Heart-warming story about abandoned dogs who get another chance when they are rescued – by air!

Four paws get wings on their way to freedom…

…or how Pipistrel aircraft can be used to save the lives of man’s best friends!

Mr. Greg Lawrence from Sarasota, Florida has been flying for more than 50 years. He graduated from high school with a Private Pilot license in his pocket, born, raised, and learned to fly in Dayton, Ohio. Orville Wright himself was his Great-Great-Grand-Instructor.

He contacted Pipistrel with a truly heartwarming story about a Pipistrel aircraft being ordered and modified for rescuing dogs.

Every day thousands of dogs are abandoned, put in shelters and killed when nobody adopts them. But there are still some people – more every day, in fact – who do not accept this and are rescuing dogs by taking them to be adopted in no-kill areas of the USA. There are hundreds of people driving large vehicles for days or flying aircraft that burn 10 gallons (37.8 liters)  of fuel per hour or even more – to rescue dogs. But there might be a simpler possibility.

This story begins with Greg himself – Greg is culturally deaf. He has been deaf since infancy with excellent oral skills and now has a Cochlear implant and “normal” hearing with 98% speech discrimination. Being deaf meant that Greg has had several guide dogs throughout his life. Jenny was his first guide dog who was with him for 10 years. She was trained to alert him to smoke detectors and fire alarms which he cannot hear at night, even with a Cochlear implant. Tee is his present guide dog.

Jenny (left) and Tee (right)

Dogs being his best friends, Greg is one of the people who try to rescue shelter dogs, otherwise destined to be killed, by trying to find them new homes.


The next protagonist in the story is Woofie.

Woofie is a 1 1/2 year old, 75 pound (34 kg) mix-Wolfhound, who was abandoned to a high-kill shelter in Alabama. When first seen, abandonment was visible in Woofie’s big sad eyes. He probably felt that he would die soon… and after all the suffering, did he maybe feel even a bit of relief at that…?

Kimberly James from San Antonio, Texas, found Woofie on the Internet and wanted to adopt him, so she posted an entry to the Pilots’N’Paws web page: http://www.pilotsnpaws.org/about/
Pilots’N’Paws is a non-profit organization which serves as a meeting place for those who rescue, shelter or foster animals, and volunteer pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of animals.

Pilots’N’Paws was founded in 2008 by animal-lover Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg. The idea first took flight when Jon agreed to help Debi by flying a rescued doberman from Florida to South Carolina, to save the dog’s life. The trip was a success and the two brainstormed on how to rescue other animals. Spay/neuter campaigns in parts of the country were working, while in others parts, primarily in the south, pet overpopulation was still a huge problem. There had to be a way to turn a problem into a solution. Former pets were dying needlessly. They needed transport.

The dream quickly became a reality when the website, http://www.pilotsnpaws.org was launched, to provide a location where private pilots willing to provide free transport, and people and organizations who rescue, shelter or foster animals, could connect to save lives. Today the organization has reached more than 5,000 pilot volunteers and more than 12,000 volunteers.

Pet overpopulation is a disturbing problem in the United States. More than 4 million no-longer-wanted pets are euthanized each year. While spay/neuter programs have worked to decrease domestic animal populations in some parts of the country, other areas are considered high-kill. A staggering 70% of dogs that enter shelters in the southern part of the country are euthanized. Until now, there have been few options for these innocent victims. Pilots’N’Paws is helping to change that.
(source: http://www.pilotsnpaws.org/media/ )

Greg was willing to fly for Kimberly and he had time – but no aircraft. For several days it was looking as though Woofie was going to die in Alabama. When it already looked as though nothing could be done anymore, Greg suggested to Kimberly:
“Rescuing dogs is a cowboy thing to do, look for a pilot in Texas”.  Kimberly did and the whole thing came together almost instantly. It was a long and complex operation. Woofie was rescued in 5 legs over 3 days, flying in 3 different aircraft: a Cherokee 180, a Cherokee Arrow and a Cirrus SR22, all burning 10 gallons (37.8 liters) per hour or more of avgas… but it was successful and today Woofie is in his forever home in San Antonio!

What a difference!

This is a picture of Caroline, the girl who picked Woofie up, kept him over night and handed him off to the pilot who flew the first leg with him.

So the story had a happy ending for Woofie – but it does not end here.


We asked Greg how it was for a culturally deaf person to obtain a permit to fly. 
He replied:
“Myself, and most deaf, think spatially, meaning we see pictures in our mind. I’ve been told that most hearing people don’t have a need, so they don’t develop this part of their brain, but that every deaf person does. Back in the days of teletype sequence reports (1960s), I could look at papers on a desk and see in my mind the graphic weather such as we have today on the internet. I could also run my finger along the pencil course line on the Sectional chart on my lap as I flew – and have a moving map display 30 years before Garmin. More importantly, I could look at the instruments on the panel and see in my mind the attitude of the aircraft.

So, deaf have the potential to be excellent pilots, except that we can’t hear on the radio. I now have a Cochlear implant. The air traffic system is based upon the principle of “see and avoid”, and deaf have no problem seeing. The problem is that modern aviation has developed into a system of not looking to “see” until somebody tells you on the radio where to look and what for. Hearing isn’t really the issue, not looking is the issue. Glider pilots learn from the beginning to look out the window, not at the instrument panel (that is why we have a “yaw string”). Glider pilots still look for traffic, many gliders still don’t have radios or electricity to run them. Deaf are much safer and more comfortable flying gliders. So, I am demonstrating that deaf have the skill and ability to “see and avoid” plus use hearing aids, Cochlear implant, or another pilot, on the radio.

I have helped several people who are deaf get their pilot certificate, and I tell them: Don’t worry, it isn’t English that you don’t understand, it is aviation. And everybody, even hearing people, has to learn it to pass the test.”

When this article was written, Greg was still waiting for his aircraft, but he and his Tee were already a pack, doing everything in their power to rescue as many dogs as possible. Every day they get several notices from Pilots’N’Paws about dogs that need to be rescued, so Greg is establishing contacts like Kimberly all over the country. The dogs are getting rescued, but often with a lot of complications and at high expenses, requiring many financial donations.
“All this is greatly appreciated,” says Greg, “But it’s not necessary! We could have rescued Woofie in a few hours, using less than half as much gas – auto gas, not aviation fuel – if we could fly a Pipistrel!”

And indeed one of Greg’s customers, Mr. John Stewart, researched every aircraft imaginable for the purpose of rescuing dogs – and finally ordered a Virus SW.
“The Pipistrel Virus, Virus SW, and Sinus are unique for dog rescue given their exceptional economy and range,” says Mr. Stewart, “Especially with the Virus SW easily pulling pups through the sky with the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine, which adds enough range even for non-stops from the southeastern United States, where there are countless dogs waiting dismally, to New England, where there is a considerable demand for rescue dogs and especially puppies. While other aircraft are suitable for carrying larger numbers of dogs, the Pipistrel can fit a niche for rescuing puppies, small dogs, or possibly a larger one – if utilizing some of the space with the left seat removed and the dog secured. Lastly, the favorable glide ratios of Pipistrel aircraft provide a safety advantage for locating an alternative airport if the dogs are flown at a lower altitude (to lessen ear discomfort for the dog). So here is yet another use of a Pipistrel motorglider!”

And how do you rescue dogs in a tiny little Pipistrel aircraft, you say? Here’s how:

If there is room for 200 pound (90 kg) and  6 ft, 6 inch (200 cm) people where the left seat normally is, there surely is enough room for a 150 pound (68 kg) dog crate – or several smaller ones. In addition, you can put smaller crates with a total weight up to 25 kg inside the baggage compartment.The benefit of this kind of transport is rescuing the dog in a few hours instead of days, making the travel less stressful.

“Being isolated in a cage is very stressful to a dog,” says Greg. “Dogs being rescued are spending days or even weeks alone in a crate while they are transported. We will use crates also, but Tee will be in the crate while flying, thus making the dog part of a pack (dogs travel in packs). When the rescued dog is in a company of another dog, who is used to flying and therefore calm, it will be a lot less stressed.”
Greg is optimistic about being able to rescue many more dogs with Pipistrel aircraft in the future.


There are hundreds of people rescuing dogs now, and thousands more who would like to.
Greg says: “What makes me want to rescue dogs is the tremendous amount of love both Jenny and Tee have, that would have been completely wasted if they had not been rescued. Thousands of dogs are being killed every day and probably all of them are capable of loving as much as Jenny and Tee. Of the dogs that we test for temperament, one in twenty pass to indicate that they can be trained to be guide dogs. Certified Guide dog is a terminal degree (highest you can go – same as PhD for humans) for a dog and those dogs are very, very valuable.”

There are people all over the country willing to offer transport, temporary shelter and foster care for abandoned dogs and other animals – there have been for decades. Only recently, however, the man’s best friends on four paws are getting wings. This way, the secret truth of their real origin is finally staring to become uncovered…

God sent his angels down to Earth in the form of dogs with notes saying:
“Don’t judge, just love!”

Being dogs, they ate the notes
…but they keep trying to deliver the message!