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“I’d Rather Be Flying Dogs”: Retired Pilot Flies Rescue Animals To Their New Homes
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Animals, Dogs2 months ago

“I’d Rather Be Flying Dogs”: Retired Pilot Flies Rescue Animals To Their New Homes Interview

What’s that up in the sky? Is it a bird, is it Superman? No, it’s just a plane. But it’s not any ordinary plane – it’s carrying some very special cargo by a man who’s truly super. Gotta add in a dad joke, now, don’t I?

When we’re kids, we grow up being told that babies are brought to awaiting parents by storks (at least that was the lore back in my day). The notion has since been modernized and the birds can catch a very needed vacation, whilst retired pilots take their planes and bring rescue pups to their awaiting and eager owners.

So strap yourselves into your seats and prepare for turbulence as we are about to embark on a wholesome journey full of adorable puppies. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts below in the comments, upvote the story and mayhaps give the author a follow! It’ll make my day! Aight, let’s jet off!

More info: Pilots N Paws

David Tan is spending his retirement from 40 years of piloting by flying rescue animals to safety or to their new homes

Image credits: PilotsNPaws

Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to our captain today, David Tan of Middleton, Wisconsin. He spent 40 years as a military, professional and private pilot and now is enjoying his retirement.

However, it’s not kept him out of the sky as the man still flies his Aermacchi SF-260, a two-person Italian plane, usually used for aerobatics and smaller air forces. Who keeps him company in the second seat? Well, a rescue puppy, of course!

Disclaimer: I see all dogs as puppies, all cats as kittens, regardless of their age or size, so don’t get confused, okay? Alright.

He took up helping animals in 2012 and it’s believed that he’s flown over 360 dogs, 23 cats, goats, pigs, and even a bat, named Bruce

Image credits: David Tan

Since 2012, he’s flown more than 360 dogs. As seen here, he’s transporting a mother and her 8 pups to somewhere they’ll be safe.

In addition to that, he shared the cockpit with 23 cats, three frostbitten goats, a potbelly pig and even a bat that he helped deliver to a rescue preserve in Ohio.

“Naturally, we named [the bat] Bruce,” David said, explaining the hilarious connection to Batman’s identity, Bruce Wayne.

David flies an Aermacchi SF-260, a two-person Italian plane. He trained on the same model at the very beginning of his career

Image credits: PilotsNPaws

Bored Panda got in touch with David to learn more about his life’s journey. “When I was in high school my parents bought me flying lessons and I got my private pilot license when I was 18,” he explained. “I wasn’t good at anything else but managed to do reasonably in flying planes. It was a good career because I enjoyed what I was doing.”

It was truly an embodiment of the saying, ‘find a job you love and never work another day in your life,’ however it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Or should I say, smooth flying? I’ll stop.

“I hated the failures and errors along the way,” David said, but “ultimately, I never had an accident and never injured anyone at the controls of a plane, so there are thousands of people who are worse than I am at piloting.”

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

The most important thing to remember in order to be a good pilot is to always try and make the best decisions. “We have a saying that ‘a superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations that would require the use of his superior skill,'” David explained.

“Decision areas include suitable weather, making sure the aircraft is in a good condition with the right amount of fuel to do the mission, and loaded within limits. Flying is not particularly difficult, but a fool can make it difficult and dangerous through carelessness, recklessness and stupidity.”

He uses the same plane as the one he trained on at the start of his previous 15-year career as a rescue helicopter pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

It, of course, has his name on the side and it seems the plane is called Gina. The blue bird has a smoked brown upper panel that, when the sun shines on it, shines yellow in the cockpit.

The non-profit organization Pilots N Paws has a simple goal – to save the lives of innocent animals

Image credits: PilotsNPaws

David, after reading an aviation trade magazine article, came across a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization called Pilots N Paws, which has a simple goal – to save the lives of innocent animals.

They unite volunteer pilots and plane owners who are willing to assist with animal transportation, arrange or schedule rescue flights, overnight foster care or shelter, etc.

Typically, a rescue will require multiple pilots who fly around 250 miles before handing the animal off to another plane.

They do it by uniting volunteer pilots and plane owners to assist in animal transport and other tasks

Image credits: David Tan

David came across it after reading an aviation trade magazine article which mentioned it and he’s been a part of it ever since

Image credits: Illinois Birddog Rescue

Most of David’s rescue missions occur in the southern states. “There are just some terrible stories out there [about] how cruel people can be to animals, especially down south; the abandonments are horrible,” David told Madison Magazine. “A family would just leave them, discard them like a piece of old furniture or something.”

One of the stories he recounted was of April, a pup that was abandoned by her owners because she defecated in the house, and thus the owners brought her to the vet to get euthanized.

The vet instead contacted a rescue group, which led to David taking her and bringing her to a rescue in Iowa. “So that kind of gets me. I feel good when at least… I can contribute toward where they go,” he explained.

Image credits: Illinois Birddog Rescue

One of his favorite parts is bringing animals to meet their new owners and take them into their forever homes, as had happened to this pup here

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

The pilot also works one-on-one with rescues that he’s been introduced to through his work of flying pups around the country. The organizations include Fetch Wisconsin, Albert’s Dog Lounge and Underdog Pet Rescue and Veterinary Services.

The Dane County Humane Society has also occasionally worked with Bissell Pet Foundation to facilitate larger flights of more than 100 animals at a time.

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

Buddy, an 11-year-old pup, had been waiting for a new owner patiently and finally one person decided to take him in

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

“It’s just amazing, the guys and gals who do this,” David said. “I’ve met them at the Dane County Airport before and there were like 10 different animals that came within a few hours. They just magically arrived, as far as we were concerned. These people are just really kind-hearted.”

Although most of the missions are purely transportational – taking the animal from one airport to the other – he does get those few lucky pups that are traveling to meet their new forever families. “You sort of say, ‘Hope you have a great rest of your life,’ you know?” David said. “‘Hope these people love you forever.’”

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

Regardless of imperfections, Kelly, his new owner, was visiting from California when she noticed the pup and fell in love

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

One of those lucky puppers was Buddy. According to a Facebook post by the Humane Society of Marathon County, the dog spent 142 days awaiting his new family, for “someone to see him.”

“To see beyond his age and his graying face. To see beyond his medical issues and bad in-kennel behavior. To see beyond his dislike of other pets and the stress of shelter life.”

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

The pup was number 303 of the dogs that joined him in the cockpit and on their way to sunny Cali they went

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

Kelly, who was visiting from California, had wanted to adopt a senior dog from a homeless shelter and, thus, when she saw Buddy, it was love at first sight. Regardless of his age and problems, she took him in.

Buddy was dog 303 that stepped into the cockpit and they were on their way to sunny San Diego, California. “She wanted to help us give him the life he deserved and she made it happen. We love you Buddy and we are so proud!” wrote the society.

Image credits: Humane Society of Marathon County

Sometimes families are so grateful that they try to repay David monetarily, but he never keeps the money, instead donating to rescues or paying off animals’ medical bills

Image credits: David Tan

At times the families feel so grateful for his help that they try to pay him, but David never keeps the money, either giving it to the rescues or paying for medical costs associated with the animals they save.

“They’re always short [on money], especially when it comes to medical care for the animals,” David said. “It just costs so much nowadays.” He also brushes off any praise, saying: “The people who really pull the weight are the rescues.”

His work is voluntary and he takes on the costs for it, however, he believes that “the people who really pull the weight are the rescues,” brushing off any praise

Image credits: David Tan

Considering the complex set of particular skills that flying requires, it requires continuous practice, requiring pilots to spend a lot of time flying, so as to not get rusty.

“If you fly, it’s a perishable skill and you must keep current,” David believes. “So rather than take a flight and go somewhere for what we call the proverbial $200 hamburger, I’d rather be flying dogs.”

Sadly, he doesn’t get to spend too much time with the animals, however, “Genevieve, a setter, and Frankie a German shepherd have been favorites,” both of which have found loving homes.

David would be flying regardless, considering the skill needs continuous practice, so why not do it for a good cause?

Image credits: David Tan

I will fly my own plane as long as health and finances allow!” David said. 

When asked what his one message would be to all of you, dear readers, he said: “Be kind to animals!” 

“The reason I contribute my time and finances is that there is so much cruelty out there towards animals. I can’t change any of that, but can help the lucky ones in a small way.” 

We wish David all the best in his adventures and that the skies are always clear when he’s taking flight

Image credits: PilotsNPaws

David continuously posts his adventures on his Facebook page, so if you’d like to learn more or see more adorable animals that he’ll rescue, make sure to check it out. Also, you can donate to Pilots N Paws via the link here, if you’d like to support their initiative.

We wish David all the best in his adventures and that many more pups get to experience the joys of taking flight.

Let us know what you thought of the story in the comments below and I shall see you all in the next one!

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What do you think ?
Deborah Harris
Community Member
2 months ago

What a lovely thing to read. In a World full of misery and hate, true heroes still exist

Alan Green
Community Member
2 months ago

"Engine idle - Check, Flaps set to 10 degrees - Check, Nose Boop - Check. Ready for takeoff"

Chich
Community Member
2 months ago

Definately need more stories like this :)

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Deborah Harris
Community Member
2 months ago

What a lovely thing to read. In a World full of misery and hate, true heroes still exist

Alan Green
Community Member
2 months ago

"Engine idle - Check, Flaps set to 10 degrees - Check, Nose Boop - Check. Ready for takeoff"

Chich
Community Member
2 months ago

Definately need more stories like this :)

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