How far would you go to help someone else? Network engineer and Army veteran Paul Steklenski would go far — in fact, thousands of miles — to help any human or animal in need. It helps that he purchased an airplane to do exactly that in recent years.
In spring of 2013, Steklenski decided to take up flying. While training to obtain his license, he also decided to adopt a dog into his family. At the time, the two objectives seemed completely unrelated. However, the more he searched for the “purrrfect” pup, he learned the difference between pet stores and animal shelters.
In August of 2013, the pilot ended up adopting a dog named Tessa. Steklenski told The Dodo: “And it just changed me. It changed everything about me.” At the same time, he completed his flight training and received his license. Not one to take trips without a purpose, he contemplated what he could do with his newly-obtained credentials. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do with it?’ A lot of guys just fly around and go to restaurants and do stuff like that. I can’t do that. I have to have a reason to put a plane in the air,” said Steklenski.
Before long, he began doing missions for Pilots N Paws, a group that coordinates volunteer pilots with animal rescue organizations that require aid transporting animals. He made trips on allotted vacation days and helped many. However, Steklenski couldn’t help but feel that he could save more animals if he started making the connections on his own. So, in 2015, the pilot founded Flying Fur Animal Rescue.
For the most part, he rented planes and made frequent trips from Pennsylvania (where he lives) to North Carolina, then back up to the New York area. Not only was this expensive, it was time-consuming. Eventually, he purchased his own plane — with the help of other animal lovers — so he could really help save as many lives as possible. “It’s the only reason I fly,” he said.
When asked how he manages the project, Steklenski said: “The answer is: It has cost me a small fortune. I’ve spent about $25,000 in the last two years. But I do it because it’s very rewarding.”
The activist lives for the moments he gets to rescue dogs who would otherwise be euthanized.. Giving a ride to a 14-year-old dog named Emma, for instance, was particularly memorable. The canine had been neglected her entire life but was given a new lease on life when Steklenski picked her up.
Remembering the ride, Steklenski said. “This wave of emotion came over me. I have this 14-year-old dog next to me who wasn’t gonna make it, and now she gets to see all of New York City … She’s had no medical care, no proper attention her whole life and now she’s sitting in an airplane. It’s just incredible.”
As soon as Emma was off the plane, she was rushed to the vet — the first she had ever visited in her long life. She suffered from yeast and bacterial infections on her skin and tested positive for heartworm. Additionally, her teeth were rotting out of her mouth. Said Nicole Bruck, founder of Animals R Family: “She suffered like this for years. All these conditions could have been avoided with basic vet care.”
At least now, she is finally getting the chance she deserves to live a good life. And, Steklenski played a big part in making that possible. “Paul provides that vital, lifesaving link of getting the dogs from rural North Carolina to Westchester, New York, for us,” Bruck said. “Without his services, it would be difficult for us to rescue dogs from that area.”
“Sometimes I can’t even talk about it because I get so emotional,” Steklenski said. “And what I do is not even a drop in the bucket, we’re just trying to keep them from being killed. It all starts with education.”
I am Luke Miller, content manager at Truth Theory and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here