2012 December 05 Wednesday
Southern California to Dallas and then Georgetown, TX

This flight home for Blackie has been in the making for several months. Since his best friend and human partner Tammy suffered a very serious injury from a passing truck in California last August, he had not seen or heard her or anyone else he had known and loved in his first five years of life, and life seemed to have turned a corner to bleakness. There was one bit of light and warmth, however, which came from some kind and perceptive animal handlers at the shelter in Kern County, CA, outside of Bakersfield. Despite Blackie being a well-muscled and strong, intact young male pitbull with some evidence of scars on his face, they saw right off that he was also a gentle, stable, sound soul who meant no harm to anyone. So while Tammy spent months in hospital critical care, Blackie spent months in the Kern County shelter.

He became a shelter favorite, in fact. When we went to visit him in November, he was out in the grassy play area chasing tennis balls and rolling on the grass -- with children! We even brought one of our dogs, an aussie-terrier male, to see how Blackie would be with other dogs -- looking ahead to flying him with some other canine passengers in order to take him back home to Texas when it was time. We need not have worried!  Blackie could be a poster dog for pitbulls!  He had no pent-up negative emotions or behaviors whatsoever.  He was clearly a dog who had known much love, probably only love, and now that he had suddenly been separated from his human, he wanted only to be a courteous guest and to try to be happy until his human could find him again.

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When we got word that Tammy would be flying back to her family’s home near Dallas, TX to finish her convalescence there and that the family was ready to have Blackie home, too, wheels started rolling -- figuratively and literally.  Trouble was, by that time we had already left California and were back on the Gulf Coast. We suggested they fly him by commercial airline, since the veterinarian was confident that his true breed was American Staffordshire Terrier, which made him acceptable to airlines to be flown as air cargo. But they drove him all the way to Los Angeles International Airport, only to have an employee of the airline there misinterpret the company’s rules and refuse to fly him on the basis that he was a pitbull.  The airlines later apologized for their mistake -- but by that time, the inconvenience had been considerable, and it was decided that if there was any way we could fly him to Texas, that would be preferable.

We found other rescues in need of transports in both directions -- to and from Texas, and once those plans were in place and we thought we would be able to afford the fuel costs, we flew back to Los Angeles on Tuesday night Dec 4, ready to fly up to retrieve Blackie and other passengers early the following morning.  All went well except that three of our “paying” passengers cancelled just before this flight. Instead, we would be flying only Blackie and one young german shepherd “Taylor” who was bound from Apple Valley, CA to Georgetown, TX.  This put us at least $1200 in the hole for fuel costs even before we started, but we weren’t about to let Blackie and his family down again. We left our home base before sunrise and awaited Blackie in the early morning light.

Blackie was everything good we had heard about him and more.  He was an eager and courteous passenger, a friendly and playful dog. His caretaker Cheryl had brought with him a chew bone that was about two feet long -- it was so heavy we almost had to re-calculate the airplane’s weight and balance!  (Okay, not quite that heavy.) Blackie was most interested in it at the start, but quickly lost interest in it when he realized he was going to go for a plane ride. We were given a crate for him, and we dutifully assembled it in the plane -- but we never used it.  Blackie was a seasoned passenger, and he seemed ecstatic to be sitting free in the cabin with windows to look out and drivers in the front. For the entire day’s flight, Blackie was the best canine passenger we have ever had. He was interested in what was outside, even when we were up at 9000 ft. And he came forward for ear rubs and just to say hello, every 30 minutes or so.


When we picked up Taylor, the young german shepherd, about 30 minutes from where we had picked up Blackie, there was absolutely no negativity between the two dogs at all.  Blackie seemed to understand that this large but young shepherd was a bit nervous, and it seemed to comfort Taylor to have Blackie lying there calmly reassuring him that this was all fine, it was going to be a great ride.  At our fuel stop in Arizona, we took both dogs out for a walk, and you would have thought they had grown up together.  The crate was there in the plane, and eventually Taylor decided to curl up in it.  We might have had to use some crates had our other three original canine passengers come along; but as it was, Blackie and Taylor had first-class seating and roomy comfort for their voyages home!

We were not met at the Dallas Executive Airport by Tammy, but by a good friend of hers, Natasha, who had helped raise Blackie. The joy in Blackie when he recognized Natasha  and they embraced was worth every trial and every penny spent in the course of getting Blackie here.  Blackie was beside himself with happiness.  And yet, when he jumped into the familiar car and gave a kiss to the other woman waiting in the car (whom he obviously also knew and loved), he looked back at us and barked very deliberately at us as they drove away.  There was no mistaking his desire to communicate his thanks and his joy.  We were hugely impressed with this pitbull. He’s the finest kind of friend and family member we could recommend and want ourselves.

While Blackie has now been home with his human partner’s family and friends for two weeks, he has not yet been able to see Tammy herself.  That reunion may occur right after Christmas.  When we get some photos or video of that joyful happening, we’ll post them.  At least now he knows that he’s home, and he knows Tammy is alive, and she knows he’s there. And when hearts are healed like Blackie’s and Tammy’s have been, bodies recover even more quickly.  Enjoy these videos of Blackie’s flight and reunion with his human friends! And consider this fine, fine dog when you next look at a pitbull with any hesitation. Blackie is what a pitbull is like when he is raised with love and healthy human relationship. We couldn’t imagine much better.

 

TAYLOR turns Texan Too!

Not to be completely overshadowed by Blackie’s story, we must add that Taylor’s story is another miracle of love put together by Robin and her gang at Westside German Shepherd Rescue (WGSR) in Los Angeles, CA!  Taylor is a young, gangly, handsome purebred German Shepherd, friendly and social. He had developed only one oddity of behavior -- when he was a little nervous in his surroundings, he would chase his tail and chew on it. So this handsome dog had just one defect in his appearance -- his tail resembled that of an opossum.  (Okay, not quite that bad.) Blackie’s calm presence seemed to help Taylor quite a bit, but at the beginning of the flight, Taylor managed to execute a fair number of circles back there in the airplane cabin... However, after we dropped off Blackie and headed for Georgetown, now well after sunset in Texas, Taylor seemed to snap to attention, as if he knew that somehow this next excitement was for him.

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Taylor’s new family were all there to meet us.  These are dog and shepherd people, who live on a ranch and have other shepherds.  Taylor was instantly at ease with them, and the man’s comfortable, strong way with Taylor told us immediately that Taylor’s issues and fears would soon be gone forever. Once again, as she did over ten years ago when she let us adopt our german shepherd “Ford” from her rescue organization, Robin had picked the right humans for the right dog. Many rescues have a policy of not adopting out of state.  Robin’s organization adopts to the right people, period. In all the years we’ve had our beloved Ford, we’ve thanked her endlessly for choosing us to be his caretakers.  And we’ve flown a lot of WGSR dogs to their adopters in Arizona, Colorado, and elsewhere, and every time, we’ve seen the same thing -- an instant recognition that the right people had come together with these dogs.

Thanks to everyone who made these two rescues and transports successful! 
Nic and Cheryl and Patti and others in Kern County, CA for taking such good care of Blackie and knowing he was worth every bit of effort to save.  Mary Ryan and others who helped foster Taylor in Apple Valley and WGSR for saving him, and Taylor’s new family for wanting him and bringing him to them.  And to all who donated to help us defray our considerable fuel costs, thank you.  While we did run quite short this trip, we will never regret having made it possible for these two dogs to make it to their forever homes and families.  There are no regrets in rescue work -- except when we don’t do it!