Updated: Aug 8
In the crossroads of aviation and animal advocacy, we find a figure who has dedicated herself to these two seemingly distinct spheres. Erin Mariah Murphy, an international airline pilot, author, and animal rescue affiliate, finds a unique harmony in her multifaceted career and passions. In her Mom's Choice award winning picture book, "Halfway Home", she chronicles the heartwarming tale of her rescue dog, Zeke, and sheds light on the role of aviation in animal rescue efforts. We interviewed Erin to discuss her writing, animal rescue work, and the synergies between these two parts of her life.
Animal rescue flights provide a crucial lifeline for at-risk animals, transporting them from overcrowded shelters or disaster-stricken areas to safer locations where adoptive homes are waiting. Volunteer pilots like Erin play an essential role in these missions, dedicating their time and skills to help animals reach safety.
One such initiative is Wings of Rescue, a donation-based charity that flies at-risk pets from disaster zones and high-capacity shelters to locations with available kennel space. Since 2012, the organization has transported over 61,000 pets to safety. Erin's collaboration with Wings of Rescue, through the Brandywine Valley SPCA, underscores the power of teamwork in the animal welfare community.
The upcoming Summer Open House at the Women's Animal Center's Summer Open House, featuring Erin for a story time and book signing, is a vibrant event filled with dog training demonstrations, treats, and activity stations for kids. It showcases the innovative ways animal shelters can engage their community and advance their mission.
As we delve into Erin's journey, it becomes apparent how passion can fuel meaningful change — in the skies, on the ground, and in the hearts of both humans and their four-legged companions.
Key Takeaways from Our Interview with Erin
Murphy's participation in the event, both through a book signing and through direct donations from her book sales, provides a model for how authors and other creative individuals can leverage their work to support causes they care about.
The story behind the picture book "Halfway Home" is based on the author's own experience with her rescue dog Zeke, aiming to raise awareness about the plight of returned rescue animals and the importance of understanding their behavior and unique needs.
As an international airline pilot, the author found an unexpected but compelling connection between aviation and animal rescue services, underscoring the impact of animal air rescue operations on the issue of animal overpopulation.
Your book signing at the Women's Animal Center's open house event is a unique way to combine literary and dog-centered activities. Can you tell us more about how this collaboration came about?
The collaboration with the Women’s Animal Center came about through interaction on Instagram. We both follow a wonderful human-grade dog treat and meal company called SAINT ROCCO’s TREATS. Respectively, we began following each other and then they conracted me supporting their relaunched read-to-shelter pet program, STORY TAILS.
Do you have any suggestions on how authors or other creative individuals can effectively use their work to raise awareness or support for animal rescue at community events?
Effective ways to use writing or creativity to support animal rescue is through donating a portion of sales to the cause closest to your heart. For me, this ensured I genuinely and authentically attract supporters because they can feel my passion. As far as a creative medium, be playful. I recently saw a gardener that annually opens a roadside herb, flower, and veggie stand to raise funds for my local SPCA. Again, once people see you in your authentic environment, they’ll support you and in turn, support animal welfare/your cause.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your picture book "Halfway Home"? How did your rescue of Zeke influence the narrative?
My inspiration for my picture book is predictable, my rescue pup Zeke. His unorthodox body language and unique ways just called out, ‘I’d be a great children’s book character.’ On a more serious note, Zeke was adopted and returned twice. I saw it as an opportunity to share how this can be prevented/minimized. Lastly, I saw his introversion as a way to reach anyone who may feel anxious or uncomfortable in their own skin at times.
As an international airline pilot and an affiliate with animal-rescue flight services, how have these roles influenced your writing?
My role as an airline pilot influenced my writing because I quickly learned how few pilots knew about animal air rescue services, myself included. I volunteered and began to write about Zeke long before I understood the magnitude of animal air rescue. My writing teacher encouraged me to elevate my story about Zeke with a more distinguished plot. So, I looked into animal rescue flying, which I only loosely knew about. A whole world unfolded before me.
Can you describe your collaboration with the Women's Animal Center and how it aligns with your commitment to animal rescue?
The collaboration with the Women’s Animal Center includes me donating $2/book from orders from my website, erinmurphybooks.com, thru July, an offering for consumers to purchase a copy of HALFWAY HOME for children who participate in their STORY TAILS reading program, and I’m collecting books donated by authors of animal related books for the center’s library. The collaboration aligns with my commitment to share Zeke’s story of rejection and highlight aviation’s role in animal adoptions for animal and aviation enthusiasts.
What sparked your interest in animal rescue, particularly in relation to air/ground rescue services?
My general love for animals sparked my interest in my SPCA volunteerism. Writing and Zeke led me to learn the depths of air rescue services. Both sparked my desire to raise awareness and fundraise for numerous air and ground rescue services.
In your experiences with animal rescue, what are some memorable stories that have stayed with you?
Every foster has marked my heart and I get such pleasure out of seeing them in awe on our 6 acres and hiking trails. After an often painful goodbye, I love seeing them with their new families. Regarding animal air rescue, the first flight I volunteered for marked me permanently when the cargo door of the Embraer Brasília 120 airplane opened, and I saw nearly 200 rescued dogs and cats. Additionally, I was floored at the frequency of rescue flights, which led me to a better understanding of the overpopulation problem.
How do you balance your career as an international airline pilot with your passion for animal rescue and writing?
I balance my career as an international airline pilot, my rescue passions, and my writing by writing on work layovers, using my opportunity to share about my book, rescue, and writing in flight deck conversations with co-workers, and I request off Saturdays so I can be available to volunteer with the SPCA’S scheduled rescue flights via Wings of Rescue. My biggest challenge is balancing time at home with the custom shipping of my books. I enjoy adding extra attention to each order and sometimes I undervalue my time. It’s a labor of love that I strive to balance better from a small business standpoint.
Are there any future projects or books that you are currently working on that involve the theme of animal rescue?
Yes, I’m working on book #2, DARING DEXTER, launching April 2024. I continue to take writing courses and workshops. I have three other manuscripts and one stood out for a perfect re-write when we foster-failed* our newest pup, Dexter. His real story is unknown, so it was fun to exercise creative liberties with his character. Also, many HALFWAY HOME readers hoped for a second book showing Zeke’s life after the ending in HALFWAY HOME. So, it’s not a true series but the new book features characters Pilot Maeve and Zeke so readers can see their life now and more about animal air rescue services.
Do you have any suggestions on how authors or other creative individuals can effectively use their work to raise awareness or support for animal rescue at community events, such as the Women's Animal Center Open House?
I suggest authors and creatives post their desire to collaborate, often. Like, very often. I took a marketing course via my publisher, BiblioKid Publishing. I learned not everyone is on social media everyday and algorithms prevent your posts from being viewed as often as you post. So get to sharing. Tell anyone who will listen because no one will sell your product like you and no one will know about it unless you tell them. So, step out of your comfort zone and share your creative efforts.
(*Editor's Note: The term 'foster-fail' used in the interview is a positive phrase used in the rescue community. It describes a situation where a foster parent becomes so attached to the foster pet that they end up adopting the pet permanently.)
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