs” are in our municipal shelters when that isn’t the case…there are terrific dogs in every shelter.” She fostered Camper until the flight

Fortunately, we were able to bring Camper to Animal Friends Alliance in Fort Collins, Colorado, where they specialize in adopting bigger dogs. We are happy to report Camper was adopted within days of landing in Colorado!

This rescue effort would not have been possible without the support of financial partners like Wondercide. We, along with the 50 animals on their flight, are humbled by their continued compassion and generosity which allows us to rescue so many deserving animals.

It takes a village to save pets in need. Rescue flights like these are not possible without the support of such an amazing community of shelters, volunteers, and animal lovers like you.

Expanding to Save More Lives

Dog Is My CoPilot started in 2012 and soon became a victim of its own success. After just a few short years, we acquired a larger Cessna 208B Grand Caravan — aka “The Big Dog” — that was retrofitted from a 12-passenger plane to one that can carry hundreds of pets. The Big Dog and our team of nine volunteer pilots allows us to transport animals virtually everyday during our flying season.  

Today, we are thrilled to announce that we purchased a second airplane to transport twice as many pets from overcrowded shelters to new adoption partners. Over 1 million animals are euthanized every year in America. The shelters and rescues that they come from are underserved, overpopulated, and often forgotten; these are the organizations we are determined to help!  We have seen demand for our services steadily increase over the last few years so we’ve been exploring ways to increase our capacity to serve more shelters. 

To celebrate our expansion, a very generous supporter and his dog Abba (Take A Chance On Me) have stepped forward to match, dollar-for-dollar, every gift up to an incredible $25,000! We’d love to have your support to help keep our new plane “Wheels Up”! You can make a gift online or send a check to P.O. Box 3399 Jackson, Wyoming 83001. 


We believe that collaboration is key to saving more lives and we are humbled by the generosity of our supporters who believe in our mission to help save as many animals as possible,” said Peter Rork, M.D., Chief Pilot and President of DIMC. “We hope our expansion will inspire more people to work together for the greater good of our animal friends. These dogs think we’re saving them but at the end of the day, they save us. They give us the chance to do good and help, to live with a greater purpose than ourselves.”

Our rescue flights are at no cost to the shelters and adoption centers we partner with. We rely on donations to  fuel our rescue flights. The cost of airline fuel has doubled in the last year, and our flights from southern Texas can be as long as 1300 nautical miles to receiving organizations.  We are also paying for ramp fees, facility fees, plane parking for overnights so that we can get an early start to our day!  Our success is due to our community of supporters and our dedicated team of shelter, adoption centers and volunteers across the country. 

We are planning to base the new plane in Texas to help support even more shelters across the state that are trying desperately to bring down the euthanasia rate. We are not only doubling the number of flights, but are doubling the number of lives we can save. Our receiving and adoption partner network is expanding to the northeast with flights scheduled to New England and New York.

Why are we basing our new plane in Texas?

  • It is estimated that 150,000 animals are still needlessly dying in Texas shelters every year.
  • According to our partners Austin Pets Alive, it costs a fraction of their total per animal to serve as a distributor to shelters and rescues as it does to take them all in and do all the work themselves before adoption.
  • Texas is located in the center of the country and flying to the Northeast from south Texas is about the same distance as a flight to Seattle, Washington. 

“We estimate that approximately 150,000 pets are euthanized each year in Texas alone, but there is a national crisis,” said Clare Callison, Director of National Pet Supply & Demand at Austin Pets Alive!. 

In most northern U.S. communities, there is an overabundance of adopters.  Ground transport is not always a realistic or safe option to transport pets long distances. It can take days of travel in ground vehicles to reach areas with high demand for adoptable animals.  Cost effective air transport is a lifesaving tool for pets in need and will help assist shelters in Texas (and beyond) work towards their goal of becoming no-kill states.

The flights we are coordinating are large and complicated! There are weeks of preparation leading up to each flight. It starts with animal selection and receiving partners communicate with shelters through photos, videos, and behavior assessments to select pets that will be transported.  Each animal is given a health check by a veterinarian, making sure they are healthy for the flight. All the flight kennels have to be appropriately sized, correctly tagged with our color code system and animals ready at the airport for transport. Our shelter and rescue partners are the true heroes; working tirelessly to help the pets in the care find homes.

We are very grateful for The Gary E. Milgard Family Foundations, Petco Love, Lulu’s Fund and our special furry co-pilots Jack and Laika for making our second plane purchase possible.  Keep an eye on your email and future blogs for updates, pictures of our new plane, partner shelters, and of course, the dogs and cats that find loving homes. Thank you!