When Peter Rork was 12, he started flying lessons hoping to carve out a career in aviation. However, he ended up becoming a doctor despite getting his pilot’s license at 16. His love for flying never faded; hence he still holds on to the pilot’s watch gifted to him by his mother on his 13th birthday. It took an unfortunate incident for Peter to live his dream finally, and now the former doctor flies thousands of dogs around the country to save them. It may not be the career he had in mind as a child, but the gratification he gets from it is worth it. Read on to find out how Peter is giving dogs a second chance at life.
Becoming Part of the Solution
Peter has loved dogs since he was a young boy; therefore, when he learned that they were put down because shelters had so many than they could handle, he decided to become part of the solution and not the problem. His wife, Meg, had passed away, and he sank into depression, wondering what to do with his life. A friend told him Meg would want to see him happy, and it occurred to him that there was something he could do that involved his love for the canines.
The start of his dog rescue operation was very inefficient because he would fly about six dogs for 6 hours in his plane. He realized that he could end up going broke, saving the few animals, but since what mattered was making a difference in their lives, it would be much better to transport more and cut costs. His prayers were answered when he met Sharon Lohman, who worked at a Merced shelter where the kill rate was 94% because the adoption rate was only 6%. She had founded New Beginnings, a rescue group, and when she heard that Peter was a part-time pilot, she asked him to transport dogs from Idaho Falls to Colorado. Before Peter got involved, the animals were usually loaded a Ford Econoline and driven for up to 18 hours non-stop; thus, Peter stepped in and offered to do the long-distance transport.
He continued making the trips for one year for New Beginnings. When word got around, other organizations sought his help in saving cats and dogs at risk of being euthanized. He would transport 20-30 animals to safety. With his wife gone and nothing else to occupy his time since he had already retired, Peter dedicated his entire time in saving the animals. According to Dog Pilot, he partnered with Judy Zimet to start an organization, Dog is My Co-Pilot (DIMC). With time the animals to be transported increased to 150; hence they had to upgrade from the Cessna 206H to Cessna 208B. They retrofitted it such that it can carry up to 251 animals in crates regardless of their sizes, with heavy animals being placed in the front for balance.
It Has Not Been a Solo Effort
According to Buckrail, Peter Rork donates 100% of his time to the rescue mission by flying twice a week, from April through October. DIMC offers transport to shelters at no cost, yet each flight costs around $4000 on fuel; therefore, when Peter said one could go broke doing it, he meant it. Still, the organization is run as a nonprofit, meaning that he can only depend on grants and donations. Unfortunately, most of the grant money available usually helps run animal shelters, not transport the animals, and Peter understands because shelters have to care for the animals for a much longer time, unlike transporting that only takes hours.
As a result, he encourages the community to become part of the solution by volunteering, adopting, fostering, and donating. Since he also could use a little help, he accepts donations on the DIMC website. Most of the contributions range between $5 and $10, and for it to reach a substantial amount to facilitate the transport of animals, it takes a lot of people to donate. Peter does not take it for granted, and he, therefore, sends each person a handwritten “thank you” note.
He Has a Failed Transport Incident
Peter Rork’s job is to provide transport to the animals at risk of being euthanized, but he also decided to adopt one dog during one of his trips. As he told Kiringie.Me, he got attached to a dog named Tortilla, whom he later renamed Tia. At the time of adoption, she was seven years old and the 4000th dog to be transported. When he first met the canine, Peter had lost his dog, Doyle, to cancer, and since she was the last remaining connection to his late wife-Doyle was her service animal- the former doctor wanted to take Tia home. However, Tia had already been claimed by Salt Lake City, but Peter could not ignore the attachment he felt after Tia went and curled up at his feet. He describes her as the ideal co-pilot and refers to the adoption as a “failed transport.” Tia settled in Peter’s home as if she had known him all her life and gets along with Wendell, Peter’s other rescue dog.
Challenges He Faces
Every job has its share of challenges, and Peter blames the bile in people for causing trouble for him. He gets several accusations in a year when someone calls the Board of Veterinary Medicine in Montana, accusing Peter’s organization of carrying out illegal operations. At first, it was a bother, but now Peter calls it “old news,” having gotten used to the allegations. Still, he does not understand why such people make false claims against DIMC, yet all he wants to do is help and ensure the animals are safe.
Additionally, weather can be problematic; flying is difficult during winter due to ice, whereas there are thunderstorms during summer afternoons. Therefore, he has to make sure that he is on the ground before 4 pm during the summer. Also, since they have to transport many animals with different destinations, Peter has to make a few stops along the way. The 30 minutes he spends on the ground during those stops are a challenge to the pilot because he gets to deal with different personalities before returning to his flight. Some people will sign up for adoption, but back out later, others do not keep time, and some do not bother with keeping their paperwork in order.