November 1, 2010
By Thomas B Haines
Plowing southwestward into a slight headwind, carving a path through the steaming August air, my mind drifted back nearly a decade to a similar mission. Except then it was a crisp and clear January day with a tailwind as we headed northeast. Our mission then was to check out a boxer up for adoption. The hole in our family heart had only begun to heal from the loss of our 16-year-old mongrel Chelsey when my wife and kids convinced me it was time to find a new dog. I had always liked boxers and an Internet search turned up numerous boxer rescue sites.
One promising pooch was Kallee, a three-year-old boxer whose elderly owner could no longer care for her. Kallee’s online profile and foster mom’s description made her sound like a good candidate for us, even though she was in Keene, New Hampshire, more than 300 nm away. With a crate wedged into the back of the Bonanza, we flew up to meet her and, as I reported in Waypoints in the March 2001 issue, she quickly found a place in our hearts and a spot at the foot of our bed. That column, which also reported on another dog rescue flight, generated more mail than any I’ve ever done.
Fast forward five years to September 2005 when Kallee is getting a bit elderly by boxer standards. Then we rescue Mugsy, a tall, handsome three-year-old male, from a local group. He’s happy letting Kallee be the leader of the pack and life is good. But time does go on and Kallee goes downhill. By mid-winter of this year, we knew her days were numbered, but she was not in pain and, after all the joy she had given us, we were fine helping her get outside and up and down the stairs. By late March, though, she was much worse and seemingly in pain and so on a crisp late-winter Monday morning, after an agonizing weekend we took her for that dreadfully difficult visit to the veterinarian to be permanently put to rest.
For weeks after, Mugsy moped around the house sharing the sense of emptiness we all felt.
As spring turned to summer my youngest daughter, Jenna, began to pine for a puppy, which, to her, seemed like the perfect replacement for her older sister who was gearing up for her first year of college. At first I refused to consider it—especially the puppy notion. We didn’t need to deal with all of the chewing and housebreaking. But when Jenna began showing me the rescue sites with boxer puppies, well, you can guess the rest.
This time, the GPS navigated us to Smith Reynolds airport in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 240 nm to the southwest. There, a saint named Beth, who spends more money than she can afford each month caring for a revolving pack of rescue dogs, met us at Landmark Aviation with Tyson, a squirming four-month-old runt of a male boxer. At only 15 pounds he was a tiny thing for his age. A breeder had given the runt to a family that couldn’t afford to keep him when he got sick, so he was turned over to rescue. The rescue group got him the right care and he was a fawn bundle of sheer energy by the time we met him just outside the FBO gate.
We quickly knew he was for us and, just as we did with Kallee, loaded him in the crate for the flight home. As did she, he immediately settled into the crate and slept the whole way home.
Oh, what an imp he is; he steals your heart and won’t give it back. Even crusty old Mugsy, now eight, has warmed up to the pup and they roughhouse nightly in what has become a ritual. While I don’t want to think about the reason, my guess is this is a bittersweet flight that will repeat itself again in a few years. In the meantime, Tyson, welcome to our home.
Tom Haines will host “Buying Your First Airplane” at AOPA Aviation Summit on Thursday, November 11. He will also be a featured speaker and will co-host a “Dine Around” event on Thursday.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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