Doctors warned she only had a few weeks to live, so this pilot flew her 400 miles to her new family so that her final days would be filled with love.
Ashlyn was an aging dog in a North Carolina shelter who was in poor health. She would lost a lot of weight and was suffering from sarcomas, which were cancerous tumors beneath her skin. It was not too late for her to strike gold, though.
When the New England Humane Society (NEHS) found a suitable home for Ashlyn to spend her final weeks, all she needed was a way to get there. Then Paul Steklenski, the founder of Flying Fur Animal Rescue (FFAR), decided to fly her up in his plane.
Steklenski was overcome with sadness as he drove the plane with Ashlyn in the seat next to him, contemplating how this could be her final voyage anywhere.
Despite the fact that Steklenski is used to carrying needy puppies to rescues so they can find loving homes — he regularly transports between 15 and 30 dogs per month — the elderly canines especially tug at his heartstrings. “Those are the ones where you really pay attention to what they are going through,” Steklenski told The Dodo.
Ashlyn was worried about the two-hour journey. “At first, she seemed a little distant,” Steklenski observed. “Then she would open up a little and get closer.”
He certainly helped her feel better by giving her dog biscuits. He explained, “She then gave me one paw, then the other.”
“She then placed her head on my lap,” said Steklenski. “It means a great deal to me.” It is all that matters. It in itself is the prize.”
Steklenski began flying as a hobby in 2013, about the same time he adopted a puppy. These items were unrelated at the time, but they were inextricably linked soon after.
“We went to pet stores, then to shelters, and we started to notice a difference,” Steklenski told The Dodo last year. When he saw how many homeless animals there are in shelters, he decided to put his new pastime to good use.
Without him, Ashlyn would not be where she is now. While everyone anticipated they were taking her to the hospital, her recovery has led rescuers to believe she has more time than they thought.
“When I picked her up from the airport, her condition killed me,” Tracy Lander, who has three dogs of her own and has been fostering dogs for the NEHS for two years, told The Dodo. “She had lost 39 pounds, and her ideal weight is 65 to 70 pounds.” When she came to me, she was wearing a sweater, and when I took it off, I could see every rib.”
To help Ashlyn acquire weight, Lander started feeding her three times a day. She also provided her vitamins to help her deal with her many health problems, which varied from skin disorders (caused by chemical burns) to malignancies.
Ashlyn began to shift gradually. “She is going out more,” Lander noticed. “She is an excellent eater… “She adores me.”
Ashlyn has even started cuddling with Angel, one of Lander’s other dogs. Lander’s boxer mix, Xander, has also indicated an interest in meeting Ashlyn. “He will simply approach Her and begin licking her,” Lander said. “With his words, he believes he can heal everyone.”
Ashlyn moved in with the Landers in January, having no idea how long she would stay. Now that it is April, they do not think of her as the fospice dog, but as someone who reminds them to live in the now and appreciate every day — which is always a valuable lesson.
“She realizes she is loved,” Lander added. “Whatever happens, she knows she is loved.”
Nobody anticipated Ashlyn to make such dramatic leaps.
“I never imagined discovering something so lovely and satisfying that it would eclipse almost everything else in my life,” Steklenski said.