Tony & Hobby
Jet Linx Omaha private jet pilot Tony Yonkers was on a routine trip to Houston Hobby Airport in the summer of 2010, until a very unroutine runway encounter changed his life – four legs for the better.
It’s not every day you go to work thinking you’ll find your new best friend. Tony Yonkers didn’t think it would happen to him, either, but that was before he met Hobby.
“I have always been a dog lover, but in the summer of 2010 I found myself between dogs,” Yonkers began. “After several pups weren’t the right fit, I decided that I wouldn’t look anymore and just let the dog come to me.” Yonkers, a pilot at Jet Linx Omaha, didn’t realize that his travels as a pilot would put him in the right place at the right time.
“In the fall of that year, Mike Kopp [Jet Linx Aviation Director of Operations] and I had a overnight trip to Houston for one of our regular clients. The trip down was uneventful; we arrived in the late afternoon and checked into a hotel across the street from the airport. Early the next morning as I was having coffee, I noticed a dog nosing around the hotel parking lot. I watched him roam about, and he turned and trotted back into the neighborhood behind the hotel. Thinking the dog was just making his rounds, I went about preparing for the day’s flight.
“That afternoon, Mike and I arrived at Houston’s Hobby Airport to ready the plane for the return trip. As I was performing pre-flight checks, I saw an airport police truck racing down the taxiway, lights flashing, heading toward me. There was a guy in the bed of the truck with a loop, and another guy running alongside. They where chasing this little dog who was running with all his might, right down the taxiway,” Yonkers said. “I instinctively got down on my knees, opened my arms and said ‘Come here! Come here!’ That dog ran right into my chest, almost knocking me over. The airport truck came to a skidding stop beside us.”
The airport police had been chasing the dog across the taxiway, and all parties were exhausted in the Texas heat. “The poor dog was hot, panting heavily, tired and thirsty,” Yonkers said. Concerned for the dog’s safety, he inquired what would happen next. “They told me were going to take him to the pound, and I offered to look after him. I took the dog into the airport, got him a drink – two bowls of water, as fast as that little tongue could go. I left my name and number and called the Houston Humane Society,” Yonkers said.
Yonkers took every precaution to find the dog’s family. “The Humane Society suggested that I post him on their website. It’s designed for people to post if anyone loses or finds a dog, so it can go back to its rightful owner. I had him checked for a chip and there wasn’t one. I did get a hit on the website and for a couple of dreaded hours I thought that I might have to take him back, but it was a miss.”
Yonkers didn’t know where the dog had come from, but he knew that this wasn’t any ordinary dog. “All I had were questions. Was this the dog that I saw from the hotel earlier that day? If so, how did he get on the airport property? The airport is a big square surrounded by six lanes of busy traffic on all sides. Whose dog is he? He doesn’t have a collar, what about a chip? Can I take him home? It’s a good thing we were heading home and not starting a multiple day trip. Do we have a policy against flying stray dogs? What will the client say? It’s his plane – how will he feel about an extra passenger?”
“When the client called to tell us that he was on his way, Mike told him about the dog,” Yonkers said. “We had a box with a blanket that we could put between the cockpit seats and he would be no trouble at all. The client was fine with bringing him back, when he arrived the four of us hopped into the plane and headed for Omaha.”
“That dog has stuck by my side that day and every day since. I was waiting for a dog to come to me and it just doesn’t get any more obvious than this. I named him Hobby right then in honor of the airport where Hobby rescued me,” Yonkers said.
Somewhere around 23,000 feet during climb on the way home, Younkers looked down at the box to check on Hobby and found it empty. “I looked further back in the plane and there was our client, happily feeding Hobby his catering,” he recalled. “It’s the ultimate rags to riches story, one minute Hobby was homeless on the street and the next he was traveling by private jet to his new home.”