Flying Paws founder and pilot Marilyn Subach, left, delivers Sammi, a blind and deaf puppy, into the arms of a member of his new family. Subach flew Sammi from El Paso to Phoenix.
Flying Paws volunteer pilot Mike Fadley introduces a Dalmatian to a young girl during a refuleling stop while transporting the dog from Lancaster, Calif., to El Paso.
Flying Paws founder and pilot Marilyn Subach, right, helps a St. Bernard puppy out of her plane after a flight from Clovis, N.M., to the St. Bernard Rescue in Phoenix.
Chino Valley Review
Abused animals quickly regain their love of people when pilots from Flying Paws land on the scene.
The non-profit's founder and pilot Marilyn Subach was in the air this past weekend, transporting a paraplegic dachshund after surgery following a spinal injury, from Phoenix to Prescott to stay with her at her Chino Valley home for a few week's of recovery. Then Subach will fly out again to place the dog in a pet hospice in Holbrook, Ariz.
It's a love of flying and a love of animals that led Subach to start the non-profit in 2001 and network more than 550 pilots worldwide with foster care volunteers, adoptive homes, rescue organizations and other organizations and agencies that work with needy animals in countless cities and towns. Many know about Flying Paws' free transport services. In fact that's how it all started.
Subach had been working in an Animal Rescue League shelter when a dog rescue volunteer on the White Mountain Apache Reservation remembered that Subach was a pilot.
The volunteer was helping with Goldie, a Golden Retriever mix, who had been shot by pellet guns, one paw mangled by a rifle bullet. With her injuries, Goldie limped along in constant search for food in dumpsters when rescuers found her. She needed specialized veterinary care off the reservation, so the volunteer called Subach.
Subach arrived and described her first look at Goldie: "She could hardly stand, her fur was matted and she had difficulty breathing. Now I could see why rescue felt that this flight might be Goldie's only chance."
That's how the Flying Paws organization got its name: pilots fly miles to save the life of animals.
Rescue organizations find unwanted animals in various communities, then contact Flying Paws to transport the animal to needed veterinary care in a different location and then to a loving home for adoption or foster care.
The pilots volunteer their planes, gas and their services to make the rescues; the cost of flights range from $1,000-$5,000. The veterinarians provide surgery at a discount, for which Flying Paws' donations help pay, as well as any medication and food the foster volunteer needs for the animal, until it can get adopted to a "forever" home.
Also volunteer pet groomers, such as Melody at Pets 1st Grooming in Chino Valley, bathe and groom rescue animals.
Since the beginning, Flying Paws has helped 2,500 dogs, 500 cats and 250 animals, such as turtles, a falcon, a Gila Monster and more.
The organization also transports the dogs of military men and women to foster care while their owners are on deployment overseas. The owners can rest secure knowing their dogs are in a loving home until they can be reunited.
In general, the organization works only with animals in emergency situations and rescues, and, although Flying Paws get many requests, they do no animals of private owners. However, Subach passes on resource information to private owners.
People can make donations to help with the organization's expenses, or they can do something as simple as buying used blankets at a yard sale or swap meet and donating them to the organization for the animals, Subach says.
Subach adds that even helping a needy pet owner directly, such as a homebound senior, is important.
It all stems from Subach's desire to help animals in need.
"You look into the eyes of an animal and you can see into their soul," Subach said. "All they're asking for is to be loved and to be safe. If I can do one thing to help, I will do it."
In addition to flying, Subach networks and tracks each transport, monitors the weather for each flight and connects with contacts at the destination. Animals are worth it, Subach says.
"They give back 100 percent," she said. "They accept love and as you're holding them, they feel your beating heart and their tails wag. The person's own blood pressure drops and you become calmer. It's a win-win situation for the animal and the human."
Flying Paws also makes presentations about their organization to local schools, clubs and other civic organizations. Students enjoy meeting the dogs, talking with pilots and, when possible, sit in the cockpit and learn about the aircraft.
People can join the organization, make a donation, or get more information by visiting its website at
www.flyingpaws.org to submit a contact request, or fax the office at 928-636-7151. Additional volunteer pilots, veterinarians and foster caregivers are always needed.
The organization describes its purpose this way: "In our own way, Flying Paws pilots make the world just a little better and there's always room for people who feel the same. Join us."