PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A pilot who helped fly nearly 150 rescued beagles across the country to find new homes in the Pacific Northwest ended up bringing one of the dogs home to his own family. 

Rubie the Beagle is captain Steve Denton’s newest co-pilot, although she doesn’t spend time in the air – at least not since Steve flew her from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the Portland International Airport. 

Rubie was one of nearly 4,000 beagles rescued from a breeding facility in Virginia. Pilot Steve Denton flew her and 145 of the other rescued beagles to Portland and he and his wife Kimberli later adopted her. Photo courtesy Kimberli Denton

Rubie was one of nearly 4,000 beagles that were rescued from Envigo RMS, a research and breeding facility in Virginia. In July, the Department of Justice ordered the company to release the beagles after it was found to have failed to meet the minimum standards for handling, housing and feeding the dogs. 

The animals were also not provided adequate veterinary care, watering or sanitation, investigators found. 

The beagles were shipped to animal rescue groups across the country that hoped to find them new homes. Rubie and 145 other beagles were sent to Oregon on August 20

Steve is a commercial pilot for Ameriflight. The company typically hauls UPS and other mail freight during the week, but one week in August, he was asked to transport some unusual cargo: the 146 rescued dogs. 

He hopped on a plane in Sioux Falls that was loaded with the animals and flew them to Portland. 

“I kind of fell in love with the whole issue of the little puppy dogs and called my wife and said, ‘Hey, this is kind of what I want to do. What are you thinking?’” he said. 

What he wanted to do was bring one of the puppies home. 

Steve Denton, a pilot for Ameriflight, flew 146 rescued beagles to Portland International Airport on Aug. 20, 2022. Photo courtesy Oregon Humane Society

His wife, Kimberli Denton, was glad to hear her husband had played a part in the mission but wasn’t sure if they were ready to adopt another dog. The couple already had a 14-year-old dachshund and their daughter’s Australian shepherd-mix lived with them. 

However, it only took a bit of research on what conditions the dogs had been living in before Kimberli was won over. 

“I just felt like we had to do our little part in adopting Rubie,” she said. 

Some of the dogs Steve flew to Portland went to the Oregon Humane Society’s Portland and Salem campuses. Others went to the Humane Society of Southwest Washington and more went to Spokane. 

The Dentons contacted the Oregon Humane Society to tell them they were interested in adopting one of the dogs. The humane society later called to ask if they wanted a male or female and a week later, the Dentons were bringing home the newest member of their family. 

“She was just so happy when we got there and she was just so, so sweet,” Kimberli said. 

When they adopted her, Rubie was thin and Kimberli said they could see the dog’s ribs. Since then, Rubie’s put on weight and grown into a healthy teenage dog. She is now 8 months old and has settled into the Denton family. She’s learned tricks and enjoys playing with her toys and sleeping on the couch. 

The Dentons live on a five-acre property in Redmond and Rubie spends her days running around a large, fenced area. 

“She’s got lots of room to run and play with sticks and just have a ball all over the place. There’s lots of room to run,” Steve said. 

It’s what some might call doggy heaven – and a major improvement from her previous situation. 

The Dentons know they’ve made a huge impact on Rubie’s life, but said she’s also made their lives better. 

“I look forward to seeing her every day when I get home from work,” Kimberli said. “She’s funny. She makes us laugh. She’s great to snuggle with. She’s just a really, really good little dog and she makes us really happy.” 

Steve said he’d love to pilot another plane full of rescued dogs in the future if Ameriflight ever assigns him to it again. He said it’s fun to move animals to a new place where they’ll hopefully find good homes. 

The Dentons know there was a lot of attention surrounding the rescued beagles. They’re glad the ones that came to the Northwest found homes so quickly, but hope people will take an interest in adopting dogs from the animal shelter, no matter their breed or backstory. 

“If we can do anything to help out, as far as encouraging people to take care of these little critters and give them a home, I think that’s a great thing,” Steve said. 

The Oregon Humane Society received more than 200 applications for the rescued beagles within the first 15 minutes of the first group of beagles becoming available for adoption. 

The beagles quickly found homes and the Oregon Humane Society encouraged anyone who had hoped to adopt one of the beagles to instead consider adopting one of the other available pets at the shelter.