Dr. Tim Moreland can tell you a lot about a dog's life and he can certainly tell you about how dogs have figured into his.
In addition to the dogs he's owned, he's met quite a few while helping to rescue and save their lives.
Moreland, whose day job is working as professor of Communication Arts at Catawba College, works tirelessly on his off time as one of the volunteer pilots in the Pilots N Paws organization. For him, it's a great way to combine two loves – his love of dogs and his love of flying. His trusty co-pilot is Chester, a seven-year old blue merle Australian Shepherd whom Moreland adopted through connections he made in Pilots N Paws.
"I took my first trip for Pilots N Paws in early 2009. Sometimes you do legs and sometimes, the whole thing," Moreland explained about his rescue missions in his '78 Piper Archer, a single engine, four-seater. "Once you sign up, you tell them where you are located and they look at the pilots in an area, put a notice on the Pilots N Paws website, or send you an e-mail. I look at those notices and see when the rescue needs to occur and if I can get it done.
"I've flown 70 dogs. Most of them have come out of county dog pounds. Usually once you throw the throttle forward, it's like a sleeping pill to them, the engine just puts them to sleep. Then when I cut it back after we land, they usually come to life and wonder where they are."
Since Moreland adopted Chester and flew him home to Salisbury three years ago, Chester has accompanied him on all of his rescue flights. "He flies in the co-pilot seat with me and he stays awake and keeps an eye on the dogs in the back. When we land, he jumps right out and we unload the dogs and he oversees that.
"He's been in love with that airplane since day 1," Moreland continued, bragging about Chester. "He knows which hanger it's in, knows the plane. He loves flying more than life itself. When I get the flight bag out at home, the jumping around, the dancing begins. He's all fired up and ready to go. They say dogs don't remember very long, but if I tell him the night before that we're going to go flying the next morning, I can't get two feet away from him. He loves the airport. If he couldn't be with us, he'd like to be an airport dog."
And although Chester has a special place in Moreland's heart, Moreland says that Chester shares some very important attributes with all of the other dogs he has flown in his rescue missions. "It's as if they know they're getting a second chance and they work every day of their life to be good.
"They're great creatures. They're everything I guess we want people to be — sweet, loyal and they're smart! They give you everything. You give them some time and they give you their lives."
He hopes that news of his and Chester's association with Pilots N Paws will get more people involved in dog rescue, but he also shared that in a way Chester may have rescued him.
;Moreland recalled having a lump in his neck that Chester had "an inordinate interest in." It turned out to be cancer.
"Chester became very interested – he wanted to lick and smell it – and I remembered a story I'd read about dogs having the ability to smell cancer. Turns out he was right."
Moreland has since had radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Now he is on the mend, but he remembers his loyal Chester and how "when I was sick, he was never more than two feet from me."
An accomplished, professional sports and radio broadcaster long before he joined the faculty at Catawba in 1994, Moreland's roots are in the Midwest. His first flying lesson was when he was 16, but he didn't earn his pilot's license until he was 31 years old. He began flying so he could fly himself to call Nebraska basketball games and then back into Lincoln, Nebraska in time to host his morning radio show at a flagship station there. Piloting himself between these jobs got him flying again and made him productive, he said.
Today, Moreland, an instrument rated pilot, and Chester are productive flying rescue missions and they hope others will follow their lead, even if they're not pilots or co-pilots. "I want people to be aware that programs like Pilots N Paws exist and whether you're a pilot or not, you can be part of a dog rescue – you can be a foster parent or involved in some way. There's a breed rescue for everyone."
For more information about Pilots N Paws, visit www.pilotsnpaws.org.