Our rescue flights wouldn’t exist without the support of hundreds of volunteers and our many shelter partners. Last month, Jenna from the Animal Adoption Center jumped aboard the Big Dog and was able to spend a day with our shelter partners in Texas and helped to fly over 60 dogs to their new homes.
Jenna is the Advancement Director for the Animal Adoption Center (AAC) in Jackson, WY and has worked directly with our partner in Texas. She’s helped to manage and rehome many of the animals from the Laredo Animal Control Services in Laredo, Texas. Jenna wanted to understand the whole process of our transport services and make a personal connection to the people that she’s worked with at the shelter in Laredo. On this trip, she was able to experience the full spectrum of what a rescue flight entails.
Rescue Flights are a marathon, not a sprint.
Jenna met one of our volunteer pilots and board members, Dr. Brent Blue, at 7AM the morning before the planned rescue flight from Texas. The first step was repositioning the Big Dog to southern Texas which is about 7 hours of flying time south of our homebase. They flew from Driggs, Idaho to Laredo, Texas with a stop in Morehead, Texas for fuel, coffee and the bathroom. Once they landed in Laredo around 4PM that afternoon, pilot Brent Blue, prepped the Big Dog for the next morning and was soon off to bed while Jenna went to visit the local animal shelter
Jenna was spending her birthday with Dog Is My CoPilot and was greeted with a special celebration from our partners at the shelter where she could connect with the volunteers and staff, and meet many of the animals that were going on the flight the next day.
Rescue day starts early
When Jenna went off to bed around 8pm, she realized that many of the volunteers at the shelter would stay up all night to prepare the animals for the flight the next day. The shelter volunteers and staff were at the airport by 2AM getting the animals prepped for take off. Animals are put in crates, sorted in dropoff order, and lined up on the tarmac for packing. After a short night of sleep, Jenna arrived at 4AM and everything was all set. The animals are loaded by volunteers with the last to be dropped off getting on the plane first. With the team effort, the Big Dog was packed and ready for takeoff by 4:30AM. It was already getting hot on the tarmac, so being quick to take off is vitally important. After a long night, many of these volunteers in Texas were then headed into work at their day jobs! What amazing dedication!
The dogs are super noisy as the plane takes off but as the Big Dog reaches altitude, most animals quiet down and fall to sleep. According to Jenna, this was when she first noticed the smells coming from the cargo hold. These are shelter dogs and many have gone to the bathroom in their crates, so the smell is pungent!
By 9AM the rescue flight had made it back to Morehead, Texas for a quick refuel and a human bathroom break. The dogs get super noisy on the way down to the ground and right after takeoff but settle down again once in the air.
On this rescue flight, Jenna and Dr. Brent Blue flew to Fort Collins, CO, then Boise ID, and after a small delay and rerouting because of weather, back to Driggs, ID with all the animals safely unloaded and on their way to forever homes. Jenna realized that by the time she had got back home early that evening, she had spent 22 of the last 36 hours in the air. Needless to say, Jenna was exhausted when she arrived home. It is hard to describe the experience of a rescue flight without being on one first hand. Jenna had this to say about her experience;
“Traveling with Dog Is My CoPilot offered a whole new perspective and appreciation for animal rescue and more importantly the people behind it. Working at one of the receiving shelters, it is hard to comprehend what these southern shelters are facing without seeing it for yourself. I feel so honored to see the full circle of a Dog Is My CoPilot flight from choosing dogs to join a rescue flight in the beginning, to dropping them off in different destinations around the country at the end. Ultimately, we get to see some rescued animals find their forever homes through the Animal Adoption Center. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.”
Our Pilots are touched by these rescues too
Listening to Jenna’s excitement when she made it home got us thinking about what these rescue flights mean to our pilots too. We recently got to chat with Dr. Brent Blue who flew with Jenna on this flight.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than flying dogs and cats from overcrowded shelters where their lives are in danger to adoptive homes in the northern part of the country. They are wonderful animals and I have to restrain myself otherwise I would have 10 dogs at home. In addition, these animals change the lives of the people who receive them.”
Our volunteer pilots are true heros and play such an important part in our operations. The distance they travel is long, fraught with unexpected challenges but nevertheless a few of our pilots complete two to three flights a week!