Rick Gutlon, a Professional Services Consultant with NetSuite, says it was a boyhood dream that inspired him to get his pilot’s license in 2006. Yet, as exhilarating as it was to be in the cockpit, Gutlon said once the novelty wore off he needed to find a mission or reason for flying.
In 2011, as Gutlon looked for opportunities to use his pilot’s license to help those in need near his home in Durham, N.C., a friend introduced him to Pilots N Paws a national nonprofit that pairs rescued animals in need of air transportation with volunteer pilots willing to assist with animal transportation. Gutlon said that without strict spay and neuter laws, the state of North Carolina is grappling with an overpopulation of animals (mostly dogs and cats) in need of rescue. Euthanasia is often seen as the only option for animal shelters overflowing with animals in need of homes unless rescue organizations agree to take these animals into their care. The challenge then lies in getting these animals from the shelters to animal rescues. While some of this transport can be done by van and car, transportation to rescues in the Northeast is often by plane. This is where Pilots N Paws comes to the rescue.
After his first fly-along, Gutlon said he knew he’d found his mission. Since starting as a volunteer pilot with Pilots N Paws in 2011, he’s flown 62 rescue flights and transported over 230 dogs that would have been euthanized if left in local shelters. Since most of the dogs from North Carolina are being transported to rescues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and further north, rescue flights typically require a “relay” of pilots to keep both expenses (volunteer pilots cover all plane and fuel costs) and time in check.
When Gutlon thinks about the seemingly daunting logistics of coordinating a Pilots N Paws rescue flight, he said it’s a lot like a successful ERP implementation, something Gutlon knows all too well as a Professional Services Consultant. With proper planning, a realistic schedule, commitment from everyone involved and the ability to think quickly on your feet (when you are thrown a curveball like a sudden change in weather), the rescue flights work every time.
While the dogs Gutlon and the other volunteer pilots transport to a new life obviously can’t thank their rescuers, Gutlon said he’s convinced that they “intuitively know they are there to bring them no harm, and provide them with a new chance at life.”
When asked for a favorite rescue story, Gutlon tells the story of “Pete” the pitbull. Rescued just moments before he was scheduled to be euthanized, Pete was “completely shutdown,” Gulton said, something not uncommon for rescue dogs who have been abused or that are unsure of where they are. Yet, once Gutlon and his co-pilot were up in the air, Pete climbed atop one of the crates in the cockpit and rested his head on the co-pilot’s shoulder for the rest of the flight. Another favorite story is of Dolly the Dalmatian. Despite having her paws burned by cigarettes or cigars and undergoing intensive surgeries to repair them, Gutlon said sweet Dolly walked right up to him and nuzzled her face on his neck.
Gutlon said he’s often heard himself (and the other rescue pilots) referred to as heroes, but in his opinion, the real heroes are the rescue groups and fosters that work tirelessly to save these animals. “It’s a humbling lesson in giving and compassion,” Gutlon said.
Gutlon, who recently joined NetSuite, says he was very pleased to see NetSuite’s commitment to giving back through our software donation and volunteer programs. While most of his rescue flights with Pilots N Paws are done on the weekends, he’s excited to be able to use some of his 16-hours of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) for future volunteer opportunities that take place during the week.
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