REEDSVILLE - A plane from West Virginia carrying cargo of the four-legged variety made a special stop Wednesday afternoon at the Mifflin County Airport in Reedsville.
Just in time for Christmas, Ron Henderson of Pilots For Paws deposited eight black Labrador Retriever puppies, a female Beagle and her seven puppies, a pregnant Rat Terrier and an orphaned Australian Cattle puppy into the waiting arms of local residents who plan to foster the dogs until good homes can be found.
Chris Sellers, of Willing Hearts Dalmatian Rescue and owner of Old Park Grooming and Kennels in Lewistown, will be taking charge of the dogs with the exception of the pregnant Rat Terrier, who will be fostered by Donna and Roger Wagner of Lewistown.
Puppies get comfortable in a large cage after being flown in on Wednesday afternoon at the Mifflin County Airport in Reedsville.
The Pilots For Paws group specializes in rescuing dogs from animal shelters where they would likely be euthanized due to limited space and delivering the dogs to other shelters or organizations that can foster them until homes can be found.
Sellers said the puppies were originally supposed to be flown into Mifflin County on Dec. 19 but a heavy snowstorm prevented the scheduled pilot from making the trip. Sellers added that she was informed by the organization that no more flights would be completed until after Christmas. Sellers was both surprised and pleased when she found out Henderson was willing to make the trip on Wednesday, she said.
Henderson has only been with the Pilot For Paws group for about a year but has already made between 10 and 12 trips to rescue dogs from overcrowded animal shelters. Henderson said his longest trip took him six hours and with this most recent trip to Mifflin County, he has transported around 40 dogs.
The puppies and dogs brought to Mifflin County on Wednesday came from Mason County, W.Va., where Sellers has made three trips by car to pick up numerous puppies as well. Sellers said Wednesday's drop off was the first time she had worked with the Pilot For Paws program, but over the years through her work with the Willing Hearts group, she has managed to adopt nine Dalmatian dogs herself.
"I joined the Willing Hearts because of the Dalmatians," Sellers said of her love for Dalmatian dogs. "But how can we turn our back on these puppies?"
Sellers said the organization has expanded and no longer only rescues Dalmatians but will foster dogs of any breed.
The Wagners also have several pets of their own and will be fostering the pregnant Rat Terrier until after she delivers and the puppies are weaned and ready for adoption.
"We love the puppies," Donna Wagner said. "It just breaks our hearts that some people are so mean to them."
Sellers said the adoption process utilized by the Willing Hearts group can take awhile since the organization is cautious when choosing the right homes for rescued dogs.
"To turn those puppies over to a family is so rewarding," Sellers said. "Because otherwise they don't have a chance."
For more information on the adoption process and to view pictures of puppies awaiting adoption, visit the organization's Web site at www.dogsaver.org/willinghearts, and for more information on the Pilots For Paws organization visit its Web site at www.pilotsnpaws.org. Both organizations are nonprofit and subsist on donations and volunteers.