Flight for Life: Pilots N Paws
by Carie Broecker
The 1957 Beachcraft Bonanza took off from the Camarillo airport with three dogs on board. Now safe from potential euthanasia, they were each flying off on a big adventure and toward brand new lives. The aircraft was being flown by Kim Purcell, a pilot with 25 years of flight experience. Kim retired three years ago and has since been able to combine her passion for flying with her love of animals. Kim is a volunteer with Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to save the lives of homeless animals by flying them to new homes or rescue groups. Dogs, cats, pigs, reptiles and rabbits have all been helped by Pilots and Paws.
On this particular spring day, Kim was helping to save the lives of three lucky pups.
Pequena, a 12-year-old Maltese/Poodle mix, came from a shelter in southern California. She was too old to be put up for adoption plus she had diabetes, a mass over her eye and severe periodontal disease. She was turned into the shelter by her guardian who could not afford veterinary care for her. A Pilots N Paws volunteer named Michelle drove her from the Harbor Shelter in San Pedro to the Camarillo airport to meet up with Kim. She would then fly to San Jose, where Corey, another ground support volunteer, would meet the plane and drive her to Muttville, a senior dog rescue organization, in San Francisco.
Also on board was Aniko, a Rat Terrier, from the Baldwin Park shelter. Aniko would not be going to a rescue group. He actually had an adopter waiting for him in Placerville.
And finally, there was Sukra, a Mastiff/Pitbull mix who came from Ventura Animal Control. Kim was already planning on overnighting at the Camarillo Airport when she got a call that there was a dog at the Camarillo Shelter who was scheduled to be put down in 48 hours. Sukra had lived with a homeless drug addict whose vehicle was towed which landed Sukra in the shelter. The Camarillo Shelter happened to be right at the Camarillo airport where Kim was!
There was a foster home waiting for Sukra in Kim’s hometown near Placerville. The caller wanted to know if Kim could add another dog to the flight and bring Sukra back too? Of course she would.
The flight had to be delayed by a few hours, because Kim didn’t have a crate big enough for Sukra. She went out, bought the crate, and got back in time to meet an animal control officer on the tarmac with a ready-to-go Sukra.
With the two little dogs, Pequena and Aniko, snuggled into their crates, Kim positioned the larger crate into place taking into account the mass of the new dog so she could distribute the weight properly for a smooth and safe flight.
When it was time for Sukra to get in her crate, the eager Mastiff mix jumped onto the wing and wasted no time crawling into the crate…not a chance she was going to be left behind. She was not fazed at all by the busy airport and the loud sound of the plane engines taxiing, taking off and landing. As a helicopter flew overhead, Sukra’s tail just kept wagging. Sukra settled in for her 160 mile per hour flight and didn’t move a muscle until she heard the gear come down at the Mosquito Airport.
Kim is experienced with gradual climbs and gradual descents so the pets she is transporting can acclimate and have the most stress-free trip possible.
As soon as Kim landed and cut the engine, the only sound she heard was Sukra’s tail hitting the sides of her kennel with joy.
Sukra about yanked Kim off the wing getting out to meet Donna, her rescuer. As with all her rescue flights, the experience left Kim smiling for days. The three happy pups were now in foster homes or permanent homes and would be cared for and loved for the rest of their lives.
Pilots and Paws provides a way to connect private pilots willing to provide life saving free transportation with people and organizations who rescue, shelter or foster animals. Today the organization has 2,466 pilot volunteers and 8,281 total volunteers. Each year, the volunteers of Pilots N Paws save thousands of lives. For more information about how you can help or to use their services, visit www.pilotsnpaws.org.