Crouch and his dog, Senna, next to his plane. 

Photo Courtesy of Tim Robison Creative, Copyright © 2015 Tim Robison

Veterinarians are lucky. They get to do what they love. For David T. Crouch, DVM, DACVS, owner of AAHA-accredited practice Western Carolina Veterinary Surgery in Asheville, N.C., that passion also includes an unusual weekend volunteer job—and it’s not working at the local animal shelter.

Crouch is a pilot veterinarian for Pilots n Paws, a web-based volunteer service that links animal rescue groups with volunteer pilots and plane owners who transport animals to their new homes. The organization has over 5,000 pilots and 15,000 non-pilot volunteers who together have saved over 75,000 animals.

But for a veterinarian, such transports can also include much-needed care, as in the cases Eli and Mulligan.

Eli, a 6-month-old male toy poodle rescued from an animal hoarding situation, had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a degenerative and painful hip disease. 

Mulligan, a 22-month-old female Labrador retriever, fell off her owner’s deck and broke two legs. (She suffered for four weeks before her owner gave her up.)

Both dogs landed at Finding Great Homes Dog Rescue in Greensboro, which reached out to Pilots n Paws for help.

Crouch responded, first by flying the dogs to his hospital to perform surgeries. For Eli, Crouch performed an excision of the femoral head and neck to relieve the excruciating pain. In Mulligan’s case, Crouch repaired the fractured femur and radius/ulna fractures with orthopedic bones plates and screws.

Crouch then flew both dogs back to Greensboro—Mulligan to the rescue organization, where she was later adopted, and Eli to his new home.

"Seeing Eli in his new home with these two adorable children smiling as Eli wagged his tail made it all worth it,” Crouch said.

Crouch, who has been a pilot since 2003, became a pilot veterinarian for Pilots n Paws in 2009 after seeing an ad in an aviation magazine. It was love at first sight—or rather, first flight.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Crouch said. “I get to combine the two things I love—veterinary surgery and flying—and give back at the same time. I couldn’t ask for much more.”

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