By Katy Cable-TWR
A 3 minute read
It was pitch dark when my alarm abruptly ended my REM sleep. Olive was softly snoring right next to me. Obviously dreaming of the new life she was spoiled with. Long gone were her days of being an abused breeder dog. I trudged out of bed and decided it was too early to even think about making a cappuccino. I thanked God getting up at this hour was not part of my normal routine. Today, I had been invited to join a very important rescue mission helping transport shelter animals to their new "FUR-EVER" homes. This was an opportunity I definitely didn't want to sleep through.
At 5:30am sharp, just as the dawn was breaking, I arrived at a private aircraft terminal in Long Beach. Already on the tarmac was a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and a large SPCAla transport van. A tireless group of volunteers were quickly unloading dozens of plastic travel crates. The precious cargo inside: nervous canine first-time fliers.
These lucky dogs had arrived from several over-crowded, high-kill shelters in the LA area. The more dogs coming into these shelters, the less time they have. And for these dogs, their time had run out. That is until a hero came along.
That hero is Peter Rork M.D., Co-Founder and President of DOG IS MY CO-PILOT. Rork, "the pilot" put himself through medical school working as a commercial pilot. In addition he’s qualified to fly single engine aircraft, sea planes and is a certified flight instructor. After spending over 30 years practicing orthopedic surgery, he retired his scrubs and took to the friendly skies where the views can't be beat. Always a passionate dog lover, Rork makes "no bones" about his preference for dogs over humans. He teamed with Esq. Judy Zimet, who coordinates the details on the ground and formed DIMCP.
I wanted to kick myself with my stiletto heel for the ridiculous shoe choice I had made. In the time it took for me to saunter over and join the sweating, hard working volunteers, the van had been completely unloaded. Fortunately, no sooner had it been emptied when another one filled with more "lucky dogs" pulled up right on its tail.
Surrounded by rows of tagged plastic crates, I wondered what type of magic act it was going to take to somehow fit them all into this aircraft. On second glance I saw the inside had been completely hollowed out and Rork was strategically stacking crates with the precision of a Jenga master.
"Give me large crates going to Spokane!" He called.
It wasn't ten minutes until more than 35 dogs and cats had been positioned in the plane.
"Ok! If that's all of 'em, I've gotta get out of here! This fog is rolling in fast and I don't want to be grounded!" Rork yelled while climbing into the plane!
In addition to the inside of the plane being outfitted to carry pet crates, Rork also designed the outside to look like the Jet Blue of pet travel. It features the DIMCP logo as well as a sketch of Rork's black lab Doyle, in his flying googles, cap and scarf. Tragically Doyle passed away in 2017 but will serve as the mascot in infamy.
On Sunday, August 5th, DIMCP celebrated a huge milestone and saved the 10,000th soul since its inception in 2012. The idea was simple, move animals from high kill overcrowded shelters to rescues/no-kill shelters in areas that have a demand. While numerous large dogs sit on death-row in LA, there are many families in Boise, Spokane and other areas looking for large active dogs to serve as hiking partners. To transport these animals by van would take over 18 hours and greatly limits the number of animals that can be saved.
A typical rescue mission will transport anywhere from 30 to over 260 dogs from populated shelters in CA, AZ, NV, TX, LA & OK to states in the Pacific Northwest where they will likely be adopted. If not, they will be temporarily housed in no-kill shelters where they never run the risk of being put down due to over-crowding.
As a "nervous-flier" -which is the understatement of the year, I wondered how who these dogs and cats handle air travel which, especially in small planes, is loud and often turbulent? Rork surprised me when he told me, the cats often meow for a time but the dogs are easy and they're usually lulled to sleep within 10 minutes. And having a small plane means remote destinations can be typically reached in 3-5 hours. Those hours are the highlight of Rork's day, since he loves having his "head-in-the-clouds!"
To keep this operation going, takes the coordinated efforts of hundreds of volunteers, shelter staff, veterinarians and the team at DIMCP. In order to fly, dogs must be over 8 weeks old, have their rabies vaccine, be spayed/neutered and in good health. It costs roughly $150 to transport a pet but most costs are funded through generous donations and no one is charged a "transport" fee.
On Sunday, August 5th at 7:07pm, DIMCP celebrated the biggest milestone since its inception in 2012: the transport of it’s 10,000th passenger. The “lucky dog” is an 8 year-old chocolate lab who was found roaming the streets covered in ticks and gravely ill. Fortunately, the abandoned dog was rescued and treated in the nick of time by DC Paws.
While making a quick stop in Hobbs, NM, en route to collect the 10,000th pet, Rork was introduced to the dog and the rest is history. Rork has a huge soft spot for Labs and was searching for one since losing his beloved Doyle. What a happy coincidence! This special dog, who Rork ingeniously named “Hobbs,” has found his new “fur-ever” home with none other than Rork himself.
“I don’t know what his name was before, but his name is Hobbs now. I have two other rescues at home and we’re all going to have a great time!”
And although DIMC is saving thousands of innocent pets, (ruff-ly 2,500 per year) the work is hardly done. The heartbreaking fact still remains that pet overpopulation is a huge problem.
✅Currently there are 8 million healthy, adoptable pets sitting in over-run animal shelters. Usually they're surrendered or abandoned.
✅Every 3 seconds a perfectly wonderful, innocent, helpless dog is euthanized due to over-crowding.
Every animal sitting in a shelter is there because of human neglect. These animals have no voice and no say in their destiny. But you can help. Be part of the solution by doing the following:
🐾If you own a pet: Spay/Neuter and Microchip them.
🐾Adopt a shelter or rescue pet. Never use backyard breeders or puppy mills.
🐾If you can't have a pet look into fostering or temporarily fostering one.
🐾If you can't foster, volunteer some time to help a local shelter or rescue.
🐾If you don't have the time to volunteer, donate or sponsor needy pets.
🐾If you are not in a position to donate financially, use your social media to:, “LIKE” 👍🏼“FOLLOW” “SHARE” “Tweet" and # "Hashtag."
As the sun began to rise and the fog quickly rolled in, tears welled up in my eyes at the miracle I was witnessing. Gliding up towards the sky was a plane filled with "precious cargo" on a one-way flight to their new "furever" homes. I was so happy for these sweet souls and the new lives they were about to embark on.
In my opinion: Every dog deserves a loving home but not every home deserves a loving dog! ❤️🐾
If you can help with a donation or would like to find out more: http://dogcopilot.org/
🐾Katy Cable is a former actress appearing in “Back To The Future” and starring in the TV series: “Safe At Home” & “ Fired Up!” In addition to her dog health & lifestyle blog/vlog: The Weekly Runt, (https://www.weeklyrunt.com/) she’s a contributing writer to numerous publications including Thrive Global, & The Huffington Post. Cable lives at the beach with her husband, Rick and her rescue Pug, Olive.🐾