Photo by Milton Morris at Greenville Downtown Airport
Home: Landrum farm she shares with two rescued horses and Jazzy, a Yorkie/Havanese rescue dog
Claim to fame: President and founder of Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with rescue animals to fly them to new homes; PNP’s story inspired Patrick Regan’s book Dog Is My Copilot
Animals flown by PNP: More than 100,000
Unusual rescues: A beagle that survived the gas chamber at a kill shelter; a bear cub burned in a California wildfire
Fun fact: Overcame her own fear of flying through PNP
Her beloved Brock, a 12-year-old Doberman, is gone, lost to heart disease last year. Debi Boies cherishes precious memories of this regal dog, scarred from a previous owner’s abuse, who learned to trust again after she adopted him.
What comforts her is knowing that, because of Brock, more than 100,000 rescue animals in the U.S. now have loving homes.
Even Boies is amazed that a simple plan to save a single dog mushroomed into a nationwide mission. Searching for a new pet to love after her Doberman Carly died in 2007, Boies discovered Brock in a Florida shelter, needing a good home. She appealed to friends around the Southeast for help transporting Brock to her farm in Landrum.
“Why don’t I just fly down and pick him up for you?” pilot friend Jon Wehrenberg of Knoxville offered.
His solution eliminated the stress Brock would endure from hours-long transport by car with frequent stops. Boies knew that thousands more shelter dogs routinely need transportation to faraway homes. Wehrenberg knew thousands of private pilots are always looking for a good excuse to fly. Together, they conceived their mission: Pilots N Paws.
“Our pilots are so passionate,” says Boies, shifting the spotlight to the nonprofit’s 5,000 volunteers who take to the skies with lucky animals, whisking them to roomier shelters or “forever homes” in other states.
PNP’s online forum matches animals needing relocation with pilots who can fly the route. Pilots shoulder flight costs, which are tax deductible; PNP provides safety equipment, pet supplies and backup assistance. About 80 S.C. pilots volunteer; more are needed.
“It’s our duty as humans to step in and make a difference for something that can’t speak for itself,” says Boies, a retired nurse and lifelong animal lover. “Why else are we here?”