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Volunteer Pilots Are Flying Puppies Cross-Country To Start Service Dog Training

A team of 29 pawsitively adorable 8-week-old puppies recently embarked on a cross-country trip to start their service dog training, just one of many journeys that were only made possible thanks to the generosity of three volunteer pilots.

As Business Insider reported, several private planes safely transporting golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and other mixed puppies have been flying across the nation since March to deliver these four-legged cuties to their new, temporary homes.

The volunteer pilots have teamed up with the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) to make the flights happen.

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According to its official website, CCI provides people who have disabilities with "highly trained assistance dogs" who the organization promises won't just make their lives easier, but will also become their best friends.

Because the nonprofit depends on commercial airlines to transport puppies to their temporary homes for service dog training, the recent coronavirus outbreak and its effect on air travel made the availability of such flights entirely unreliable.

But thankfully the organization was able to connect with three local pilots in California who are willing to dedicate their time to fly some pups cross-country.

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Martyn Lewis, Josh Hochberg, and Jeff Stewart are three private pilots who regularly fly out of a nearby airport in Sonoma, and who stepped up when they heard the nonprofit was in desperate need of some transportation.

"Not only are they giving their plane, but their time, their fuel," Michelle Williams, the public relations and marketing coordinator at CCI, told Insider. "They're going out for full days... it's just incredible."

On the day of the flight, the puppies eagerly meet their would-be pilots on the at the Sonoma Jet Center in Santa Rosa wearing bright yellow doggie capes.

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One of the volunteer pilots Hochberg, who owns the Jet Center, explained that his two daughters regularly accompany the puppies on their flight to keep them sufficiently entertained and well-worn out.

"Once they get into the plane, they require less attention than my daughters," he told Insider, adding that most of the pups fall asleep during the trip.

In total, the volunteer pilots have helped transport 108 puppies to southern California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Texas.

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After arriving at their temporary homes, these four-legged bundles of adorableness are then raised by volunteer individuals and families who will then socialize them and teach them around 30 commands.

Once they turn about a year and a half old, the puppies will be placed into professional training centers to learn more advanced commands that will be used during their career as service dogs.

Williams, the PR coordinator for CCI, emphasized that the outbreak has not by any means minimized the need for these essential service dogs.

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In fact, she told Insider there are currently 400 people eagerly awaiting getting their own service dog, so taking a break to ride out the pandemic is simply not an option.

As Williams explained, "If we were to put everything on hold, those people are going to wait longer for their assistance dogs."

h/t: Business Insider, Instagram | @ccicanine