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Wings of Rescue makes stop at Coeur d'Alene Airport

The charity flies dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs and rabbits from overcrowded, often high-kill, shelters to facilities where these pets have guaranteed safety.
Credit: Bill Buley/CDA Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — In his music days, Ric Browde produced records. A lot of records, 29 million, for the likes of Joan Jett, Ted Nugent and Poison.

He made a lot of money.

He wanted to do more.

“I woke up and realized I had done nothing to make the world any better,” Browde said Saturday afternoon at the Coeur d’Alene Airport.

He and his wife decided they wanted to do what they loved, which was helping pets.

That was in 2014.

Today, Browde is president and CEO of Wings of Rescue, which this year has conducted about 100 flights and delivered 8,200 pets throughout North America where they have a chance at a new life.

He took off Saturday morning from Fort Worth, Texas in a Embraer 120 Brasilia, a twin-turbo prop, pressurized and temperature-controlled aircraft, on a rescue mission with nearly 100 at-risk dogs.

“As soon as we hit 10,000 feet they’re all asleep. Then when we get down we have 95 dogs asking, ‘Are we there yet?’" said a smiling Browde while wearing a “Let the fur fly” T-shirt and a Wings of Rescue cap.

That flight included Wings of Rescue’s 60,000th pet transported to safety since it was formed in 2012.

About three hours and 1,450 miles later, he landed at the Coeur d’Alene Airport, where volunteers and staff with the Kootenai Humane Society greeted them on a gray, rainy afternoon, as reported by KREM 2 News partner the Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press.

Twenty dogs of different breeds and sizes peered through their kennels. Some barked, some looked around apprehensively and one peed on the floor at KHS as soon as it got there.

“When you gotta go, you go gotta go,” joked a volunteer.

Board President Cindy Edington brought family members to help with carrying the dogs from the plane to a truck and van waiting to take them to the shelter.

Grandchildren, a sister, a daughter and brother-in-law were among them.

Edington said they were together for Thanksgiving and decided they could pitch in for the pets.

“We knew there was a flight coming in and I said, ‘Guess what we’re doing to do,’” she said, smiling.

The remaining dogs and cats were flown to Everett, Wash., where they were picked up by the Seattle Humane Society, the NOAH Center of Stanwood, Wash, and the Kitsap Humane Society in Silverdale, Wash.

Browde loves the way North Idaho treats dogs and cats.

“This has to be one of the most progressive communities in the country," he said. "People take care of their pets here.”

KHS has adopted out 1,410 pet so far this year and has a save rate of 95%. It recently broke ground on a new home, expected to be completed by the end of next year. A campaign capital has raised $5.3 million.

Debbie Jeffries, KHS executive director said Wings of Rescue’s first flight with pets for the shelter was January 2014.

All those dogs quickly found homes.

“They were amazed a week or two later we needed more dogs,” Jeffries said.

And they kept coming.

Since, KHS has accepted and found homes for about 5,500 dogs that had been in shelters a long time and were in danger of being put down.

“This is a great shelter to work with,” Browde said.

“Unfortunately, there is still a need,” he added.

The new arrivals will undergo medical checkups and are expected to be ready for adoption this week.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.