By Andrea Romano
January 23, 2018
Credit: Courtesy of Shelley Castle Photography

Every now and then, commercial pilots get to use their skills to help other creatures in need.

Southwest Airlines pilot David "Fig" Newton and an all volunteer crew out of Houston worked with Lucky Dog Rescue to fly a 737 to San Juan, Puerto Rico to rescue puppies and kittens who were abandoned after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Credit: Courtesy of Shelley Castle Photography

Newton told KHOU, “It's a different kind of service. I can't tell you how much I love being able to do this.”

Many animals on the island were left behind by families who unfortunately had no way of caring for them after the storm. Newton described that the flight back was filled with “a lot more animals than people.”

“We'd moved about 50 feet and we hear barking, and we though this could be a long flight,” he said to KHOU.

Newton and his crew cared for the animals as they flew back to the U.S. on a four-hour flight to Baltimore.

“Somewhere along the flight we turned the seat belt sign off, and I kind of expected the puppies to come out, and I heard they had a puppy parade in the back,” he said. "When we got over to land we said welcome to the United States, that's kind of a big thing to us.”

Newton remarked that the whole rescue team wanted to take the lot of the animals home with them by the time they landed, but the puppies and kittens were safely surrendered to Lucky Dog’s Washington D.C. center.

Credit: Courtesy of Shelley Castle Photography

According to ABC affiliate WFAA, there were 62 stray dogs and cats in total. About one third of the animals have already been adopted to families in the D.C. area, according to KHOU.