Great Pyrenees Set to Be Euthanized Hops Aboard a Plane to Freedom

By: Nathan Grant

“He just wanted to be part of the action.”

Woody, a 5-year-old Great Pyrenees, was found on the streets of North Carolina. He was brought to a local shelter where he spent many days crammed into a small kennel. At 84 pounds, this was no way to spend his time.

No Hope for Woody

When the shelter had Woody examined by a veterinarian, the results were not good. The veterinarian concluded that Woody had mange, heartworm, and other expensive medical issues.

Source: Paul Steklensk

Due to the cost of treatment, the shelter had no choice but to schedule Woody for euthanasia.

That was until LaMancha Animal Rescue heard about Woody. They agreed to take him in, but the problem was: how would they lug the 84-pound dog to Pennsylvania?

Enter: network engineer and Army veteran Paul Steklenski. Paul is the founder of Flying Fur Animal Rescue, a nonprofit aimed at saving dogs from euthanasia by moving them around the country … by plane! Through his amazing nonprofit, Paul has flown over 1,000 animals from overcrowded shelters to new opportunities.

Source: Paul Steklensk

His inspiration for Flying Fur Animal Rescue came from his own adoption process when adopting his dog, Tessa.

“At the time, I was completing my airman’s certificate and adopting Tessa, and it just all came together and made sense,” Paul told The Dodo. “You realize the airplane is a really efficient way to move a lot of animals hundreds of miles in a short amount of time to get them off death row.”

Source: Paul Steklensk

Freedom Flight

When Paul arrived in North Carolina to move Woody, he did his normal routine. He organized dog crates in the plane to ensure that he was hauling as many dogs as he could without risking anyone’s safety.

Due to Woody’s weight, Paul had to make a few adjustments to his usual process.

“Because of the loading and how big some of these dogs were, I had to basically carve out a place in the back of the airplane for him so he could sit freely,” Paul said. “It was a surprise to us once we got him in and he looked pretty happy.”

Source: Paul Steklensk

When the plane took off, woody made some adjustments of his own. He moved his way closer and closer to the co-pilot’s seat.

“It was great, he just wanted to be around us, and that blows me away,” Paul told The Dodo. “Here’s this dog, he has all these problems, but he doesn’t care, he just wants to be next to another being. He just made his way forward, put his paws on the chair and kinda got nose-to-nose and took a little nap there. He fell asleep and stayed there for the rest of the flight.”

Woody seemed to know that he was on his way to a better tomorrow. He alternated relaxing and admiring the view with a smile throughout the duration of the flight.

Paul loved having the company. Especially since he encountered some turbulence. Woody remained a calm and friendly presence for Paul.

“Dogs are just incredible. Even in their worst condition, in their worst shape, they’re always happy to see you, hang out with you and be with you,” Paul said. “It always blows my mind how resilient animals are.”

Source: Paul Steklensk

Woody is now getting treatment for his medical issues at LaMancha Animal Rescue. Within a short period of time at his new haven, his fur is growing out nicely and he has gained some much-needed weight.

Paul hopes to visit Woody to see the amazing progress he’s made. “We don’t deserve dogs, they’re just the best,” he said. “I don’t know how else to say it really.”

Despite a harsh beginning, Woody’s future is looking oh, so bright! Spread the word about Woody’s story to help dogs like him get their new opportunities at life, too!

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