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Meet Peter Rork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peter Rork.

Hi Peter, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I have had my pilot’s license since I was 16 years old. Always knew that aviation would be part of my life. Had an opportunity to attend medical school, so I put aviation on the back burner. Flew some animal rescue flights with Pilots N Paws, but was disillusioned when I saw that no vetting of the purpose of the flights was done ( transporting for breeding purposes, for example)

My wife died suddenly in the Spring of 2012. Sent me into a really dark place emotionally and physically. A friend called me and reminded me that my wife would want me to be happy. I had quit my Orthopaedic Surgery practice, so I thought helping dogs at risk would be the next chapter in my life. I hired an attorney to walk me through the 501(c)3 application process and Dog Is My CoPilot was born.

Did a few flights here and there, but it was not until I was introduced to Sharon Lohman (New Beginnings) in Merced CA that I really understood just how large the problem was. I removed the seats from my small aircraft and started flying at-risk dogs from Merced to Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Missoula, Boise, Salt Lake City, etc.

To make the flight meaningful in terms of numbers, I was only transporting small dogs. But I am a big dog kind of guy. After an especially packed flight, I knew that I had to scale up with a larger aircraft. After searching for months, I would a Cessna Caravan, mortgaged my house, and purchased the aircraft. Immediately, I went from flying 20 dogs to over 200 dogs on each flight.

Did this for a couple of years and started to feel the burn. After Petco stepped up with a grant, I was able to bring on more volunteer pilots. We now have two Cessna Caravans, a dozen of volunteer pilots, and transport nationwide.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Had no idea what I was getting into. Always thought that if I did the right thing that it would work out. Money is a big issue, but that is true with every nonprofit. And, while there is money available for animal shelters, not so much for animal transport.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Graduated from Rutgers College 1974; University of Maryland School of Medicine 1979; Orthopaedic Surgery internship and residency University of New Mexico 1979-1984; Hand Surgery fellowship 1984; Knee Surgery fellowship 1985 Doctor for the US Ski Team 1985-2009 Board Examiner American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery 200-2015 Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the FAA 2020.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Curious, a voracious reader, never afraid of hard work.

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Image Credits
Kara Pollard

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