The Liberty Gazette
December 30, 2008
December 30, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: One story all aviators can relate to is a flight that didn't happen. We’ve learned to become a more patient lot because sometimes on pre-flight inspection we find something not working properly, or the weather turns bad, or somehow a flight is delayed. Jon Wehrenberg volunteers with Pilots N Paws, flying injured and abandoned animals to medical help or a “forever home.” “The following,” says Jon, “is one of the saddest flights I never made.”
“I got an email regarding an injured border collie in Pikeville, Kentucky, about 120 miles northeast of my home base in Knoxville. The pup had three broken bones in its rear legs and hind quarters, the result, we were told, of an auto accident.”
The pup needed to get to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania but Jon couldn’t get away for another three days. The gal caring for the dog would accompany Jon on the flight to tend to the dog.
The morning of the flight Jon started the engine and the alternator dropped off line. He reset it and in a few seconds it dropped off again. “I could not make the flight. I called the gal in Kentucky and told her to hang in there. I hadn’t given up yet.”
Jon called Debi, who keeps the pilot list, and she contacted a pilot in Maryland to fly to Lexington to fly the pup to Wilkes-Barre for medical help.
“The Maryland pilot got half way to Lexington and had to land because his vacuum pump had failed. As this was happening the border collie died in his care taker's arms. That was a rescue flight that was not to be. We learned later the injuries were inflicted by the dog's owner who had apparently hit it multiple times with a baseball bat.”
Linda: Not all stories have happy endings. But in this one caring people got involved, tried to get help and gave it their best. “On the positive side however,” says Jon, “I have flown as many as seven pups at a time from high kill shelters to permanent homes. During the flights most dogs just go to sleep. Apparently the white noise of the engine is soothing. But sometimes pups yip or bark unexpectedly. I have had pups with the farts, and on the flight where I took along a USA Today reporter, one of the pups was singing. That was a first. That pup made the most unusual singing noises, and our cockpit went from quiet to one in which one little pup was overcoming engine noise and noise-canceling headsets to make his presence known. That little pup was enthusiastic, but he couldn't carry a tune.”
Jon and other pilots volunteer their time because it’s a great opportunity to make a difference, to stay current and proficient, and to put their airplanes to good use. “Sometimes,” he says, “the animals poop, or vomit or urinate, but I use bedding that I can put in a plastic bag when the flight is complete and bring it home to launder. Most of the time however there are no accidents and knowing my planeload of pups will be going to permanent homes is just a great reward to offset all the bad things that happen to animals.”
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.