Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pilots N Paws

Here’s a way for pilots to help save the lives of some of our best friends

WORLD’S BEST FLYING BUDDY. Bill Cox recently said “good-bye” to his favorite copilot, Terry (above). He encourages pilots to give back to man’s best friend through groups such as Pilots N Paws.
Like many of you, I’ve owned dogs for as long as I can remember, probably longer. My first memories of Washington, D.C., in the late ’40s included a lovable mutt named Buddy (sorry), an unlikely combination of beagle and husky, I think.

There’ve been about a dozen best friends since then, and except for my college years and a stint in the army during Vietnam, I’ve owned a nearly continuous succession of dogs.

Better still, dogs have been my copilots for as long as I’ve been licensed to fly—44 years. A malamute, a Dobie, four German shepherds, two Siberian huskies and a Heinz 57 have flown with me in everything from a Globe Swift and two Bellanca Cruisemasters to a Mooney 231, a Seneca II and my current LoPresti Mooney.

Not all took to flying with equal enthusiasm, but most regarded aviation as something between sheer boredom worthy of a good nap and total barking enthusiasm. (“Mooney 65V, say again. Sounded like there was barking in the background.”)

I just lost one of the best flying dogs that ever lived. Terry was 13 years old, barely a teenager in human years, but a senior citizen for a German shepherd. It’s one of God’s cruel jokes that most dogs don’t live even a fourth as long as the majority of humans.

Symptomatic of the breed, old Terry was laced with a variety of geriatric ailments. Born an original solid black, some of his coat had turned to gray, and he was partially blind and deaf. He was occasionally incontinent (to his obvious embarrassment), and his severe arthritis made even getting to his feet painful. Accordingly, he hadn’t been flying for a while. At the equivalent of 91 human years, walking was a struggle for Terry, and it was tough for him to climb in and out of the car, much less jump up onto the Mooney’s wing and into the back seat.

One recent morning, Terry, the world’s best flying buddy from age eight weeks to 13 years, began to blow up like a balloon. He was experiencing the dreaded GDV (gastric dilitation-volvulus), better known as “bloat,” a common problem with older, big breed, male dogs, and nearly always fatal. He died before he could even reach the hospital.

If you’re a dog person, you understand the grief that comes from losing a wonderful dog, and if you’re not, you never will, and that’s okay too. For me, however, losing my best-ever four-footed copilot was like losing an arm, and I don’t have nearly enough years left to ever stop missing him. I have another German shepherd, a beautiful, solid-white female named Cirrus, but she’ll never replace Terry.

For that reason, it was with special interest that I spotted a booth at Oshkosh called Pilots N Paws. As the name implies, Pilots N Paws was created specifically to help relocate dogs by airplane.

We’re not talking airlines here. Pet Airways launched its service a few months ago, flying animals in the main cabin of a Beech 1900 airliner from New York to Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver and finally L.A., and returning on the same route the following day.


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