Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our First Pilots N Paws Trip!

We had another day of great weather last Wednesday, and since it was my mom's birthday, I figured it would be fun to fly up to NJ for a couple hours and take her out to lunch at one of her favorite restaurants. Not 24 hours after sorting out all the details, I got an email from the HWY airport manager sent out to the airport pilot mailing list about a local animal rescue organization looking for help getting a small dog from northern VA to its new foster home in southern NJ. It turned out that the foster family was in Pitman, which is only about 15 minutes from Cross Keys Airport, where I normally meet my mom. A few emails later, I was all set up to fly my first Pilots N Paws flight!

Pilots N Paws is an organization that helps match rescue organizations with general aviation pilots to help move dogs (and other critters) between high-kill shelters and various rescue organizations. Mark and I had been watching the message boards for available flights, but hadn't found anything that matched up with our goofy work schedules until this trip. We would be flying Lola, a small Boston Terrier with megaesophagus, a disorder that makes it hard for her to eat because the muscles in her esophagus don't work properly. She was a little thin because of that, but seemed happy and super sweet.

A pre-flight picture, courtesy of Sue from the rescue organization. Mark came with to help with the doggy wrangling.

We had a slight delay because my master switch picked a terrible time to be intermittent, but with my mechanic's help we quickly sorted it out and got on our way. Visibility was great, and we cut through the SFRA to save a little time.

Somewhere over the Chesapeake Bay. It was starting to get a little bumpy, but it was at least nice and smooth over the water.

Lola spent the flight hanging out in her crate. She did really well until immediately after we landed in NJ; I was taxiing up to the office and she got a little sick. It had gotten progressively bumpier as we flew north, and I couldn't really find an altitude where it smoothed out. I felt bad, but she seemed fine.

I had spoken to Lola's new foster, Jen, before we left VA that morning, so she was already waiting for us when we landed. (My buddy Josh heard my radio call when I entered the pattern and let me know she was already there!) Mark walked Lola for a couple minutes while I secured the plane and went inside to meet Jen.

Saying goodbye to Lola on the ramp at Cross Keys. She was a really sweet dog...I think she spoiled us with such an easy first Pilots N Paws flight!

Lola with Jen, her new foster. Jen was really excited to get her! (Picture courtesy of Jen and Sue.)

My mom got to the airport a few minutes after we landed, so after we got Lola all settled with Jen, we topped off my plane, put it in a tiedown, and went out to lunch at Carollo's. Mark and I got smart this time and brought a cooler bag with some icepacks so we could bring home leftovers.

I was too busy inhaling garlic knots and a meatball sandwich to remember to take a picture of lunch (oops), but I did at least take a picture of the pretty tulips in my parents' yard.

After lunch we made a quick stop at my parents' house. My grandmother stopped by, which was a nice surprise! I only get to see her a couple times a year, so it was cool to say hi. It would have been nice to stay longer, but we had to get home to our dogs since we didn't have a dog sitter for the day, so my mom took us back to the airport. We managed to get back in the air just after 2:30pm, and after a quick loop over my parents' house to say goodbye, we pointed the plane toward the southwest and headed home.

ESN (Easton) in MD. It was still pretty bumpy on the way home, but at least the winds at HWY were still pretty light. We landed right around 4:30, and Mark hopped in his car to go take care of the dogs (who apparently trashed the house a bit, despite our efforts to not dawdle) while I finished putting the plane away.

Sue emailed us a day or two later with a couple Lola updates, which was neat! Lola is going to be an emotional service dog for Jen's son, who has had a stroke. She keeps him company and even sleeps with him, so it sounds like she's perfect for the job. It's cool to see that everything worked out so well! Sue made up a neat Facebook album about Lola's trip to NJ; you can see her pictures here. Overall Mark and I had a great time helping, and we'll definitely be keeping an eye on the message boards to see if we can help again!

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