True Confession: I have never been able to sit through that ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background. It’s not that I have anything against her. I think she’s a fine musician. It’s just that those terribly sad, needy little dogs and cats really get to me . . . I want to bring them all home with me, feed them home-cooked meals, give them warm soapy baths and buy them squeaky toys and catnip mice. But, since that isn’t practical, I abruptly change the channel before I can hear McLaughlin’s lilting voice singing the very first “In the arms of an angel . . .” I have given myself some nasty bruises while diving for the remote control because, if I am forced to watch those sad, sad animal eyes, I will quickly become a blubbering heap on the floor.
Today’s story makes me cry, too . . . but they’re happy tears. In this edition of The Campfire Chronicle, I’m going to tell you about an organization of angels called Wings of Rescue and their amazing pilots. They volunteer their time and their airplanes to rescue desperate shelter animals – – those who are on Death Row, just hours away from euthanasia – – and fly them to no-kill shelters in other parts of the country where there are few pets available for adoption, and lots of people eager to adopt. Folks, this story is PAWSITIVELY awesome!
We’re a nation that has established bans on disposable grocery bags, yet we still have a system that allows for disposable pets. It is hard for me to understand that. According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters nationwide each year. Of the millions of shelter animals, about 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats are euthanized, usually because of overcrowding in shelters. Those numbers are heartbreaking. And they broke the heart of one very special man named Yahuda Netanel, a private pilot and the founder of Wings of Rescue.
As a pilot, Yahuda Netanel is a trained problem solver, and this was one problem he dearly wanted to solve. He hit upon a plan to fly dogs and cats that are on death row in overcrowded California shelters to no-kill shelters and rescue groups, in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Canada, where there are few pets available for adoption. Other pet-loving pilots got involved and a glorious animal relocation program took flight. The volunteers are sort of like animal-loving Robin Hoods: They take from the shelters with too many animals and give to those with room to accommodate more animals.
It’s a plan that is genius in both its simplicity and its complexity. The idea is simple, but the execution is not . . . it relies on an intricate network of highly skilled animal lovers. Netanel has said, “We combine our passion for flying with our passion to save the animals.” It’s enough to make me wish I had a pilot’s license! At the very least, I wish I could volunteer my services as an animal cuddler. Doesn’t that sound like a sweet gig? And I’d be soooooo good at it!
The four-legged passengers on the Wings of Rescue flights come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Some of the animals appear to be purebreds, while most are hybrids of questionable parentage, but no matter where they came from, all are deserving of a forever home. And it isn’t just healthy dogs and cats that are given a chance to earn some flyer miles. The organization also transports pregnant moms, moms with litters, convalescing dogs, and animals in need of surgery.
But as different as these animals may seem, they all have one thing in common: They have a lot of love to give. The animals board their plane with health certificates, vaccinations, micro-chips and heart worm testing. Aside from the expectant moms, they have all been spayed or neutered. Animals that are not in need of medical care are eligible for adoption within hours of arrival.
Up, Up and Away!
Ground volunteers gather dogs and cats that are sometimes mere hours away from death and load them into crates. The precious cargo is then put into vans and driven to an airport where a pilot is waiting to fly them to a new chance at life.
In an interview with Samaritanmag, Netanel said, “By fostering relationships with various shelters and humane societies in various regions, we created this almost constant airlift of dogs finding new lives. It’s time-consuming and complicated to coordinate this—especially with a staff of zero, but many dedicated volunteers—but the dogs aren’t flying aimlessly in the sky. When we land, there are organizations taking them off the plane immediately and those dogs are being adopted within a matter of days.”
Some of the videos of people taking their newly adopted pets home have turned me into an emotion wreck. These are the happy tears, though because I know there will be a lot of squeaky toys and catnip mice in their future!
Throw Them a Bone!
While researching this story, I discovered something that made me chuckle. It seems that Sarah McLachlan won’t watch her own ASPCA commercials. She said they’re too sad. Make no mistake; I wholeheartedly support the mission of the ASPCA. And I understand that sometimes the best way to a donor’s pocket is through the heart. I only hope that one day there won’t be a need for commercials that show images of sad eyed dogs and cats while a song about angels plays in the background.
Wings of Rescue is doing their part to alleviate the need for such advertising. They are doing it one rescue flight at a time. Since their launch in 2009, the group has rescued more than 12,000 dogs and cats. Yes, you heard me right . . . 12,000! But it is actually much more than 12,000, because rescuing 12,000 animals frees up 12,000 spaces in shelters for new animals. That’s actually a total of 24,000 animals saved! By the end of 2015, their goal is to have saved 7,000 more animals. . . that will be a total of 38,000!
However, the good deeds Wings of Rescue does are limited by the available funds. While the pilots volunteer their time and their planes, each flight can cost several thousand dollars, due primarily to the cost of fuel, and the cost of crates and veterinary care for the animals.
But, there is a solution to the problem! Wings of Rescue is competing to win the Saving Pets Fundraising Challenge through the Found Animals Foundation. If they win the challenge, Wings of Rescue could receive a bonus of up to $50,000 to support their mission. Here’s how it works: Starting today and continuing through June 5th, donations are open to caring people like us, and the organization who raises the most money for their cause wins. And, here’s the best part: Even if an organization doesn’t win any of the grand prize money, they keep the money they raise during the campaign. That money will help Wings of Rescue to fly a whole lot of pets to their forever homes!
If you would like to help Wings of Rescue win the challenge, you can make a donation HERE at the Crowdrise website, starting today and continuing through June 5th. After June 5th, you can make a donation HERE at the Wings of Rescue website. Another good way to donate is through Amazon Smile where .5% of all your Amazon.com purchases will go to Wings of Rescue. They even have a Chrome extension to make it easier for you to use! You can sign up for Amazon Smile HERE.
And for a little donation inspiration, watch this video of Wings of Rescue in action, saving hundreds of lives!
So, how about throwing them a bone? Don’t make me start singing about angels, people! Trust me, nobody would what to hear that!