Co-founder of Pilots N Paws, Debi Boies says she’s always had a deep connection with animals.”I feel strongly that it is our responsibility, as humans, to be the guardians for animals others have abandoned, abused, or simply can no longer care for,” she says. “If we don’t, then who will?” Debi is a retired nurse, horse breeder and long-time rescuer. Before Pilots N Paws, Debi was one of the founding members of Doberman Assistance Network, Inc, a national Doberman rescue group.
Pilots N Paws is a 501c3 charitable organization who through the help of general aviation volunteer pilots, transport rescue animals by air. The mission of Pilots N Paws is to provide a user-friendly website communication venue between those that rescue, shelter, and foster animals and pilots and plane owners, willing to assist with the transportation of these animals. It launched in February 2008 after Boies’ Doberman pinscher had died.
She wanted her next dog to be a rescue. One issue that came up was adopting a dog from afar. Among animal groups there are calls for transporting pets to new homes. These “road warriors,” as Boies calls them, man a route with volunteers donating time and wheels to get an animal home. Boies was familiar with these pet caravans, and with the troubles they face – whether it’s an antsy animal or if a car breaks down – when a pilot friend, Jon Wehrenberg, suggested flying the new dog home. “Pilots look for reasons to fly,” he told her, and as a result, Pilots N Paws was born.
And while Boies lives in South Carolina, her organization is national, with pilots from all over – donating time and resources for a good cause. “It’s almost as if they understand that this is their chance for life,” Boies says. Pilots N Paws continues to make a difference in the lives of innocent animals. We have flown thousands of rescue animals, military working dogs, service dogs, and dogs soldiers have adopted from war zones to safe havens provided by rescues and families.
Volunteer pilots have worked together and flown animals outside the U.S. We have also assisted with dogs who have been adopted by our soldiers overseas in Afghanistan after they fly to the U.S. on commercial airlines. We then pick up the final leg of the transport and fly them to the soldier’s home. This is extremely rewarding!! Honors and Awards: Broadway Barks Award/Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, The American Dog Magazines 1st Annual Humanitarian Award, The Augusta Humane Society’s Casie Ritchhart Memorial Award, Co-Founder Debi Boies listed as one of the “25 top Pet People of 2010” at petside.com and most recently the Humane Society Naples Animaltarian Award.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? ** A world where kindness abounds.
If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? I would choose to come back as a dog. I love my dogs, cats and Morgan horses, but I think that my personality is better portrayed by a dog then a cat! I would rather run after the ball then relax in a sunny window.
What is your pets most treasured possession? Each has their own treasured possession. Chelseabuggs, dobergirl, has her blankie. Brock doberboy who is our rescue dobe, loves his red rubber ball. Lilly our little Lhasa prefers the beating of my heart as she falls soundly asleep on my chest. Mac the cat loves food and the horses love green pastures above all!
Your proudest achievement so far? Without a doubt the formation of Pilots N Paws. Just witnessing the difference our 9,000 members make across the country every week in the lives of animals who are abandoned restores my faith in humanity. It has proven that if you give people a place to connect and a humanitarian purpose, they will rise to the challenge. It just takes one person to create positive change in the life of another.
Who are your heroes in real life? My best friend who is fighting Lou Gehrigs disease is my hero. She is brave, determined, strong willed, kindhearted and has an incredible faith. She is my "sister by choice" and someone who instills courage in me. I love her dearly, she inspires me.