Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flight Report: The first ever official "Sidney's Freedom Flight"

(Some Photos: Photos by Liz.  More to come)

Even before we found Enzo, Sidney has talked about rescuing dogs.  Lately, he was becoming a bit obsessed.  If you look at Sid's FB page, it is all photos of dogs in need of homes. There are no pictures of places he happens to be or things he is about to eat.  He doesn't rant about how decaf tea tastes like medicine.  He definitely doesn't post up the miles he ran.  He keeps it simple.  Sid loves dogs. 

I love running and Sid gives me all the support I need to race my heart out.  In return, I wanted to give him the support he needs to do what he loves.  So one day while he slept, I registered for a Go Fund Me page, wrote up a little message explaining how much he loves dogs and how, as a pilot, he can rescue them if we could raise some money to help with the cost of the flights.  I created a FB group to help share our simple idea of how a bunch of small donations can save discarded dogs from being put down.

On May 8th 2013,  Sidney's Freedom Flights was born.  By the time Sidney woke up, a few hours later, we had already accumulated $450 in donations.  Before he even knew what happened, I told him he needed to get to work planning a rescue flight.  In two weeks we had almost $1000 and he was ready to save some dogs!

Sid coordinated with his contacts and was able to locate dogs that needed a flight to freedom.  By June 2, we were officially scheduled to head down to Lumberton, NC to pick up a momma dog and her 9 babies.

Liz our tireless helper ...
It takes a lot of coordination and some good fortune to make sure all the elements for a trip fall into place.  But Sidney worked with  Jim B. (a very experienced dog saving pilot) and Laurie (a tireless volunteer from the Dillon Shelter in South Carolina) to arrange to get dogs from a kill shelter to an airport in North Carolina.

and our official photographer!
By Friday, Sidney confirmed the details and somehow instead of 1 dog and her 9 babies,  we were going for 11.  Then it was 12 and by Friday night we were going for 14!   It is my understanding that all these dogs were scheduled to be euthanized on Saturday June 1st, but because of the coordinated efforts of Jim and Laurie and Sidney and probably many other volunteers, these dogs were given an extra day and chance for a good life.

Friday night I sent out a request for crates and within minutes, I had two medium sized crates made available to me from Janet D'Angelo Moley and Liz Jimenez.  Although we know we can contact Pilots and Paws and have them ship us loaner crates or we can borrow crates from our local shelter for our trips, there was not enough time to get all we needed. We also decided to purchase an extra crate just in case we ran into issues.

"Is this not the flimsiest step stool ever!" LOL
Not only is Liz my very good friend, she generous with her time, a fellow dog lover,  and a darn good photographer.  I asked her to join us and to bring her camera.  She was ready to go with a day's notice!  Thank you Liz!

The Trip!
At 4:00 am Sunday, Sidney and I awoke to begin our day. We had to take care of last minute prep and get Enzo down to my parent house and hour away and fortunately in the same town as the airport we were departing from.  Once Enzo was settled in, we headed over to the airport so Sid could start his pre-flight check and we can load the plane.

Liz arrived at 7:00 and by 7:21 we started the engine.  I posted a link to Flight Aware in our FB group with our tail number so if anyone did wish to track our flight, they could do so with Live Flight Tracking! It would take about 3 hours each way, with about an hour or more time on the ground to refuel, file for the return trip home, and load dogs.

Once in flight, things were looking good until the GPS stopped working. The weather was clear so we were able "fly the airways" as Sid kept requesting when we were handed off between air traffic controllers along the way.   As long as bad weather did not crop up, we would be just fine to continue as planned.

With about an hour to go, Sid checked the weather and saw some trouble ahead.  The last available weather update at our destination indicated conditions that required the aid of our GPS to navigate the landing.  Sidney started planning to land at our alternate,  the nearest clear weather airport where we would need to rent a car to go pick up the dogs.

However, as we got closer, the updated weather report indicated that skies had cleared up and we were good to land as initially planned!  Phew!  Once we reached Lumberton, we met Laurie.  She was very patient with us as we usurped much of her Sunday morning scrambling about trying to figure out the logistics of handling so many dogs.

Puppies waiting in the Shade of the Magnolia Tree
We could not load them up too early because the airplane gets very hot when not moving.  We needed to give Sid some time to do his pilot stuff like refuel the plane and file for our return trip.  While Sid did his thing, I asked about walking the dogs and realized that the dogs did not have leashes or even collars.  (Rookie mistake on our part... next time we will bring leashes!  In fact I plan to order a bunch of these slip leads before our next trip.)

Kelly, Koon, Judy, and Kadie loaded in the plane 
All the pups looked a little hot so I went to get some water for the dogs while we tried to figure this the how to walk dogs without leashes.  By the time I returned, someone from the airport had gone off to find us some rope.  With the make-shift leashes on the dogs, we learned that the puppies clearly lacked leash walking skills and decided that playing in the grass was more important than peeing.

It was so incredibly beautiful to watch the puppies, who were scheduled to be euthanized yesterday, playing with utter joy today.

As a group of dogs, they made our work easy.  They all got along with each other.  The mom (Shelly) was mellow and not upset if her puppies were handled. The 2-3 month old puppies (Judy, Kadie, Koon, and Kelly) were adorable and once they warmed up to us all they wanted to do was play and give kisses.

In over an hour, we had loaded the puppies into the plane, and we were taxing for our return trip.  The four puppies were placed in the cargo area in one crate and all were fast asleep.  Mom and her babies was in a second crate on the passengers seat next to Liz.  We were packed so tight that we could not fit another thing in that plane!

As we made the return trip, we started contemplating our wish list for next time, when suddenly the cabin was filled with the most horrific smell ever.... baby puppy poop. OMG! With no windows to open it was hilariously horrendous.  One at a time, 9 puppies were taking turns torturing us and all we could do was laugh while trying to not to throw up.  As we got closer and started to descend, the hot cabin stunk so bad I truly thought I was going to puke, but it didn't matter one bit!  LOL

Once we landed at Toms River, NJ, I saw a couple standing outside the gate.  As I stepped out of the plane and walked over, the gentlemen looked as me and said "Woof! Woof!", which I thought was hilarious because had I not been part of this rescue trip that greeting would have been very bizarre!

I tried to answer Jim, but since Friday I had suffered almost 100% loss of my voice and I could not speak.  In fact, I had been writing notes all day when I wanted to say something or I had to force speech when I could not write notes.

As we got Jim and his girlfriend over to the plane, I noticed my parents had stopped by as well.  They tracked us on Flight Aware and knew we had landed.  We took the puppies for a walk in the grass and to play a little bit before we had to say goodbye.

We got them into Jim car and off they went for their final trip to Buddy's Precious Angels Rescue
in Albany, where they will be placed for adoption.

After picking Enzo back up and heading home, we finally settled in by 6:00 pm.  It was a long amazing day.

The hand off to Jim B.!
We sincerely thank everyone who donated to our flight costs (Sidney's Freedom Flights) and thank those who already started to donate to our next flight.  With the collective efforts of those who donated and those who volunteered their time, 14 dogs were saved (an unusually high number for one flight).

Thank you!


  1. Beautifully written, Shannon. I''m looking forward to reading about Sid's next rescue venture.

  2. This is truly heartwarming! God bless u guys!

  3. I have supplies to donate. Leashes collars toys etc. I'll let u know when I.have everything collected :)

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! You are so generous! We appreciate the help so much.