Jeannette family's new pet delivered by plane

| Friday, March 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Jan Mikan and her family waited eagerly on the tarmac in front of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport as Bud Newhouse's RV-8 propeller plane touched down and taxied to a stop.

Her 6-year-old grandson, Andrew, battled the whipping winds to proudly hold up a piece of posterboard emblazoned with “Welcome Tin Tin” and expressions of thanks to the charities that made the day possible.

Newhouse, with Tin Tin in a travel crate behind him in his two-seat, single-engine plane, flew about four hours from Shelbyville, Tenn., on Saturday to deliver the 3-year-old beagle to his new family in Jeannette.

“It feels good to do it,” said Newhouse, a pilot from Cincinnati who has been volunteering with Pilots N Paws for about a year. “You can always fly, but this gives you a purpose for it.”

The Lancaster-based charity Raising Aid for Dogs At Risk (Radar) alerted The Rescue Express near Philadelphia to Tin Tin's story — he was picked up as a stray in rural Tennessee and placed in a high-kill shelter — and helped fund Tin Tin's veterinary care and boarding until he was adopted and moved.

The Mikans applied to The Rescue Express to adopt Tin Tin, unaware he was still in Tennessee.

“I assumed when I applied to adopt him that he may have (already) been in the Philadelphia area,” Mikan said. “I had no idea where he was.”

Newhouse responded almost immediately to a thread posted on the Pilots N Paws message board by volunteer transport coordinator Doris Godwin, known to Pilots N Paws members as “Doris_in_Georgia,” seeking help to get Tin Tin to the Mikans.

“I was really lucky that Bud Newhouse stepped up right away,” Godwin said. A second pilot was scheduled to meet Newhouse in West Virginia and fly the second half of Tin Tin's trip, but bad weather changed those plans. “Bud, instead of just flying from Tennessee to West Virginia, he agreed to fly around the mountains and did the whole trip himself. I totally lucked out.”

Pilots N Paws started in 2008 when Debi Boies enlisted the help of friend and pilot Jon Wehrenberg to move a rescued Doberman from Florida to her home in South Carolina. Since then, the charity has grown to a network of more than 4,000 pilots, Boies said, and has moved more than 40,000 animals, including dogs, cats, reptiles, rabbits and even birds of prey.

Vee Neal Aviation has worked with Pilots N Paws for more than a decade, line service manager Don Armitage said.

“We just provide an area for them to stop and we also provide them with fuel and restrooms and stuff like that,” he said. “We give them discounts on fuel. If they would happen to need maintenance or hangar space, we cut them breaks on that stuff, too, so it can be more affordable for them to help people.”

The company offers the same hospitality to Angel Flight, a charitable organization that connects pilots with individuals needing long-distance transportation for medical needs.

“We enjoy doing that kind of stuff,” Armitage said. “It's just always been a part of what we do. It's nice to see people getting the help they need and animals getting the help they need.”

Tin Tin is still adjusting to his home and remains shy and timid, Mikan said, but he'll have a chance to become part of the family thanks to the groups and individuals who collaborated to get him home.

“It's quite a network of really great people,” Mikan said. “They're all volunteers and they put a lot of time and energy and their own resources into it. ... Some of these groups are amazing the way they network.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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