Army Veteran Uses Pilot License To Rescue Dogs From Kill Shelters
This hero pilot gives shelter dogs the ride of their lives—literally.
Paul Steklenski is a U.S. Army veteran and a Cisco employee. He enjoys classic cars and cooking. He is also a hero to hundreds of animals.
After learning more about crowded shelters when he rescued his dog, Tessa, and fulfilling his dream of obtaining a pilot license in 2013, Steklenski considered how he might use his skills to help other animals in need of homes.
In 2015, Flying Fur Animal Rescue was born.
Steklenski purchased a plane and began transporting dogs along the East Coast, generally moving the animals from kill shelters in the South to no-kill shelters in the Northeast. Each trip costs around $500, most of which Steklenski pays for himself. In fact, he spends more than $10,000 a year out of his own pocket to save the lives of animals who would otherwise be doomed.
Steklenski has a full time job as a network engineer and transports dogs on his days off from work. He doesn’t earn anything from his efforts, save for some loving licks from his “pawsengers” and the gratification that comes with doing good.
ONE OF the most cherished photos I have of Miss Buckley is this; as we were flying north, we encountered some building cumulus cloud formations around Virginia. Miss Buckley, as she was covered in the shadow of a cloud, and longingly looked toward it. As we passed around the large fluffy clouds, an observation dawned on me. Few of my passengers ever get to experience this; for a moment, I was overcome by emotion, as my copilot, most likely for the first and last time in her life, would ever be so close to touch the clouds. It may sound trivial, it may sound insignificant; but to me, in that moment in time, it was the most special thing I could have ever asked for. My pawsengers, whisked away from death row, quite literally had their opportunity to "kiss the sky". It is something I will never forget, and something I hope to share with future pawsengers; after all, to experience that moment with them, is simply what makes all of this worth it to me <3 #adopt #rescue
As he stated in this Instagram post, “The lives of my pawsengers change from the day I get to help transport them—for me, the memories made on each flight will last me a lifetime.”
POE, gazing out over Montross, Virginia. Shortly after departure, I would find myself petting little Poe, and in short turn the affection was returned; he would soon clamor onto my lap, place his head on my shoulder, and gaze out into our world, from our 9,500′ cruising elevation. I tried, 3 or 4 times, to place him back in his seat; however this would be an exercise in futility, as he would simply climb back on to my lap and shoulder once again. Eventually I relented, and let him find his comfort, where ever he decided he would; after all, who was I to interrupt this moment in time for him. Most likely, he’d never have this opportunity again. The lives of my pawsengers change from the day I get to help transport them – for me, the memories made on each flight will last me a lifetime <3 #adopt #rescue #findyourself
Each flight involves multiple animals. While he transports between eight and 12 animals on the average trip, there are times when that number is much higher, such as the 23-dog rescue flight highlighted in this video.
While his nonprofit organization is currently only able to transport dogs within a specific range of the coast (see the map of Flying Fur’s transport area below), Steklenski works with other volunteers to transport animals out of his range. In addition, he is hopeful that the organization will grow and be able to save even more animals.
Flying Fur Animal Rescue has helped rescue more than 740 animals to date. With no administrative overhead or salaries, any money received through donations or purchases from the nonprofit’s Zazzle store goes back into the organization.
To find out about donating, volunteering and more, visit Flying Fur on the web.