This week was an exercise in polishing my coordinating skills by the old school method of trail and error, building contacts, and managing time and resources. I have the utmost respect for those who have been involved in rescue work for years on end, tirelessly pushing forward, making tough decisions hoping in the end to affect the best possible outcome given what they have to work with. This week just plain wore me out; I’m exhausted. Between November 5th and the 23rd I clocked 41 hours of work between emails, phone calls, flight planning, and coordinating 2 rescues. That’s not including the night rescue flight described below, family, and working my full time job that pays the bills.
As I researched and gathered information about forming a charitable 503c and everything involved with doing so I ended up having several lengthy email discussions with attorneys, one a friend and one an AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association Legal Assistance Program) attorney. I then had two long conference calls with an attorney and a longstanding 503c that would be a great model for what I’d like to do with HoundPilot.com. My brain still hurts with all that I discovered though this process and Laura and I are still processing it all and figuring out where to go with it, what steps to take first and when, its a process – a work in progress – as we are finding out.
I also made contact with a member of a FaceBook aviation group that makes and sells vinyl decals of planes to help pay for flight training. I sent him the HoundPilot logo so hopefully I’ll have a limited supply of decals for sale on the website soon. All proceeds will go towards helping hounds.
Interspersed with the work above I got emotionally attached to this poor gal’s situation. I know I shouldn’t get attached like that as it will burn you out as my more experienced workers in the rescue field have counseled me. But look at that face! This beautiful 2 year old bloodhound was dumped in a high kill Georgia shelter where they routinely do mass kills to free up kennel spaces. Her time was literally running out. Experience shows that a hound in the deep south at a high kill shelter has a very low probability of making it out alive. I’m not bad mouthing the south but facts are facts and that’s the way it is.
This hound was already fixed, current on vacinations, in good health, and had a real sweet disposition; a real love bug from what shelter volunteers said. A rescue in NJ had a veterinarian who would give her a chance at a second start in life. They train bloodhounds to help track lost people and serve as therapy dogs; they just needed to get her there. As the picture shows her time in the shelter was taking a tole.
I couldn’t do this rescue flight alone as I didn’t have the time off work, the distance round trip was 1200+ miles and over 9 hours. Even if I had the time it was cost prohibitive. That’s where other rescue organizations and pilots come in. We pool resources and communicate, devise a plan, and save a hound. Multiple separate organizations coming together to serve a common goal through websites, email, phone calls, and a desire to do what is right.
A pilot from Atlanta, GA flew 45 minutes to pick the hound up from a rescue volunteer near the shelter and then flew to Huntsville Executive Airport near my parents house. I convinced my elderly parents to take the beautiful girl in just long enough for me to find transportation to NJ. Originally I was going to be part of a three pilot chain to transport this bloodhound and the mom/litter below as a combined single operation. However, I found out I couldn’t do that due to this hound coming from a shelter environment and the week old puppies not yet being vaccinated. Therefore, we got this hound to my parents house which bought us time to look for an alternate route to NJ.
Meanwhile, I was working on coordinating the transport of a mom and her 10 puppies to another rescue volunteer in Morristown NJ to be raised and adopted. As I look to the coming months where I’ll be working on my Commercial Pilot’s Certificate I wanted to plan the flight to possibly fulfill some of the requirements for that certificate or at least work on becoming night current and proficient. My only night flying had been the 3 hours and 10 takeoff/landings required early in my Private Pilot training last year. I was neither current nor proficient and would not have flown this near 600 mile, 3 leg, IFR flight without a pilot friend more experienced than I sitting right seat as Safety Pilot. I wore a view limiting device, hood, so that all I could see is the instrument panel and was able to log instrument time and instrument approaches required to be legally current as per the FAA regulations while perfecting my night landings.
The route for the mom/puppies was London-Corbin Airport KLOZ London, KY to Morgantown Municipal Airport KMGW, Morgantown WV to Morristown Municipal Airport KMMU Morristown NJ.
Another pilot flew from his home airport and picked up the litter in KY flying them to Morgantown WV. I had been able to coordinate through a local rescue by cold calling them and arranged for a volunteer to sit with the litter until I could arrive and pick them up. The pilot for the first leg needed to drop them off in WV at 5 p.m. so that he could return home before it got too late in the day. Due to mid-week night rental rates being half that of day rates and my desire to work on my night flying, I wasn’t going to arrive in Morgantown until 8 p.m. The awesome volunteer standing next to the crate, left, graciously dog-sat for 3+ hours until my safety/co-pilot and I arrived. We then flew from Morgantown, WV to Morristown, NJ arriving about an hour late, just before midnight. By this time the long day was wearing on me as you can see from my tired face. After delivering the litter to the foster family we departed at 11 minutes after midnight November 15th to return home to Westminster, Md arriving at 1:32 a.m. The 6 a.m. alarm that morning to wake me for a training day at work was a tough one! I AM NOT a morning person, EVER!
You can see the ATC tracking of the 3rd leg of our flight on Flightaware.com.
I won’t say my instrument flying went perfect or my night flying and landings were perfect; however, to tell you the truth it went better than expected. Well up until departing Morristown, NJ where by midnight my brain was s – l – o – w – i – n – g down…. I had to call New York TRACON for my IFR clearance on the radio and between my sluggish thought process, the fast talking controllers in NY and the jersey accent, I just wasn’t getting the clearance right. What’s funny in a bad way is that he was trying to give me the clearance I had filed and expected. The clearance, route, I had already just programmed into the avionics, but he was using the full name of the fixes instead of the phonetic 3 letter IDs and as he would rattle off the clearance on the radio I was unable to keep up, understand it, write it down and repeat it. I actually thought he was giving me a complete reroute. After going back and forth my kind and patient co-pilot stepped in to save me and we got it all worked out. I should have simply asked the controller to slow down, inform him that I was new to this (as I’m sure he could figure out already), and to give me the 3 letter IDs for the fixes. I have done this in the past when and it usually works out well and controllers generally appreciate your frankness. Lesson learned and that’s what its all about.
Look at those week young puppies and mommy dog!
Back to the sweet bloodhound above….. I cannot say enough about the organizations and pilots that make this all possible. After a few days, by a pooling of resources and will, we found 3 pilots desiring to spend their time, money, and most of a Sunday to fly her from my parents house near Huntsville, AL to New Jersey. Only problem is the weather didn’t cooperate. More specifically there were widespread freezing temperatures and visible moisture throughout the route which means icing. It was just too dangerous.
However a week later they made it happen and she is at home. She needs some work, some training to walk on a leash and interact properly as a member of a household, but she is a great dog and will have a good life.
By weeks end I had been gone a lot for work trips and resident rescue Black & Tan Coonhound and ABTCR Alumni BO was needing some snuggles.
Worn out but worth every minute.