On July 1, 2021, I boarded a plane to participate in Operation Big Lift: El Paso.
Just a few days earlier, Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) had been contacted by Bissell Pet Foundation to see if we could help coordinate a transfer into Madison from El Paso Animal Services (EPAS). EPAS had over 800 cats and dogs in their care, often with up to four dogs sharing each kennel, and needed help from a large effort to get down to a manageable number. Of course, we wanted to help if we could! Bissell Pet Foundation would fund a cargo plane to Dane County, in addition to funding planes to California and New Jersey, and we needed to send a human escort for the flight. I eagerly volunteered! Other DCHS team members reached out to fellow rescue organizations to take animals from the flight and to coordinate with the EPAS team on the ground in the days leading up to the transport. Because of donations from supporters like you, DCHS can respond yes to these urgent requests.
It was just a four-hour flight from El Paso to Madison. If this had been a ground transport instead, it would have been over 20 hours of driving time plus breaks and an overnight stop. It would have also required a very large trailer! This was much quicker and easier on the animals. During the flight, I reviewed the paperwork for the animals on the transport. Some had been there for months or even years. One dog had both its front legs amputated and he walked on his back legs. Others came in with infections and wounds. Some had spent more than half their life at the shelter. It was heartwarming to know they’d be getting a second chance once we landed.
Once all the animals were off, the dogs continuing on past Madison had a quick walk and were put into new, clean kennels and loaded into the waiting vehicles for each organization. The dogs making the short trip to DCHS stayed in their kennels and were walked by staff and volunteers upon arrival at our campus. After their potty breaks, all the dogs were examined by our waiting veterinary team to make sure they had made the trip okay and to check for other medical needs. We tested all the adult dogs for parvo and distemper antibodies to make sure they had sufficient immunity, as those diseases are more prevalent in the south. We sent the two puppies on the plane to foster for two weeks as a precaution. After their vet exams, each dog was led into their own individual kennel with a comfortable bed, toys, water, and food. After sharing a kennel and just one bed with multiple dogs, the dogs seemed very happy in their new spacious accommodations!
Over the next couple days, our veterinary team continued to monitor the new arrivals and did further work-ups that were necessary, such as sedated x-rays for a dog that was noted to be limping. The DCHS canine behavior team also began their assessment of each individual dog, as we didn’t have any information passed along from EPAS. Those dogs that had quickly settled in and were cleared medically were put up for adoption in just a couple days! Other dogs needed more time to decompress and settle in before we could make them available for adoption. Most of these animals went home with their new families by the following weekend!
Supporters like you make it possible for us to say yes to helping other rescue organizations in need. Your generosity truly saves the lives of animals like those transported from El Paso to Madison and helps them find new, loving homes in our community. Please continue your life-changing support with a gift today.