The high-flying heroes saving animals from kill shelters.

On a clear, sunny day, Galaxy took flight.

The lanky white German shepherd soared high above the clouds on a private plane, a far cry from the streets of Southaven, Mississippi, where she was found. After getting used to the motion, Galaxy settled in to relax. She was finally going home.

All images via Pilots N Paws, used with permission.


Galaxy is one of the many lucky pets rescued and transported by Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with animals in need.

Pilots N Paws (PNP) was created in 2008, when Debi Boies asked pilot Jon Wehrenberg to help her fly a Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save it from a cruel fate. The successful flight sparked the idea to rescue and relocated more animals — a service that is sorely needed.

Despite the success of spay and neuter campaigns, pet overpopulation remains a serious issue, and kill shelters are common, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. This problem is especially pronounced in parts of the rural South where there is limited access to affordable spaying and neutering services and poorly enforced leash laws.

PNP has more than 5,000 volunteer pilots using its online message board to look for animals in need of relocation.

Some pilots may be flying for business or pleasure and will pick up an animal headed to or from their destination. Others will take to the air specifically for PNP missions, each about 300 miles, bringing their kids or families along. It's a great way to volunteer, take to the skies, and see a new city outside of lunch at the airport.

PNP executive director Kate Quinn shared a recent e-mail from one of the pilots who wrote, "For me personally, I love to fly, my kids and I love animals, we always adopt rescue dogs. PNP gives me a rewarding reason to fly rather than just getting a burger."

The organization boasts another 12,000 volunteers on the ground who assist as foster parents, help out with transport to and from the airport, and coordinate rescues and pick-ups from shelters. A few of these volunteers have even started taking flying lessons so they can fly for PNP.

This year, PNP pilots will transport more than 15,000 animals.

Since the organization's founding, more than 150,000 animals have been rescued and relocated, including sweet Galaxy.

After getting picked up in Mississippi, she was taken in by a white German shepherd rescue in Tennessee then flew with pilot Jim Carney to her foster home in Alton, Illinois.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, time, and effort to save one pet, but it's bigger than that.

Each animal rescued becomes a beloved family member, trusted companion, loyal best friend, or even a hard working service dog. The animals are grateful beyond measure to live out their lives with loving families. For the humans, the gratitude is mutual.

"It's amazing to see the pilots stay in touch with the adoptive homes. They'll get Christmas cards and updates," Quinn says. "It's something that has a ripple effect. ... I think it just enriches peoples lives."

After all, they're good dogs, Brent. And good people too.

More
terimakasih0/Pixabay

When Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School principal Janet Behrens observed her students in the cafeteria, she was dismayed to see that they spent more time looking down at their phones than they did looking at and interacting with each other. So last year, she implemented a new policy that's having a big impact.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular