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Big Dog Transport Marks a Semblance of Normalcy at Mountain Humane
Sandy Berk holds up a new arrival.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020


The Big Dog that set wheels down at Atlantic Aviation Monday night didn’t have stewardesses decked out in face masks handing out pretzels. Nor were any of its passengers wearing seatbelts.

And the 12 who got off in Sun Valley had no idea that they had just landed in doggie heaven.

But Annie McCauley beamed as she peered inside the cages, each boasting one or two cute furry faces with quizzical looks.

The plane with the dog on its tail was an hour and 15 minutes late getting dogs to their new Sun Valley home because of bad weather in Portland.

“This makes me feel like I’m back to doing important work,” said the executive director of Mountain Humane.

On Monday Captain Blue and his Dog is My CoPilot plane picked up 74 dogs at a shelter in El, Paso Texas. He dropped some off at to Corgipalooza Rescue & Rehab, the Newberg Animal Shelter and One Tail at a Time in Portland before putting his wheels down in Sun Valley.

He’d fly the rest home to PAWS of Jackson Hole.

The transport, plus a husky and two other newly acquired dogs from the Jerome shelter, are the first new dogs Mountain Humane has taken since closing due to the coronavirus in mid-March.

Right now, this dog is No. 43772330. But he should get a new name today. But don’t count on it being COVID or Corona or even Dr. Fauci.

People in the community fostered nearly all of the dogs and cats that were in the shelter when it closed, and 12 of those have been adopted since.

The animal welfare campus will open back up under stay healthy protocols on June 1.

The dogs that arrived in Sun Valley Monday evening will not have to undergo 14-day self-quarantine like humans coming in the state are currently asked to do.

But they will undergo medical checkups on Monday, receive vaccinations, be spayed or neutered if they haven’t been already, and they will have their official mug shot taken so news of their arrival can be broadcast to those are looking for that special someone.

Annie McCauley greets a new arrival held by volunteer Sandy Berk.

They also will be observed for 24 hours by Vic Glasser, the campus trainer. She will watch how they interact with other dogs and staff members. She’ll take each for a walk to determine if they can be immediately adoptable or if they have some behavioral kinks that need to be addressed.

“It’s rare we have a dog returned for behavioral issues. Some should be adoptable by Friday,” said McCauley. “It’ important to us to get them into homes as soon as possible. As we learned through foster care during the pandemic, they’re happiest with family.”

Mountain Humane’s Lauren Ponder said there were more than 200 dogs to pick from when it came to deciding who should board the plane headed for Sun Valley.

“I try to think about what the community wants. I look at the type of dogs that do best here—they’ve got to be friendly with other dogs because there are so many off- leash. But I want a good mix, too, because we have so many people come from elsewhere to adopt dogs.”

Captain Blue celebrates his first transport with Lauren Ponder, Megan Matlock, Annie McCauley, Sandy Berk and Jocelin Gardner.

Shepherds and border collies do well here, as well as small dogs, Ponder said. And labs and border collies are easy to train.

“We have some in this bunch some that look like yellow labs mixed with a smaller breed,” she added.

Last year Mountain Humane adopted out 754 dogs and cats—its most ever—even though it didn’t do adoptions for six weeks as moved into its new facility.

And Dog is My Co-Pilot was a big part of that, flying dogs from overcrowded shelters around the country.

The nonprofit was founded in 2012 by Dr. Peter Rork, who has personally flown more than 13,000 dogs and cats to new homes. The 501©3 is funded by the Petco Foundation—shelters do not pay a dime to have the dogs delivered.

That said, Mountain Humane was blessed to receive more than $28,000 in donations—double the amount of past years—during Idaho Gives, McCauley said.

Much of that went to food that the shelter is providing families who have lost income during the corona-cession.

“We’ve been handing out pet food from the shelter because the Hunger Coalition has been so busy supplying food to so many new clients it can’t handle the dog food, too,” she said.

Enabling dogs to stay in their homes is worth every penny, McCauley says, noting her experience with her own two small dogs.

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to quarantine for four weeks without them. They’re such a comfort,” she said. “And what do they know about COVID? Every day is a great adventure to them.”


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