To save the lives of animals in danger while enriching the lives of people. It’s our mission statement, it’s what drives each of us at PAART. Every flight, every road trip, every late night call forces us to ask one question, what if we don’t help? What chain of events will transpire if we don’t help that one animal. People ask us what motivates you to go out and try and save an animal? The answer is that our assistance will ultimately help the men and women whose lives are changed by an animal who could have just been put down. Once in a while a mission comes along that solidifies our deep belief in the power of giving a second chance.
Animals are often found in the gravest of conditions when they enter a shelter. Durango was found living alone under a bridge. Cut off from human contact, he lived a lonely life of solitude. Buffy spent her whole life tied to a chain, never knowing the instinctual joy of roaming around, tongue waving, tail wagging, galloping with the wind blowing her ears back. She was trapped in a 6 foot diameter with no one willing to release her. Durango and Buffy, along with Peyton and River, would not have made it in a shelter. They were too far gone, too broken to be adopted.
Instead of giving up on them they were given a unique opportunity to take part in a special program with the Morgan County Animal Shelter and the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex. The dogs would be paired with an inmate, live inside with them in their jail cells, and slowly be trained to re-enter society. Along the way, something incredible happens to the inmate. They too start the healing process. They learn to care for something. They learn to love something. They learn to change. Inmates who participate in the program have a lower recidivism rate than other prisoners. Instead of warehousing criminals and then sending them back out, these prisoners are rehabilitated. Watching hardened men in orange jumpsuits cry when they say goodbye to their companions when they are finally ready to leave is powerful. It reminds us that without giving Durango, Buffy, Peyton, and River a second chance these boys, who are trying to become men, could have been lost to an endless stream of incarceration.
PAART Pilots Jonathan Plesset and Brian Moody would be link that connects two powerful stories. Brian is an active duty KC-135 Pilot with the Air National Guard. When he learned about the details of this incredible story he knew in his heart that he had to help. All four dogs would be flying to Pals4Pets in New York where they would be given to a Military Veternan free of charge. Buffy was adopted by Steven and his wife. He was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam. Durango would be taken home by Anthony, an Afghanistan War veternan who was suffering from PTSD. Durango would go on to become a service animal for Anthony. Peyton was adopted by Erinn, and 85 year old WW2 Nurse. River’s adoption is pending.
What if none of this had happened? What if these four dogs had just been put down? How easy would it have been to just determine that they were unfit for adoption? This story reminds us of the power of a second chance. Each step along this path has reinforced in our hearts that all lives matter. The dogs, the Military Veterans who need these positive forces in their lives, and even the prisoners whose debt to society is being paid in the good their actions brought others. Helping animals is about helping mankind. There is no better example for us than in this story. Thank you to all of the people involved in making this special mission happen. Kathy Sexton from Morgan County Animal Shelter, Laurie Norson from Pals4Pets, Jonathan Plesset, Brian Moody, Mary Kennedy Withrow, and Brittany Lewkowicz from PAART, and the inmates and handlers from the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex.