Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal

Pip, We Have Great Expectations

This is the story of Pip, the Border Collie.  Like Dickens’s Pip, this Pip came from humble beginnings and then apparently had a setback of sorts.

Barrett and Pip in Quincy, Florida

Don Bennett, son Barrett and Pip next to Don's Piper Cherokee Arrow

Pip in flight, 7,500 feet over central Florida.

Pip arriving at Vero Beach, Florida

Pip greeting Mary from Starfish Border Collie Rescue

I don’t know how Pip ended up in a rescue shelter in Birmingham, Alabama, and it’s not germane.  Upon arrival though, he tested positive for heartworm and was so emaciated and malnourished that he can hardly get around by himself. Pip deserves better.

Saturday, Pip traveled from Birmingham to Vero Beach, FL, where he was delivered to a Border Collie rescue center.  I was a part of his trip.  I am a volunteer pilot in the Pilots ‘n Paws organization that coordinates these airborne rescues.  But it’s so much more than just the flying part.  Here are some of the players.

Carolyn volunteered to pick Pip up at the shelter when they opened at 9 a.m. sharp (Central Time).  Phil, the shelter operator, was there to get Pip ready for transport and prepare his paperwork.  Carolyn was out the door at 9:05 headed for the airport to meet the first leg’s pilot, Don, and his son Barrett.  On the way, Pip had a pretty major accident in Carolyn’s new car, so that should have been the first clue that something was not quite right with him.  Carolyn found a hose at the airport and she and Don were able to get Pip cleaned up for the flight.  I had communicated with Don via e-mail and we had decided on Quincy, FL as a suitable location for the handoff.  His flight time was 1:45 and mine 1:44, so I just needed to know approximately when Don was departing to get going myself.  Coordinating all of this was Nancy who was the originator of this rescue.  What a great help she was (that and the ‘Reply to All’ button on e-mail!) getting this all put together.  There is so much more going on behind the scenes of one of these rescues than you realize.

I called Don’s cell as I was sitting on the ramp with the engine running, and he said he was just about ready to go “wheels up.”  So I taxied out and took off from Vero enroute to Quincy.  It was one of those drop-dead gorgeous days to fly, not a cloud in the sky and light winds.  By the time I got to Quincy, I could hear Don on the radio reporting 4 miles out, so as it worked out, I dropped in right behind him in the traffic pattern and we landed almost in tandem at 1 p.m. straight up.

I met Don and his son Barrett at the fuel pump.  Pip looked pretty good, but you could tell he was a little weak.  When I went over to pet him I was shocked that I could feel his spinal column almost as if it were a skeleton.  His coat was hiding that bag of bones that he had become.  I thought he looked dehydrated so I offered him some water but he refused it.  However, Barrett told me a little later that he was able to get Pip to take a drink.  Pip seemed to be aware that we were trying to help him—his tail was between his legs but he would faintly wag it when petted.

Anyway, I loaded him up in the seat next to me and we were on our way back to Vero after about 20 minutes on the ground at Quincy.  Pip promptly curled up and went to sleep next to me and would only stir occasionally as if to ask, “Are we there yet?”  We landed at Vero about 3:15 p.m., so by this time Pip had had a long day!

Mary, the operator of Starfish Border Collie Rescue, was there to meet Pip.  I highly recommend that you visit her web site and just peruse the Happy Tails section to get an idea of the great work she’s doing.  If you can, please send her a contribution.  Her organization is a non-profit.

So I get the report this morning as I write this that Pip has had a very serious setback and that Mary had to take him to the vet over the weekend where he is currently receiving a blood transfusion and intravenous fluids for dehydration.  He is also on an antibiotic regimen for some kind of bug on top of everything else.  Pip weighed in at 25 pounds—down from 40!  I know the whole rescue team that bonded with Pip over the weekend is monitoring his condition.  Pip, we have great expectations for you, lad.  Be well!

[Update on 10-14-2010: Pip is now home from the vet having survived his crisis over the weekend. He is by no means out of the woods, and will have other issues to deal with (as he has been diagnosed as pretty severely anemic), and there are yet possibly undiscovered ailments pending the results of his blood work. But he is back at BCR, his digestive ailments under control, and apparently acting somewhat more like a normal Border Collie. His appetite has returned but he has to go slow with his intake for now. Best news, though, is that he’s hungry and happy.]