It is hard to believe that just five short years ago we bought the Cessna Caravan affectionately called – the Big Dog. Our plane has flown thousands of animals over thousands of miles in the western United States and it is finally getting an overhaul!
When we started Dog Is My CoPilot in 2012, we used the small private plane of our co-founder, Dr. Peter Rork. His personal plane is a small Cessna “Stationair” that allowed Peter to transport 20-30 animals at a time. While Dr. Rork and Judy Zimet, executive director and co-founder, were able to save many animals in those first years of the organization using the Sationair, the size of the plane was inhibiting our ability to make a larger impact. In 2016, we purchased the Cessna Caravan – and named her the Big Dog. The interior of this ‘new to us” plane was well loved and laid out to fly people. Thankfully, the rescued animals were not looking for a luxury jet, but were happy knowing they are going on a trip of a lifetime! We retrofitted the plane to go from carrying 12 passengers to one that can carry up to 250 animals at a time. With the Big Dog, we have gone from saving 1,000 animals a year to over 3,000 animals a year.
I knew if we were going to make a mark, we needed to scale up. That’s where the Big Dog came to be. The animals don’t care what the plane looks like, they just want to get to their forever home, said Dr. Peter Rork
Big Dog Gets a Facelift
With the generous support of our community, the Big Dog is undergoing essential maintenance this spring. The Big Dog’s engine has been completely overhauled, new propellers are being installed (look out for an upcoming auction to get one of the old ones!) and we’re installing a new Avionics system for the pilots! This panel helps the pilots with all forms of navigation and control of the plane. The Big Dog’s dated but working analog panel was replaced with a modern and completely digital panel. We expect that these repairs should last the Big Dog around eight years or about 8,000 hours, allowing us to rescue thousands of animals this year alone.
Flying into 2021
Although 2020 was a challenging year for scheduling our rescue missions, we had a successful season and we are looking forward to another amazing year in 2021. With 8 volunteer pilots, we will increase our number of flights from 50 to 80 scheduled rescue flights this upcoming season. Beginning in May, we are scheduled to pick up rescue animals from animal shelters in 17 different southwest cities and deliver them to 12 different adoption centers in cities across the northwest. We will be coordinating with 30+ different organizations and hopefully rescuing our 20,000th passenger late this summer. Stay tuned and look out for the new and improved Big Dog flying over your area this summer.