Liz and Nicholas Tsukaloudas didn't set out on a rescue flight, but during their personal flight down to Ft. Lauderdale Nick answered one of our requests. He and his wife Liz, both private pilots, volunteered to help us out.
Tia is a 2 year-old Rottweiler that had been in shelters for over a year and a half. Somehow Tia had managed to escape euthanasia from six months old but her time was just about up. As Tia grew and entered her adult years the "puppy factor" was no longer in her favor, her chances of being adopted were dwindling... like so many adult dogs.
Liz and Nick were about to return home to Crystal River when a rescue in Tampa announced they could take Tia. Canine Rescue Flights posted the request then Liz and Nick answered the call. "We were just about to head back home when Nick asked me if I minded taking on a passenger." said Liz. "We weren't prepared, we had nothing to contain a dog during a flight. So Nick went to WalMart and bought a barrier net."
"After we set-up the net between the front and rear seats, Tia just sat on the rear seats and watched. It was as if she knew she was going for a ride." said Nicholas. And go for a ride she did. Nick and Liz made their way from Ft. Lauderdale to Lakeland during some gusty, but sunny weather. "It was pretty much on our route back, it really only took about an extra 20 minutes to stop in Lakeland." said Liz, who at the age of 61 decided to get her pilot's license and fly with her husband.
The private rescue that accepted Tia has a successful history of adopting out large breeds like Rottweilers. As for Liz and Nick, to use Liz's words: "It was a neat way to end a vacation."
With aviation fuel hovering just above the $6 per gallon range, and the economy deeper into recession than it has been in the last three years, volunteer pilots are becoming very scarce. "If there are any pilots going in the same direction as a rescue needs to go... this is our best opportunity get them moved.
"Our tact for getting rescues completed has had to change.", said Eric Peterson of Canine Rescue Flights. "Not very long ago, transport coordinators would post rescue requests and we would find pilots that could fly them." "The new paradigm is somewhat the reverse, now we are having to find pilots willing to transport then post the direction they are flying to the coordinators and rescues. Now, we are encouraging transport coordinators to contact us and leave us your information. We contact you when we know we have a flight going in a certain direction. It's not ideal, but you have to be flexible in your strategy. This month has been an indicator to me that I need to consider a wide number of options."