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Providing an important leg in the journey

Last Modified: 10/11/2018

Having been lifelong residents of Shipshewana and volunteer firefighters and paramedics for a total of 40 years between them, Chad and Lora (Hostetler) Miller are bound to run into people they know whenever they are out in the community. Those they run into could be neighbors, friends, extended family members, people they work with at Parkview LaGrange Hospital or other EMS medics. And among them are people whose lives have been touched during the most difficult of times by Chad or Lora – or both.

Lora remembers, when she was a child, reading her father’s textbook for the EMT class he was taking and being fascinated by it. Her brother became a firefighter in 1997. Not long afterward, he began to encourage Lora to either join the fire department or take a basic emergency medical tech (EMT) class. “So I did both,” Lora commented. “He took EMT class with me in 2001.”

Lora describes feeling called to follow in their footsteps. She has been a volunteer firefighter with the Shipshewana Fire Department for 17 years and a paramedic for 12. In 2013, she completed the nursing program at Glen Oaks Community College and received her certification as a registered nurse. She now serves as a nurse in Parkview LaGrange Hospital’s emergency department, but retains her “as needed” connection to both the Shipshewana Fire Department and Parkview LaGrange County EMS.

“It’s important to me to be able to work in the community I live in and be able to take care of ‘my people’ – my neighbors, family, friends. I get to make a difference in their lives,” Lora said.

Her husband, Chad, has been a firefighter with the Shipshewana Volunteer Fire Department for 24 years and has been fire chief for the past 12 years. He has also been an advanced EMT for Parkview LaGrange County EMS for 11 years.

“Nobody does this for a pat on the back,” Chad said. “It’s being able to see people out and around town a month or even a year later and knowing you helped them get better – that’s where inspiration comes from.”

Family is very important to both Chad and Lora, as are their animals – a German shepherd named Taylor, whom they got from a rescue organization in California, and “numerous cats”.

“We seem to have a habit of recovering and rehoming animals,” Lora said. “Pets just show up at our front door – cats mostly. After having them checked out by the vet and spayed or neutered if they need it, we try to place them with friends or family members. We’re really picky about who the pets go to.”

A couple years ago Chad, who is a lawn care professional during the summer season, ran across a not-for-profit on the internet called Pilots N Paws. The organization was founded in 2008 and, to date, has a network of 5,000 pilots and thousands of animal rescue organizations. Its mission is to provide air transportation for animals who are unable to tolerate a long ride by car. Once a pilot lists themselves as available, they begin receiving emails from Pilots N Paws with details about the animal and where it needs to go. The pilots provide their time, gas and flight, free of charge.

“Late this summer I went out to the Pilots N Paws website and posted that we were available to fly when there is a need,” said Chad. “We don’t fly the entire trip for these dogs, only a ‘leg’ of the trip. Other pilots fly a portion as well. During September we provided sections of the trip for four dogs, flying them from Arkansas to Ohio, Pennsylvania to Missouri, Huntington, Indiana to Maine, and Pennsylvania to Osceola, Indiana.”

The Millers’ favorite Pilots N Paws flight was the one they made with a beagle named Shelagh, who began her trip in Pennsylvania on her way to Goshen. They learned from the originating rescue agency that Shelagh had been tied up in the woods and abandoned to die. By accident, a hiker heard the dog whimpering and took it to Road Trip Rescue. The dog’s eyes were severely infected and the rescue agency took it to a vet. Ultimately, Shelagh’s eyes had to be removed. She returned to the rescue group and rehabbed with them for three months. By a fluke, a woman who had just lost her own blind dog, came across Shelagh’s story online. She had had her dog certified as a therapy dog – despite its blindness – and was looking forward to doing the same with Shelagh.

“This was our favorite Pilots N Paws flight. Just knowing that we were able to help rescue a dog that had been left to die and take her to the next stop in her journey,” Lora said. “We were taking Shelagh from death’s door to a place where she could help to heal this woman’s pain from the loss of her beloved pet and also begin a new life as a therapy dog, bringing warmth and love to people in need. It was very special.”

The compassionate couple doesn’t plan on slowing down their efforts anytime soon. “We will fly these dogs as often as our work schedules allow,” Lora said. “It’s so inspiring to be involved in taking a rescue dog to what we know will be a sweet end.”




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