Paul Steklenski's Flying Fur Animal Rescue
Maximus was just a baby, and they tortured him. The innocent little puppy was used as bait to train other tortured dogs how to kill. When he was mauled nearly to death, his abusers tossed him in a cemetery and left him to die. This was the first stroke of luck the puppy had. The next was being found by good Samaritans, who didn’t stop until they found a rescue organization that would help save his life. The only catch was – it was hundreds of miles away.
This is where Paul Steklenski entered Maximus’ life.
Dogs like Maximus, who have been subjected to torment at the hands of depraved individuals, have a first class ride to new lives thanks to army veteran Paul Steklenski.
Thousands of dogs fill overcrowded humane societies and animal shelters across this country. They are surrendered or abandoned by their families, lost or abused, and terrified. The lucky ones find sanctuary in Rescues or forever homes with new families. The unlucky ones languish for years in kennels or are euthanized within days of arrival, to make space for the next.
It’s not an outcome any dedicated animal rescue professional ever wants to see. Many of these professionals burn out in this field, as the heavy emotional toll becomes too overwhelming. This is especially true when the waves of animals pouring through the doors far surpass that shelter’s absorption rate, leaving little room for a happy ending.
With so many dogs in such condensed areas, rescue organizations began collaborating to send and receive cats and dogs from high-kill shelters to safe havens and new homes. Volunteers drive vans on regular trips to pick the lucky ones up and bring them to safety. It’s an effective method, but time-consuming.
Paul Steklenski has a better idea.
He first became aware of this need when he adopted his own dog. He was blown away by the length people go to, to rescue these animals. It seemed like life lead him to this world at the perfect time. Paul had just got his pilot’s license, and suddenly he had a new purpose.
It was the perfect way to blend the two passions.
Paul has precious little time to indulge to pursue his passions. With a full time job and caring for his father, he has just one day each week to himself. Still, he heard his purpose knocking and opened the door wide. He knew he was meant to merge his love of flying with his love of animals, to be a part of rescuing as many as he could.
Flying Fur Animal Rescue is Paul’s new mission.
He uses his own money to pay for the plane and fuel he uses for each flight he flies with his precious “pawsengers.”
Paul invests himself in each of his pawsengers. Emotions simmer close to the surface as he shares their stories. He remembers every dog he’s flown out of death’s door and into safe havens. Maximus is one of those dogs. “He was about six months old and he’d been through hell, and he was going to be killed.” He’s visited Maximus twice in his new home. One gets the feeling that if he could, he’d visit them all.
Like so many people who voice their plans, Paul was met with skepticism. Plenty of people had plenty of certainty that he couldn’t do this. And like anyone who is determined to follow their passion, Paul was unfazed by negativity.
“Try to stop me,” he said, “because I will find a way to make it happen.”
He started by renting a plane at an airport about an hour from home. Each flight day he’d load crates in his truck, drive to the airport, take the back seats out of the plane, and stack the crates for the trip. Each time he returned he’d reverse the process.
It was a lot of extra steps to go through, but he never let that stop him either. Instead, he worked harder, until his non-profit was able to buy its own plane specifically for these flights. The efficiency and flexibility of his flights increased exponentially with that purchase. Now he’s got his sights set on his next goal; a dedicated rescue facility of his own.
It’s a big leap.
Right now, he is funding his non-profit himself, with $1,000 per month taken directly from his own paycheck and deposited directly into the non-profit. He doesn’t ask people for money or solicit support. That may have to change for him to implement his plan.
“Money doesn’t drive me. It never has and never will,” he says. “But I need money to do what I do.” And he’ll need plenty of funds to grow his organization.
It can be daunting to tackle such large objectives. But when you are fueled with passion, like Paul, challenges exist simply to be conquered.
“You are the only limiting factor in your success. As long as you believe you can make it happen, you can make it happen,” is his mindset.
He’s aware of his strengths and his blessings, and he’s not wasting any of them. He knows this country offers more freedoms than anywhere.
He is mindful of those opportunities and blessings, and grateful for them. He personally served this country, and is part of the reason they exist.
“The best thing you can do is remind yourself how lucky you are.”
He doesn’t need to work too hard for those reminders when he’s flying his precious furballs to safety. The joy and peace in the dog’s eyes, the way they look at him, and curl up on his lap, or gaze out the cockpit window, are reminders enough.
“The time, however, I get to spend with my pawsengers will always be precious to me; for within that time, within that spectrum of momentary acknowledgment, I have done my part to help see them through.”
He hopes for the day where rescues will no longer be needed. But until then, he’ll take to the skies to help as many as he can.
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