Puppies earn their wings

There’s something special about the two newest dogs up for adoption at Ruff Start Animal Rescue.

Eliza Jane and Ava have wings.

Eliza Jane, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ava, a lab/golden retriever mix, flew into the Princeton Airport Sunday afternoon on a rescue mission designed to save their lives. In a whirlwind tour of the Midwest, the dogs went from Missouri to Illinois and then to Wisconsin, before touching down in Princeton early Sunday afternoon where Azure Davis and a crew from Ruff Start Rescue were on hand to take the duo to the shelter in hope of finding a new home.

Eliza Jane and Ava are abandoned animals. They come from a part of Missouri where there are more abandoned animals than there is room at the shelters, so the Missouri shelters become high-kill shelters, explained pilot Don Riser of Kenosha, Wis., who flew Eliza Jane and Ava to Princeton in his six-seat Cessna 205 airplane.

Riser, a volunteer pilot with the Pilots n Paws program, left Sikeston, Mo., Saturday with a plane loaded with 18 dogs.

“I pulled five of the six seats out so nine crates of dogs would fit in my plane,” Riser said.

On Saturday he first flew to Schaumburg, Ill., where he dropped off two dogs. Next it was home to Kenosha, where he dropped off six dogs at his home airport.

He took eight dogs home with him that night, including Eliza Jane and Ava.

“I played with them and walked them and had a good time,” Riser said.

But by noon Sunday the eight dogs were loaded back on Riser’s Cessna.

He flew to Princeton, where Eliza Jane and Ava were left with the Ruff Start Rescue crew. It was then off to the Crystal Airport where a momma and seven puppies were dropped off with shelter officials there.

Ava was dropped over the fence of a woman who runs a shelter in Missouri, said Ruff Start founder Azure Davis. Eliza Jane was at a high-kill shelter and was a stray. She was scheduled to be euthanized due to lack of space, Davis said.

But the dogs are now safe and sound in Princeton. Both Eliza Jane and Ava went straight to foster homes Sunday and are now available for adoption, Davis said.

Sunday was the second time in two years that Ruff Start has teamed up with Pilots n Paws to save an animal in need.

Two years ago Ruff Start saved Hope, a female pit bull who was sick with heartworm in a shelter in Ohio. Hope was placed into a foster home. The foster family fell in love with Hope and decided to adopt her.

As for Riser, he has now flown over 100 dogs for Pilots n Paws.

“I retired a couple of years ago. I’ve been a pilot for 30 some years and I like dogs. This organization seemed like a good fit,” he said.