A new leash on life

How over 50 at-risk pets were flown to safety and forever homes

5 minute read

A new leash on life

The morning of May 24, 2021 started earlier than usual for Sunny and fifty of his furry friends who had been collected from shelters in Texas where they were at risk. Life hadn’t been easy so far for these pups and today started out no differently. Uncertainty unfolded as they were put into small crates and into transport vehicles. Expecting to go to another crowded shelter, there was surprise, no doubt when they arrived on a tarmac and unloaded next to a plane.

The dogs wait patiently


People, cameras, new sounds and smells. It was all quite a bit to take in and then the crates were moved again, piled on top of one another into the “Big Dog.” That’s the nickname of the retro-fitted Cessna plane that would be flying these lucky dogs to their new forever homes.

Pilot Peter Rork prepares


The barking and whimpering stopped when the engines started and from the moment the dogs took flight, there was peace. Sunny didn’t know it then but as Peter Rork from the rescue organization Dog is My CoPilot put it, on this day, these dogs just won the golden ticket, they’re on their way to freedom. No more shelters and doubt, all of these dogs were being saved today by Fierce Love®. It’s the kind of love that will go to the ends of the Earth for you. The kind that will never give up. The kind that always offers hope and hugs.

Dog is My CoPilot is a life-saving non-profit that transports at-risk animals from overcrowded shelters to adoption centers in other geographic regions where loving families are waiting to give them a new home. Dr. Peter Rork is the co-founder and chief pilot who started the organization after his wife died in 2012. His friends encouraged him to find continued purpose in life and lead with his loving heart. He teamed up with Judy Zimet, a fellow animal lover with one goal: Save as many pets as possible with the resources they had.

One resource was Peter’s plane, He had been flying since he was 12 and a pilot since he was 16. It was just a hobby until he and Judy realized it could be put to use for greater good. They began partnering with wonderful rescue organizations like The Underground Dog and One Tail At A Time Dog Rescue as well as animal services like El Paso Animal Services. Together they move pets from overcrowded shelters in states like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California to nearby states with adoptive families waiting with loving arms.

Rescue Flight Routes

Peter Rork shares how the work with Dog Is My CoPilot helped him move through his grieving and find happiness again: “People say you’re out there saving dogs and I’m thinking, you’re forgetting about the part where they saved me because that was really important.”

The May 26th flight was made possible by you, our Wonder Pack! Your purchases of our special-edition holiday sampler boxes allowed us to fund the first rescue flight from Texas in 2021 and together with Dog is My CoPilot and the partner organizations we helped these fifty furry friends avoid euthenasia and find a new, better life.

Wondercide Dog Is My Copilot Sample Box

Fierce Love® goes out to all of you, Peter Rork and Kara Pollard from Dog is My CoPilot, Heather Hall with The Underground Dog, Julie Zagrans from One Tail at a Time PDX, the team at El Paso Animal Services, photographer/videographer Chris Lammert, the team at Cara Caulkins Communications, and to all the families who stepped up for these pups.


Sunny’s journey to freedom actually started days before the rescue flight. El Paso Animal Services worked hard to help find him a new home. 

Sunny gets rescued


Here he does a video call with Claire in Portland who can’t wait to meet him.

Sunny making a video


After the rescue flight and the day’s journey, Sunny and Peter got some cuddles in on the tarmac.


And soon after, Sunny sported stylish Wondercide® swag before he went home with his new mom.

Sunny sporting his Wondercide swagCREDIT: CHRIS LAMMERT


We were honored to be part of the day, filming the wonderful life-saving moments, hearing from the partners and families, and even helping to transport the pups. Our Creative Director, Chris Merriam, shared a few of his thoughts: 


“When I arrived at Troutdale Airport outside Portland, Oregon my focus was solely on the checklist.. Camera settings. Check. Are we on schedule? Check. There was a chance of rain that day but you wouldn’t have known by the piercing blue sky mottled with clouds. You could see white capped Mt. Hood peeking over the treetops in the direction of our anticipated flight. I watched the plane land through the screen on my phone as I recorded. The faint chirp of the wheels making contact with earth made me sigh with relief and smile. The dogs have made it home!


In less than a minute of the plane coming to a stop, volunteers raced toward the plane in what felt like a well choreographed production. Doors up, dogs out. It was happening fast. After a few minutes of documenting the action I knew I had the shots I needed. I set my camera down and jumped in to help. A news camera person put their camera down to help too. The height of the plane put the dogs at eye level so you could make eye contact with them as we unloaded. I kept saying “Welcome home little buddy” to each one as we unloaded.

Once all the dogs were out, they were united with their new families just on the other side of the fence. One by one, names were called out and the hand-off was made. The emotion I felt watching these pups come off that plane then jumping into the backseat of a car destined to a new home was a feeling I will never forget.”

 The dogs deplaneCREDIT: CHRIS LAMMERT

Sunny and Claire will never forget it either because it was the day their new life together started. One Tail at a Time posted this sweet update on Facebook:

 One Tail at a Time

Oh, and check out a couple of Sunny’s friends who made the journey with him and are now enjoying their days in bliss.

This is Showtime, an adorable pup who stole the show with many of the volunteers. 



And this is Bubbles. As People.com reported, “Bubbles is one of the dozens of dogs who went from the euthanasia list to a loving home thanks to this rescue flight. The rescue dog was found at a Texas car wash with her jaw detached. She has gone through several surgeries to help with her injuries and maybe needs a few cosmetic procedures in the future. Luckily, those potential operations are now her biggest problem since she is now living in a devoted Oregon foster home committed to her full recovery.” You’ve come a long way, Bubbles, and we love you.


Bubbles on the tarmacCREDIT: CHRIS LAMMERT


Good things go on.

Our partnership with Dog Is My Copilot will continue. We’re working out the details and will announce how we can make an even bigger impact soon. Our founder and CEO shares, “We love the idea of gifts that give back and will continue to look for ways to give our customers the opportunity to help us do good.”

Thank you, Wonder Pack!

See some of the coverage of this life-changing day:


A Plus

Fox 7 Austin

Insider share: A behind the scenes look at Peter prepping the plane with Wondercide Flea & Tick for Pets + Home. We’re always on hand to keep the Pack protected.

Peter prepares the plane