Episode 11 – Steve Rhode

Steve founded a non-profit organization to help people find a path through their financial troubles and solutions for debt problems. He has done a lot of television and radio appearances as a consumer debt expert on FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and local stations well as creating his own radio show. Steve is now an investigative reporter and journalist that specializes in covering consumer debt and the debt relief world and a regular animal rescue pilot through his organization, pilot.dog. Steve tells us how he got started in animal rescue and his pilot experience. To learn more you can visit his website, https://pilot.dog/ or on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/flypilotdog/.




Check out this episode!“Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue really transport. Now on with our show and today’s up sober Speaking with Steve Road, Steve lives his life and conducts business by very simple mantra. If you do good things, good things happen. He’s lived that philosophy and spent nearly all his adult life helping others. After having lived through tough money troubles in the 19 nineties, Steve founded a nonprofit organization to help people find a path through their financial troubles and solutions for debt problems. He’s done a lot of television and radio appearances as a consumer debt expert, Speaking on Fox, CNN, NBC, MSNBC as well as local stations. Steve also has his own radio show. Steve is now an investigative reporter and journalists that specializes in covering consumer debt and the debt relief world. Steve is also an avid and will rescue pilot through his organization. Pilot dot Dog. Hey, Steve, Welcome to the program. It is such a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much, Chris. Thanks. So tell us a little bit about yourself. I mean, give us. I know you’re the pilot type dog guy, but, you know, introduce yourself. Well, my life motto is, if you do good things, good things happen. And I am a dog lover. My boat wife and I both are. And so we just combined our passion of dogs with our love of flying and just found a great opportunity to save more dogs. Especially since we live down here in the south. Yeah. Now you’ve got a very interesting background. You’re that get out of debt, guy. And now you’ve kind of transition, and you do a lot more rescue. I mean, how how did that come about? How did that transition come about? Well, yeah, I am the get out of debt guy. I deal with consumer finance and chasing financial criminals and scam artists and helping people with money problems and find solutions for their issues. And my website I have to give a naked plug is get out of debt dot or GE. Um, so I have two lives I have of the life that’s primarily filled with angst and confrontation and pain. And then I just needed a second Life s O. So dog rescue is the complete opposite of what I do on a regular basis. Now you got into flying wet. Oh, I got my ticket in 1988. Ah, and then, like a lot of people I took Ah, I flew aggressively for probably six or seven years. And then, you know, it was ah, young man with a star starting family and couldn’t afford to fly anymore. So I took, like, 25 years off or something. Something like that, Uh, just and so that I just got back into it probably five years ago or something like that. And when I got back into it, I got my instrument rating, and I just do a lot of flying now. Uh, and it’s the love of my life, you know? I know you’ve got assessing 1 82 and I’ve seen the great pictures and videos that you and Pam record on your website. You do a phenomenal job with those, by the way. Thank you. Thanks very much. So now walk me through. I mean, you are wearing the south or you guys. So we’re right in the the heart of Dog rescue country, located in Raleigh, North Carolina. And you’re right. We do have. Ah, 1973 1 82 which seems like a really old plane. But all of the electronic senator are new and state of the art. And in fact, this week, the plane is going in from more service. We’re taking out the back bench seat and putting in folding seats so that we can carry more cargo in it. Oh, that’s really cool. So how did you get in to rescue? I mean, was this just one day? You said, Hey, I’m gonna go pick up some dogs and fly, tell us a little bit about how this came about. So like most pilots, it was probably just a total accident. I was at my local airport at the time and noticed ah, request for some help with a local dog rescue. Who had some dogs had a dog that needed to go for treatment. And so the first dog ever flew was little sniper. Um, and she was Ah, little German Shepherd, Uh, rescue dog for military members who was born with a spinal issue. And I was flying down to Orlando anyway, so I picked up little sniper who was the most adored, adorable, gorgeous dog. Um, who insisted on peeing on my foot every chance that you could get, But, uh, and and she was She was so cute because of her spinal problems, She would run at you, but her back end wouldn’t stop. She was just so cute. So I flew her from Orlando to Newport News, Virginia, where she had an evaluation, and that was the start of it. And then, uh, you know what’s once my wife’s that we can fly and carry dogs, right? Uh, that was the end of you. Yeah, it definitely is a pilot. I mean, as you know, I’m a pilot myself, and it gives you a purpose for flying. We’re always looking for that reason, and it gives you that mission that you can fulfill. Well, you know, and the other part of my background, which goes further back into my medical days, um is that I truly care about people who are in a difficult situation, and my wife and I are both very compassionate about people who need help. So of we approach our flying much like that, too, instead of just looking at the dogs that we fly as cargo, we bring along a flight volunteer. We cuddle the dogs and flight we give him, like, you know, the best concierge V i. P. Flight. They never have to minimize their stress. And so it makes it a really heartwarming event. Yeah, I think that’s, um, one of things that I really noticed that you guys do is you have a specific approach that you take the number of dogs. You know how you’re handling them. I guess you kind of touched on, but walk us a little bit through what is what is your methodology for animal transport? So there are two schools of thought. Either you fly as many dogs as possible, and you load them in in the most efficient cargo map that you can or you provide the least stressful, most compassionate flight you can. It’s significantly more expensive to fly fewer dogs. But you know, many of the dogs we fly have come from very bad situations. These aren’t like we had some extra puppies from a litter down here in the southeast there, like dogs that were rescued from ah, Fighting group or found with a 10 foot chain around their neck. Great. You know, these are dogs that have difficult past. So many of them have scars and everything else. So we just changed our approach to trying to make it the most fun day, the best day ever for the dogs that we fly. And so we just give him all sorts of treatment. And in fact, on a recent flight, we have a flight volunteer. We had a big dog and some puppies that were with us, and I looked in the back seat in the middle of the flight, and our volunteer is sitting on the floor to give the dogs her. See, That’s awesome that you mentioned you. You take flight volunteers. How do people find out about this? And how do people get involved with you guys? Well, the reason we take flight volunteers, they can sign up through our website pilot dot dog. And, yes, that is a real domain. Um, and the reason we take flight volunteers is because, you know, we’re just pilots were people who serve a little roll inside a bigger effort. And we’re just tiny dogs and a bigger wheels. So this is this is about the rescues who do the tough work of getting the dog to begin with and find, you know, home for the dog. They’re the real heroes in this story, but taking a flight volunteer allows somebody to have an introduction to dog rescue and to have a personal connection and to learn more about it. So we just do It is our role to try to help spread information and awareness about all the awesome dogs that are out here. Now, one of the things I actually noticed from your LinkedIn profile that I didn’t know about you is that you’re a photojournalist. Is Well, yeah, I am. I have done a lot of freelance photojournalism, and ah, in my early days, I studied photojournalism in college, and I have done freelance photojournalist journalism for TV stations here in the Raleigh area. You know, you get an adrenaline rush out of ah, pulling up on the side of the highway at a bad accident at four o’clock in the morning with all your lights flashing. So it’s a different part of my life. Yeah, And I think what was really interesting to me and I should have noticed this from your website is you really have applied it with the amazing videos and pictures and the way that you tell the stories of the animals. Well, we do a flight video for every flight, and we tell the stories and share all the pictures that we can, because it’s our way of bringing people into the experience and showing them what it was like and especially to let people know about just how awesome these rescue dogs are. We fly from the south here we fly a lot of pit bulls and Rottweilers and dogs that people think are dangerous. And I gotta tell you, they’re the most loving dogs. Uh, around, I mean is a quick example. We flew. A dog whose name was Goblin and Goblin was a pit bull who was on number one on the kill list of the shelter. And they just kept pushing him back each day. And other dogs originally went this place. But we got the call, and we flew Goblin and ah, Goblin turned out the next day up in Pennsylvania, where the goblin was where we took goblin. Um, a therapist came in to look at another dog, Saw goblin, just connected with him, and he became the therapy dog for, Ah, a kid with autism. And they’re the best of buddies. You know, there are great success stories out here. Yeah, those were the stories that really get people give him an uplift and want to make them get involved in rescue. So I know one of the most common questions I get asked as a pilot. So I’m gonna ask you is a pilot is how do the dogs take to flying? The dogs are awesome. I’ve never had a problem with the dog. Now we approach our flying on a very professional level. And so, you know, Pam and I are not out here like to. Oahu is just going flying on the weekend, Um, s O when we go flying. The thing that nobody ever sees from our flights is all the preparation that goes into it behind the scenes. Like we have vetted the dogs. And who were they flying with? Have they been introduced? Are they socialized? And what you never see is we have contingency plans in case a dog ever became aggressive in flight. So we carry different sized muzzles. We flight brief. What’s gonna happen if there ever was such an event were very well prepared. We’ve just never had a dog that’s freaked out now. Well, let me clarify. Uh, we have had a dog. We have had several dogs who have freaked out, but that only means that if you include having bad gas as freaking out, it’s not like you can just open the window. Now there’s there’s nothing worse with briefing an instrument approach and your eyes are tearing up from Baghdad. Just say it sounds like you’ve had some really interesting stories when you’ve been doing this for how many years now, I guess three years now, and I mean, I’ve been doing it aggressively. We’ve been flying a lot some months. We fly 50 hours and, ah, most of my flights are actually instrument flight, so I’m flying in bad weather. I’m usually doing flights when most of the guys are on the ground because they’re not instrument pilots, and we also do much longer. Flights are typical. Flight is probably about six or seven hours. So so for me to fly from eastern North Carolina, western North Carolina, and then up to Atlantic City, that’s kind of Ah, typical flight. And I have learned that I don’t really connect with pilots who I don’t know, because I’ve been left stranded a couple times. So we just take long stacks and see a lot of the countryside on our plates. How many flight hours you logging in a given year now? Ah, I’m doing a about this year. I’ll probably be on pace for 500. Wow, that’s a lot of flying. Good for you. Now, I know you mentioned Pilot Doc Dog. And your first time it was Yes. That is a really your l. So tell me how how that came about. Yeah. So we went to look for a domain for a website, and it was one of these things, you know. We plugged in a couple of different things, and it was on Go Daddy and it popped up. Hey, this is a new domain that Doug and I had the same reaction that everybody does, like, really No, seriously, Can you tell me, um, and it wasn’t just happened to be one of the first people that registered the domain name. And now I spent all my life going. Yeah, it’s a real domain. You felt quite a brand around it. You’ve got a really cool logo and a very well done website that really tells the story. Well, you know, if you’re gonna take a a much longer view on Dog Klein and Dog Rescue, you got to do the work. If you’re just gonna be a weekend pilot and pick up a flight and go, you know, that’s one. But there is so much into running. Ah, bigger organization and bringing people in. And you like doing the flight videos, the video stuff, the editing flight volunteers, all the stuff we do requires great support and great supporters. And so that’s why we need to do all of that. Yeah, that’s a really good point. So So, how did people get involved? How do the rescues with shelters, if they need transport, walk us through the process that they go through to find you? Well, we have learned that there are some great rescues out there. There are some scam rescues out there, and then there are, like, the most wonderful rescues you’ve ever met out there. So since we’ve been doing this, we have learned the lesson and vetted rescues that we work with very carefully. And so nowadays we tend to get requests directly from those rescues. And so we were not out there just accepting every sort of flight. And the other thing that you learn as you do this is that not every flight has to be an emergency. You know, you get requests from rescues, you know, we gotta fly this dog today. So we have learned we who we work with who is good, who is, you know, somewhat organized. And years ago there was a sign hanging in a co worker’s cubicle, and it said, Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my and so that’s the way that we approach who we work with because you could make some stupid mistakes. Just being reactionary and flying dogs and doing dog rescue work is serious stuff. I mean, you know, his pilot’s not only, uh, the motto of my airplane is there’s no sense. Dine all 10 stop. Just so you know, you have the risks and everything associate with flying. And then, if you’re not aware, as a dog rescue pilot, you also have risks associated with doing that work. You’ve got state laws and transportation. And, you know, we’ve actually had calls from people who said, You know, I’m my neighbor, doesn’t take care of the dog and I’m gonna kidnap the dog. And we want, you know, no, no. But, you know, if you’re just a weekend flyer and you’re out there and you want to do good things, you better be prepared and know what you’re doing because there’s some serious consequences. Yeah, it’s a really good point, and I’m glad you bring that up because they’re like anything. There’s a lot of rules and regulations and a lot of best practices. What are some of the tips? I guess you would have for other pilots or other people that are wanting to get him all Well, this is why I love your organization because, you know, it’s a professional rescue association, and there’s some qualifications and information that people need to learn, and that is a great just that, you know, even as just a base level, that is a great certification tohave, and I would urge people to start that way if you just want to be a pilot or ground volunteer driving dogs, and you just want to drop them in the back of your playing in your car and you wanna spend an hour or two flying around, that’s one thing. But if you want to do the very best, you can be involved in a great community joining our organization like yours. Ah, and learning with rules and laws are or, you know somebody can always contact me, and I’m always I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can, and that’s the way you become a professional in this field. So one of the questions I always like to ask Steve is is, Was there a particular person or organization that really inspired you originally to get into animal rescue? No. Far enough, no, but, um, when I did get involved, I reached out to other pilots who I found and found a really cooperative community of other dog rescue pilots who helped me in my early days and provided advice somewhere a brain trust and a sounding board, and we’re a really healthy And let me qualify that. You know, when I say that I flight dogs, Um, I’m not anti cat at all. I just wanna make that very clear. I’m just highly allergic to cats, so that would make a little bit difficult. Yeah, but I understand that can fly rabbits. I haven’t done that yet, but I understand it. So, um, the the community of professional dog rescue pilots out here is made up of great people who you can you can count on for some help and advice. Yeah. No, I know one of the ones that you partner with this flying months tell us a little bit about how that came about. Yeah, Mike from Blind months is a corporate pilot for a large drug chain. And so he’s during the week he’s flying the Falcon 10 jet, and, uh, yeah, um, which is really cool, because when I meet up with him when he’s at work, you know, I get toe play around in the jet, so that’s kind of cool, but, um, Mike and I, I think it was we were introduced through a rescue or something, but we’re very like minded. And we we he’s up near Boston and so oftentimes will beat in Delaware and he’ll fly the dogs arrest the way. And so it’s learning how there are other pilots who I work with, like Mike, um, who are guys like Cal on Because again, the problem is, you know, the weekend flyers If you’re out there on your first trip. Well, here’s an example. We did a trip. We were connecting with a guy we’d never flown with before. And it turns out the guy was just a ah vfr pilot. And this was on early fall Day. He was coming out of New York on a grass strip and he was found in from the whole day. You know, if if I had known you know, he was a VFR pilot on a grass strip up there because I learned to fly in Danbury, Connecticut, we would have found another pilot, but, uh, because there are all sorts of guys that are out there No, that’s really good point. And I think it’s really cool that you’ve taken this to the next level and you kind of develop those connections of those people that do want to make sure that this is treated as a profession. You know, the way I look at it and Pam does too, is you know, it’s dogs. First. I I’m not here to hog every flight that we can get. And I have contacted my other rescue groups and said, Hey, can you help this? Ah, can you fly this dog on this day? And if we just work cooperatively and professionally, we can make it a great thing to do. Yeah, well, thank you, Steve, for what you do in, um, you know, it’s really been great having you on the show before we go. Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our viewers or listeners? I think that if you have the opportunity to help in any sort of animal rescue, transport, even cats Ah, that that you should do it because it opens your eyes and we’ll give you an entirely different perspective about the thousands or tens of thousands of dogs and cats and animals that are out there who die needlessly every year just simply because people don’t know that they’re near there and need help Well, thank you. See if we appreciate your joining us. No problem, Chris. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.”

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