'Pilots N Paws'
Program Helps Find
Homes For Dogs
In Need Of Rescue
Editor's Note: The following article about 16-year-old Greeneville pilot Zach Hutcherson appeared in The Augusta, Ga., Chronicle on Tuesday, Sept. 7. It is being reprinted, along with the photos, by permission of that newspaper.
Zach is a son of Amy and Courtney Hutcherson of Greeneville.
BY JOHNNY EDWARDS
THE AUGUSTA, GA., CHRONICLE
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A lot of breeders euthanize Catahoula leopard dogs that are born deaf, considering them defective products.
That won't be happening to 13-week-old Mia. She can't hear, but she can fly, thanks to an online community that links rescued dogs to dog-lovers by way of the friendly skies.
The pup touched down Monday, Sept. 6, to a warm welcome at Daniel Field airport here, flown in by a high school junior with a student pilot certificate and a Cessna 150.
It was 16-year-old Zach Hutcherson's first Pilots N Paws flight, with Mia sleeping in a crate for the three-hour journey from Northeast Tennessee to Augusta.
She emerged from the plane stiff and groggy, but within minutes was licking the face of her new foster mother, Liz Edwards.
Mia (pronounced MY-uh) will move in with Edwards, her husband, their four dogs and a few other foster dogs in west Augusta. Edwards said she'll try to find her a home.
"If she ends up being mine, that's fine," she said.
Founded in 2008, the Greenville, S.C.-based Pilots N Paws program uses a Web forum to match needy dogs with volunteer pilots who can close distances to new owners.
The site has 1,824 registered pilots and more than 7,000 registered users, according to co-founder Debbie Boies.
Flight expenses are tax-deductible. Daniel Field waives the $25 landing fee for twin- and multiple-engine planes and gives pilots a 44-cents-per-gallon discount on fuel, just as it does for Angel Flight pilots who transport medical patients.
For Hutcherson, of Greeneville, Tenn., the trip was a chance to build up airtime hours as he works toward his goal of becoming a FedEx pilot.
"I like animals, I like flying," he said. "Combine the two, get some hours, everyone wins."
Boies said most flights start in the South, where spaying and neutering practices are lax, and end up in the North or Midwest, where there is generally less of a dog overpopulation.
Mia came from a Catahoula rescue in Piney Flats, Tenn. The operator there, Sharon Bryant, said a "backyard breeder" offered her the puppy, and she took it, fearing what might happen to her otherwise.
Deafness is a common genetic flaw among the Louisiana-rooted breed, especially in dogs with mostly white coats. She'll be joining another deaf Catahoula at the Edwards home.
They still make good dogs, and can respond to body language and hand-sign commands, Edwards said.
For more information on Pilots N Paws, and to view the bulletin board, please see http://www.PilotsNPaws.org.
In an e-mail to The Greeneville Sun alerting the newspaper to Hutcherson's Labor Day flight, Pilots N Paws volunteer Elizabeth M. (Liz) Edwards of Augusta had high praise for the 16-year-old pilot.
"We are so thankful for this wonderful young man!" wrote Edwards, a professional paralegal who said she is a volunteer with BlackJack Rescue & Catahoula Connection (Piney Flats).
"He saved our rescue group a lot of time and is a nice example of what our kids should be."