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Farewell to an Old Friend and the Inspiration for Cloud Nine

cloudninerescueflights : September 8, 2013 4:14 pm : Uncategorized

It’s no surprise to anyone that the Cloud Nine family has dogs of our own. About two weeks ago, we had to say our goodbyes to Duke, our rottie mix.

Almost 7 years ago, having always been an animal lover but never having had a dog, I walked into the local SPCA in my home of Williamsport, PA with no intention of adopting one. I was actually there with a friend who was looking to adopt a rabbit. “Well, might as well look at the dogs while I’m here…”

There he was, this big and beautiful rottie mix. He was different than the others; he spoke to me. He was clearly energetic, yet attentive and oh so eager to please. Duke was only a year old, but had been in the shelter for 6 months after being surrendered by his human. They didn’t give a reason why he was surrendered, but my guess was that his first human didn’t expect the energy this wonderful dog had. After interacting with him for a bit, I walked out of there with this 75 lb dog (who quickly grew to over 100 lbs once eating a regular diet) and not a clue what to do with him. I had never had a dog before, and had minimal interaction with them growing up, so I was thoroughly unprepared and unequipped.

Duke was a perfect first dog for me. Being so happy and eager to please, he taught me how to teach him what to do. He was always loving and attentive. I remember when I first brought him home, he had definite separation anxiety issues. He seemed afraid that I would leave and never come back – I’m sure spending half his life in the shelter left him uncertain about humans who would temporarily come and go in his life. Millions of dogs in shelters have this same feeling, but never get to know the joy of a loving home.

It was Duke who ultimately was responsible for my getting into animal rescue and founding Cloud Nine. After adopting him, I started volunteering at the same SPCA where I adopted him. Then I learned about how bad the animal overpopulation epidemic in this country is, the role that transport plays in eliminating that epidemic, and wanted to make a difference in a big way. Duke patiently spent many weekends with dog sitters while I was off around the continent rescuing homeless pets. To date, almost 2,000 homeless pets have been saved by Cloud Nine thanks to Duke’s inspiration.

If any dog is a model for rescue dogs, it’s Duke. He was a dog who was loved by virtually all, and was regarded as a great judge of character – if he didn’t like you, there was a good reason for it. There were very few people who he didn’t like, though. He loved virtually all, and his tail was wagging constantly. Our dogs will always be rescues, and Duke is a big part of why. We will never forget Duke, and we miss him. Terribly so.

If Duke would have had a last wish, it would have been for affection, treats, and to save others homeless dogs. It was always obvious to me that he knew where he came from, and how great of a life he had. All dogs deserve a loving home, and it is with that mission that Cloud Nine continues to fly to save homeless pets around the continent. We will continue to fly in Duke’s memory, saving homeless pets so that they may have the sort of wonderful life that Duke had, and so that others may know the love that I have known from my dog.

Blue Skies,


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Cloud Nine Answers Your Questions: Can a Ghost Dog Save a Real Dog?

cloudninerescueflights : October 2, 2012 9:07 pm : Uncategorized

In addition to providing you with status updates on our fundraising, we’ve decided to also answer your pet-related questions weekly. The intent is for it to keep focused on hypothetical pet-related questions, but all questions will be considered. If this is popular and our fans want us to keep this going, we will continue to do so after the fundraiser. We’ll be more encouraged to do so if this helps us raise money, so keep those donations coming in! To ask a question, simply visit our website by clicking our logo in the header or footer of this email and contact us, or reply to this email. Questions don’t need donations with them to be answered, but it certainly would be appreciated!

We start off with a ‘What If?’ question that a coworker’s daughter asked me earlier this week: Can a ghost dog save a real dog?

Children come up with great questions.

First, we must answer the question of whether or not ghost dogs exist. Traditionally, we don’t hear about ghost dogs, just ghost humans. These lost souls are forced to wander the earth aimlessly in purgatory, as they were neither sent to Heaven nor Hell. This is how we end up with ghost humans haunting places like graveyards and the DMV.

Dogs don’t fall into this category. All dogs go to heaven, as all dogs are good, exempting them from purgatory. There are no bad dogs, only bad humans. Therefore, there are no ghost dogs.

What about an angel dog, that has gone to Heaven and chooses to return to Earth to help living dogs?
Yes, Virginia, there are angel dogs, and they do come back to Earth to help the living dogs.

We rarely see the documentation of this (this would be intentional, as angel dogs don’t wish to be seen or heard), but we do have evidence of it. You may recall that several years ago, a dog pulled another dog off a busy highway in Chile, after he had been hit by a car, ultimately saving his life:

This hero dog disappeared after saving his fellow canine, and was never seen nor heard from following this event. Truly an angel dog in disguise.

So what is your ‘What If?’ question that we can answer next week?

Blue Skies,

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My Personal Donation to Cloud Nine

cloudninerescueflights : October 2, 2012 9:06 pm : Uncategorized

Last week, I wrote about where Cloud Nine’s funding comes from, and made the point that, despite what some people have believed over the years, I do not simply pay for all of this out of my own pocket, nor am I able to. With Cloud Nine’s annual operating budget being over $100,000 per year, there are few individuals who could afford to do this on their own. Your donations are what make it possible for Cloud Nine to keep performing its mission of saving homeless pets around the country.

That said, I am not only Cloud Nine’s Founder, President, and Chief Pilot, but I am also a donor to Cloud Nine, and have been since the beginning. Let me explain.

Back in 2009 when I started Cloud Nine, I truly did not know if it would succeed or fail. The economy was poor, and non-profit organizations were closing left and right. It was truly a bad time to start a non-profit organization. I did the research on my own to formulate a business plan (non-profits need business plans, too) and then used my money to start Cloud Nine with the incorporation costs and filing the 501(c)3 paperwork with the IRS (which isn’t cheap – they charge $750 and provide no guarantee that you will receive your status). I made Cloud Nine’s original website myself. It’s worth noting it didn’t take long for someone to volunteer to make a new web page – I am not a very good web designer. I also purchased the Piper Aztec that Cloud Nine used from its inception up until the end of last year as its primary plane.

Starting out, I was Cloud Nine’s largest benefactor, and would remain that way for some time, with no intent of ever being repaid. The intent, though, was to move away from me paying for as much as I was, because it simply wasn’t sustainable. The same holds true today. Just like everyone else, my life outside of Cloud Nine has its financial ups and downs, and relying on me for funding I knew would be a guaranteed means of failure.

The plan worked, and with your help we’ve been able to keep Cloud Nine’s operations going for over 3 years. That doesn’t mean that my donations stopped immediately, though.

Throughout Cloud Nine’s time, there have been expenses that have come up that I’ve covered as needed. Sometimes this has meant paying for fuel because our credit card type isn’t accepted at the fuel stop. Sometimes this has meant paying for some small repair to the airplane that Cloud Nine hasn’t had the money for. I structure these as loans, but the reality is that, come December 25th, I give Cloud Nine a Christmas present – and that is loan forgiveness. This amount varies depending on the year, but ends up being several thousand dollars. I do this for the same reason you make your donation to Cloud Nine – because I believe in the cause. However, this bucket is limited, and has bounds. We asked for your help last year when we needed some flight instruments in Sugar Pop repaired because the costs were $15,000 – the most significant cost we’d had at the time. The reality is that we try to have savings for these sorts of items when they come up, but we often times aren’t able to have as much of a cushion as we’d like. This comes from a combination of low donations and not having sufficient time to save up for some of the large recurring expenses on aircraft such as engines and avionics upgrades.

Cloud Nine never has paid me for my time, either, which has been an extensive donation. I put my Commercial Pilot Certificate to work for Cloud Nine. For any other person or company, this would be $300 per day that I would get paid. For Cloud Nine, it’s free. The flight time is really the smallest amount of my time investment to Cloud Nine. Early on, Cloud Nine was taking up 40-60 hours of time per week for me, on top of the 40 hours per week at my normal day job. These days it has tapered down somewhat, and a typical week involves 10-40 hours per week of time invested. I have spent many weeks away from home for Cloud Nine (in 2010, I spent greater than 6 months away from my home), and for several years sacrificed having any personal life to the cause of Cloud Nine.

Today, Cloud Nine needs your help more than ever. We are faced with having the greatest expense since our inception – needing a total of $60,000 to purchase new engines for Sugar Pop, our Cessna 310. These engines will not only return us to service, but have several noted improvements over our previous engines, that we expect will make Sugar Pop faster and safer, improving the range of missions we can perform. Yes, I will be making a personal donation towards the engine fund and returning Cloud Nine to operations. In the past two years saving for Sugar Pop’s engines, we’ve saved half of that with your help. With your continued help, we’ve made a substantial impact in the remaining $30,000, but still have a long ways to go. Please make your donation today at

Blue Skies,

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