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Mochi flies to her new home

A coordinated animal rescue in the Pacific Northwest

By Djana Milton

How many pilots does it take to get one deaf, 7-month-old bull terrier from Las Vegas to her forever home in Vancouver, British Columbia? Four!

Photography by Michael Gennis
Zoomed image
Photography by Michael Gennis

“Welcome to Washington, Mochi!” I texted to the mission team, as the Columbia River slid beneath the wings of my Cessna 182, marking the border between Washington and Oregon, and the mid-point in this third leg of Mochi’s rescue journey from Roseburg, Oregon, and its terminus in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Mochi’s story began at a bull terrier rescue where she had been fostered from an early age. She was safe and well-tended, but the family that ran the rescue could no longer care for her.

A woman in Vancouver wished to adopt Mochi but didn’t have the means to either drive down to Las Vegas to pick her up or to pay for transport. The foster reached out to Pilots N Paws, an animal rescue operation. Mochi’s travels commenced when she was transported by car from her foster home to the North Las Vegas Airport. There she hopped the first leg of her journey in pilot Allen Dutton’s Mooney M20 for the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Nevada County Airport in Grass Valley, California. She shared the ride with a puppy who was being ferried to the Cleft Pup Brigade also in Grass Valley.

Because of low fog in California and the northwest, the remaining legs of Mochi’s flight were postponed. She awaited the resumption of her trip in a temporary foster home, arranged by Pilots N Paws.

The weather finally cooperated and Mochi’s travels resumed. Lorelei Craig, her foster volunteer, transported her by car to the Grass Valley airfield for a scheduled 9:45 a.m. departure, where she was greeted by retired airline pilot Mike Gennis and his gorgeous bare metal silver and red Cessna 180. Gennis flies with his rear and co-pilot seats removed so he has more room for crates and dogs. He prepared bedding for Mochi in the rear of his airplane where she curled up and made good use of her accommodations.

After a brief stop in Ashland their flight concluded two and a half hours later in Roseburg, Oregon. Mochi and Gennis were able to stretch their legs while awaiting my arrival. Once I was on the ground, Gennis and I compared notes about our airplanes, our animal flying configurations, and the narrow weather window in which we’d been able to make this work.

The passenger compartment of my airplane is configured for dog-friendly comfort with seat extenders, a heavy-duty seat cover, and absorbent pads as an added measure of protection. Gennis assured me that Mochi traveled well uncrated as I loaded her up and got her settled into the backseat of my airplane. She rode tethered by her harness to the headrest, so she’d be secure, and yet have the freedom to move around and make herself comfortable. Because she’s deaf, hearing protection wasn’t a concern.

Mochi alternated between looking out of the window and assuming a wide variety of postures that would make the most experienced yogi jealous. Although she couldn’t hear, I did still wonder if some of her other senses were overstimulated by the various sensations that come with the vibrations of your average GA airplane.

The roughly 280 statute miles from Roseburg to the Tacoma Narrows airport in Gig Harbor, Washington, took about two hours to traverse at 8,000 feet altitude. The sun was disappearing just behind the Olympic mountains as we taxied to the restaurant where Mochi would connect with pilot Lane Gormley and his Cessna 182 for the final leg of her freedom flights. This leg would terminate in Arlington, Washington. Mochi again rode tethered in the comfort of the cabin’s back seat, enjoying more space than can be found in the economy section of a standard commercial airliner. Once on the ground in Arlington, a volunteer from a local rescue outfit drove Mochi across the border to Vancouver to meet her new mom.

Djana Milton is an instrument rated private pilot who lives in Lakewood, Washington.

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