WAG Magazine Summer 2018

Page 14

Dog Is My Copilot

Taking Animal Rescue to New Heights By Kathleen Maci Schmidt


s often happens in life, tragedy turns into blessing. When Peter Rork’s wife passed away six years ago, her death gave the breath of life to thousands of dogs and cats which would otherwise have been euthanized. Rork had always been a pilot; in fact, he’s quick to add that he got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license. But when the opportunity to go to medical school presented itself, he opted to take that path, becoming an orthopedic doctor—though he retained his love of flying by occasionally volunteering for Pilots N Paws, a non-profit rescue organization that matches pilots with shelters in need of relocating dogs and cats for adoption, transferring a few dogs at a time. From darkness to new beginnings

After his wife died in 2012, Rork entered what he calls a “very dark period” in his life. It was during that time that he met with Judy Zimet, an attorney friend, who told him about Sharon Lohman, founder and president of New Beginnings for Merced County, California, a nonprofit organization that works to provide foster families for animals. “She desperately needs your help to fly dogs and cats to other shelters,” Zimet confided to Rork. He took the challenge lending his time to fly for Lohman once or twice a week. But his heart longed to do more for these homeless pets. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Peter Rork. (ASPCA), the first humane society established in North America, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year. That’s when 14

THE WAG magazine | Summer 2018

he got the idea to start his own 501(c)(3) non-profit with Zimet and Dog Is My CoPilot, Inc. was born. He removed the co-pilot seat in his Cessna 206 and found he could transport up to 30 crated dogs at a time. Though cats also are transported, the majority of rescues are dogs. Dog Is My CoPilot, based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, vets the sender shelters and the receiving shelters; both need to be non-profits. Two and a half years ago Rork upgraded his plane to a 14-person Cessna Caravan. By removing the co-pilot seat, he can now transport 251 animals on one flight or…2,500 dogs a year. “I am interested in saving as many animals as possible in as cost-efficient manner as possible,” he says. With 251 crates on board, the cost is approximately $50 per animal.

Destination: Safe

Jose Santiago, public information officer for Maricopa County Animal and Control Services, said that Dog Is My CoPilot is making a huge difference for the homeless dog population in the greater Phoenix area. “The more animals that can be transported to other no-kill shelters