Marley was stuck in her second shelter in her 3-year-old life when Pilots N Paws came to her rescue.

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Take one look at Marley's light brown eyes and ever-wagging tail and you can see she's bright, confident, and engaging. 

It's impossible to say where life started for 3-year-old Marley. She was born, most likely, in Florida. No one knows who her first owners were, but she landed in a shelter on the Panhandle where her second family adopted her. They were an older couple who found that Marley's exuberant personality and energy level were a little too much for them. So Marley ended up in another shelter, Franklin County Humane Society (FCHS), in Eastpoint, Fla. 

Marley with pilot
Credit: Tracie Crawshaw

FCHS Director Karen Marlsberg Martin remembers seeing Marley for the first time. Marlsberg Martin sees hundreds of adoptable dogs a year, but tells Daily Paws that Marley was an unforgettable dog. "I just fell in love with her," she laughs. "Marley really shows her personality...She ran up to my desk and sat down in front of me. When I didn't respond right away, she scooched up a couple inches closer." That became Marley's signature move: the scooch-in for more attention. The pup's photo and description were posted to the shelter's Facebook page in hopes that potential adopters would see her and reach out.

A Long Journey Home

At the same time, miles away, a young military family in Virginia Beach, Va., were in deep discussions about getting their first dog. They heard about Marley through a volunteer at the FCHS, and were smitten after seeing her photo. But how would they get this sweet rescue pup 860 miles away to their home in Virginia?

Marley in cockpit
Although Marley the rescue dog started out in the baggage area, she soon made it clear she would rather ride up front with pilot Tracie Crawshaw.
| Credit: Doug Jimerson

Pilots N Paws, an organization of volunteer pilots who transport pets by air, was the answer they were searching for. The non-profit organization coordinates pet-loving volunteer pilots with animals in need of transportation. Jo Brendel, flight coordinator for Pilots N Paws, lined up three flights with three pilots to get Marley from Florida to her new home in Virginia. "The rescues/flights involve a ton of people. Rescues, fosters, sometimes ground transporters, coordinators, and pilots. It always amazes me how many people it takes to save one dog that it took one person to throw away," Brendel says.  

Flight segments
Getting Marley from Florida to her new family in Virginia would require three pilots making three separate flights, all coordinated by Pilots N Paws.
| Credit: Tracie Crawshaw

It may have taken a team of volunteers to coordinate her journey home, but it only took a few hours for Marley to scooch her way into many more hearts. Tracie Crawshaw, a pilot from Tallahassee, Fla., picked up Marley for her first leg of the flight in a Vans RV-6. This two-seat aerobatic measures 20 feet in length with a 23-foot wingspan. "Marley started out in the baggage compartment behind the two seats," Crawshaw says. But the noise of the plane unsettled Marley and she opted for the copilot seat, right next to Crawshaw. "I secured her in the copilot seat, and Marley laid her head on my leg," says Crawshaw who flew from Apalachicola, Fla., to Statesboro, Ga., in 90 minutes (236 nautical miles).

Marley on first flight
Strapped into the copilot seat, Marley made her signature move on Crawshaw—scooting just a little closer.
| Credit: Tracie Crawshaw

In Statesboro, Marley met up with pilot Richard Marz (a dentist who shuttles animals for Pilots N Paws in his spare time). Marz flew Marley in his Mooney Ovation 2 four-seater plane to Charlotte, N.C.. He picked up Marley, climbed up on the wing, then placed the dog into the back seat for the flight, which lasted a little more than an hour. "Marley was so sweet," Marz says. "Animals have no safety nets, and they need everyone they can get who can help out."

From there, Marley hitched a ride from Lee White of Charlottesville, Va., who flew Marley in his Columbia 400 plane. Marley sat in the back seat, then fell asleep. "The noise and vibration of the plane—it's like taking a baby for a ride in a car," White says.

Home At Last

When Marley finally touched down in Norfolk, Va., she'd been in the air that day a total of six hours! The pup had covered 641 nautical miles with three pilots before she met her new family.

Marley at home
Games of pretend and dress-up are part of Marley's new life.
| Credit: Stef

"Lia (6) and Conor (18 months) both love playing with Marley in their own ways," says mom Stef (whose last name we agreed not to share because of the family's military career). "Marley is included in the pretend games of Lia and her friends and sometimes even gets to participate in dress up," she laughs. "Conor loves trying to share his food with Marley, and thinks it is extremely hilarious when she, of course, accepts. Marley's favorites are green beans and chicken nuggets." When Stef told Lia that their new pup's name was Marley, Lia chose her middle name. She is now Marley Cookie Dough.

Marley landed in her new home and fit right in immediately. "We feel it was fate with how quickly and easily Marley arrived to us after we saw her picture posted in the Facebook group. It was like right away we knew Marley was the pup for us," Stef says. 

From the looks of it, Marley Cookie Dough agrees. 

Marley with his new family
Marley fits right in with her new family.
| Credit: Stef