It is hard to explain the feeling of having to watch a plane that you and your team just filled with 70 dogs take off from the runway then suddenly turn around and come back for an emergency landing. To say my heart dropped into my stomach would be an understatement. This was just one of seemingly countless setbacks we encountered while preparing for and executing this epic transport.  In the seven years that The Sato Project has been flying dogs out of Puerto Rico, Mission Possible 9 has been the most challenging yet, but I could not be more proud of my small, incredibly mighty team. Through all of the ups and downs (of which there were many!), we held it together, put a new plan for Mission Possible 9 in place, and we succeeded.  

By the end of last week, not just 140, but 160 satos began their new lives and a wave of happy forever family stories started pouring in, each one a reminder of why I do this often exhausting work. Please read on for more about this  mission , and t hank you for believing in us and helping to make Mission Possible 9 a mission accomplished. 

-- Chrissy Beckles, President and Founder
Mission Possible 9:
 
160 dogs, 2 planes, and the team that refused to fail

Left: the team in Puerto Rico stands ready to load the original 150 dogs (which became 160!) into two planes. Right: The second plane of Mission Possible 9 makes its final stop in NJ.

A last minute forced rescheduling. A mechanical failure. An airborne redirection due to Air Force One shutting down airspace in NJ. A thunderstorm. Mission Possible 9 was thrown what felt like a never ending series of potential roadblocks. But The Sato Project's tenacious team refused to give up. We worked with our flight partners at Wings Of Rescue to ensure that this mission would be completed. Because when we say we refuse to fail the dogs of Puerto Rico, we mean every word. 

On Sunday, August 19th, Plane #1 landed in Harrisburg, PA with 80 satos on board. By the time it had finally gotten in the air, our team in PR had been up for over 24 hours working hard to get them there after the other plane suffered a mechanical failure. Meanwhile, our NY team of staff, volunteers, and adopters had to scramble to get to PA in time to meet them there. The airplane was originally scheduled to land in Morristown, NJ but had to be redirected due to Air Force One shutting down the airspace. But our team made it there just in time to welcome this first large load of lucky satos. Among them were many of our special cases - like one-eyed Captain Will, who was rescued after getting hit by a car, and Gurabo, a white shepherd who has captured many of our hearts and has headed into "fospice" (foster while in hospice) care. There were also lots of puppies, like little Jeremy, whose new human sister started jumping up and down with joy as soon as she met him. 

From left to right: Captain Will, Gurabo, and Jeremy with his new siblings. You can see more photos from Mission Possible 9 by clicking here. 

Maya, Golo, and Max, three german shepherds, also traveled on plane #1 as part of our No Dog Left Behind program, our mission to reunite dogs with their owners who had to evacuate the island due to Hurricane Maria and leave their beloved pets behind.  When their dad, Victor, came to pick them up, he was so overcome with emotion (as was everyone who was present to witness it) he could hardly dial his cell phone to share the good news with the rest of his family.  Victor and his family lost everything in Hurricane Maria. He even lost his father. But thanks to the many pieces and people that helped make Mission Possible 9 possible, he has now been reunited with three treasured members of his family.

Victor had not seen his three dogs since December, when he had to leave Puerto Rico after losing everything in Hurricane Maria. They were reunited on Sunday through our No Dog Left Behind program.

Four days later, on Thursday, August 23rd, plane #2 took off from San Juan with another 80 satos. After making a stop in Florida to refuel, it stopped in Wilmington, DE to unload 42 dogs to our shelter partner, Brandywine SPCA. It then continued to Morristown, NJ where our ground team was poised and ready to receive them, including 23 dogs going to Animal Haven, another shelter partner. 

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season officially begins this week. Thanks to Mission Possible 9 and everyone who supported its success, 160 precious lives are now safe and sound, far from the streets of Puerto Rico and far from having their lives be at risk from another deadly storm. To see a slideshow of photos from our epic double-plane mission, you can visit thesatoproject.org/mp9 or click on any of the images above, and we hope you'll watch this video below to see just a handful of the happy endings resulting from this challenging yet rewarding transport. 

Happy Families from Mission Possible 9



TSP Featured on NBC/Telemundo 
for the Clear the Shelters Initiative 

There are many moving pieces to preparing for a Freedom Flight for over 150 dogs, including ensuring that every dog has a safe and loving place to stay as soon as they land. One of the reasons we were able to fly so many dogs at once on Mission Possible 9 was thanks in part to the Clear the Shelters initiative. This nationwide adoption drive is sponsored and organized by NBC/Telemundo to help shelters and rescue organizations across the country to adopt out as many animals as possible. Clear the Shelters is the reason that our shelter partner, Brandywine SPCA, was able to take in so many of our treasured satos and give them a safe place to live until they find their forever families. We were honored to be a part of this important initiative and have our rescue work in Puerto Rico be a featured story for the campaign.  Click on the image below to see the NBC NY coverage or click here to see the Telemundo version in spanish. 

Bronco's Howling Success 

Bronco cuddles with his new sister. Congratulations to Bronco on hitting the family jackpot! 

When Chris submitted the application for his family to start fostering for The Sato Project, he was very clear that they had every intention of doing just that: fostering. But then, sweet, cuddly, and gorgeous Bronco showed up at their door after taking his Freedom Flight on Mission Possible 9. After just one glance at the picture above, it is surprising to no one that Bronco became a record-fast "foster failure," a term we fondly give to fosters who decide they just can't let go of the pup in their care. Upon getting to know Chris, his wife Stephanie, and their family a little bit more, we learned a touching fact: they heard about The Sato Project through being close friends with the family of Alexander Plaza. As our longtime followers will remember, Alex was an ardent dog lover and supporter of The Sato Project who tragically passed away in 2015 at the age of 24. In his honor, his family started the Alexander D. Plaza Critical Care Fund, which was established specifically to cover the veterinary expenses for our satos requiring intensive medical intervention, due to injury, abuse, disease or neglect. Since the start of this fund in his memory, we have been able to help many dogs in critical condition due to traumatic injuries or severe neglect, dogs such as Captain Will and Gurabo, both mentioned above. The Sato Project team was incredibly honored to learn, that now, in addition to helping to save some of our most critical cases, yet another sato has found their happy forever home, thanks to Alex. Thank you, Alex, for continuing to be a guardian angel for our treasured satos. 

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The Sato Project is dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico, where there are an estimated 500,000 strays (referred to as "satos" in Puerto Rico). With only nine shelters on the island with over a 90% euthanasia rate, we have rescued over 2,500 dogs, rehabilitated them with the highest standards of veterinary care, and found them loving homes on the mainland U.S..  We are also working to make systemic change on the island through community outreach and a Spay, Neuter, Vaccinate and Microchip Program.
The Sato Project is a 501(c)3 organization relying entirely on
volunteers and tax-deductible donations for our operations.


"We fight so the dogs of Puerto Rico don't have to."