In just over 500 hours of flying Michele McGuire has helped save over 200 lives… the small furry kind.
She didn’t start flying to save dogs and cats on missions for organizations like Pilots N Paws, but now she can’t imagine not using her Cessna Skyhawk to move endangered animals from high-kill shelters to the safety of rescue organizations that protect them until a new home is found.
Looking back, McGuire’s initiation into transporting animals seemed predestined, as she’s the owner of a well-known business that helps pilots protect the hearing of their traveling canine (and feline) companions. She had already learned to fly when she created Mutt Muffs, simple and effective hearing protectors for pets who fly in the loud cockpits of general aviation aircraft. On the company’s website she encourages pilots to share the stories of their flying friends, and it was one of those stories that changed her into an active volunteer.
She remembers that moment, “One of our customers submitted a picture of one of his Pilots N Paws flights for our customer gallery. I looked at the website, and was very moved. I thought to myself that if I ever had the time that would definitely be something I’d like to do. I went back to work, but I kept going back to Pilots N Paws, and after a couple of hours of that, I finally gave in and signed up. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love flying those hard-luck cases to better lives. In most cases it is saving those lives, because they would be put down if they couldn’t get to rescues and permanent homes.”
McGuire grew up in a family that always had dogs, and that continues to today, with their current dog “Cooper”serving as the inspiration for her company’s main product. It seems her husband doesn’t like to fly and Cooper has become her ‘co-pilot” by default. Her concern over hearing damage to her dog’s sensitive ears led to Mutt Muffs, and she now uses a portion of the proceeds from her business to pay for her rescue flights.
With over 40 transport flights logged, she loves the idea of her pet products-based company being able to support her charitable flying, “What good is success if you don’t put it to good use helping those who truly have no way to help themselves? I fly every opportunity I get, but between weather and other obligations, I usually fly between two and three missions a month.” To encourage others to volunteer, she posts a “little travelogue” of her transport flights on her company website.
Reading through the stories of her rescue flights, it’s easy to see what a soft touch McGuire is, and why she has become one of Pilots N Paws’ many “go to” pilots. She easily recalls a flight that saved an older, emaciated Great Dane called “Dana” from certain death. “No one knew how she ended up at the shelter in Alabama, but because of her age and condition, she was not even put out for adoption. The poor thing was so starved, every bone in her body showed through. Through the power of the Internet, her plight touched the heart of a woman in Massachusetts who offered to adopt her and let her live out her days in a good home.”
Michele does admit that she was concerned at the prospect of having to lift a 100 pound dog up into the Skyhawk. After all, even a too thin Great Dane is still a large dog. But she didn’t have to worry. “That sweet girl was so starved that she would have jumped over the moon for a treat. I am happy to report that Dana is flourishing now. She’s gained weight and has a great home.”
McGuire call her flights in support of Pilots N Paws “the best reason to fuel up the plane”, a reason to keep her flight planning and instrument skills sharp by flying to airports she hasn’t visited before. And the benefits don’t end there, “You meet other like-minded animal loving pilots; your flight is tax deductible, and you get to save some fur balls. There’s absolutely no downside to this.”
She’s quick to give credit to the volunteers who run the loosely organized network of no kill rescue shelters throughout the country. “They work tirelessly to save as many animals as possible. I am honored to pull my airplane out of the hangar and help by merely providing the transport.”
And when it comes to new pilot volunteers, she has a bit of advice, “Be forewarned, there is the distinct danger that you may fall in love with one of these furry heartbreakers and adopt them. It’s happened before!”
To learn how you can volunteer for animal rescue flights, visit Pilots N Paws.