Thrive by IU Health

June 01, 2021

Doctor flies for a cause that has paws

Doctor flies for a cause that has paws

His career is in medicine, but this doctor extends his caring spirit outside the hospital. He pilots four-legged passengers.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

When he’s at work at IU Health, Dr. Cary Mariash specializes in thyroid disease. As an endocrinologist, he’s practiced with IU Health for 12 years and also serves as the medical director for enterprise medical operations (formerly known as Methodist Research Institute).

He treats patients with overactive and underactive thyroids and also pituitary disease. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of California Berkeley and attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego. He completed his residency at the University of Minnesota and after 40 years of practice, moved to Indiana.

“I was always interested in math and physics, but when I was growing up there was a downturn in math and physics engineers,” said Mariash. “I had a neighbor who worked as an engineer and got laid off. I decided that what I do I will have to maintain employment, so I went into medicine. I enjoy taking care of patients and being able to help people,” said Mariash.

Ami and Mariash holding a dog

That’s not all. He also has a love for animals and airplanes. It’s a love he shares with his wife, Ami. They have two children – a son and daughter – and two grandchildren who all live in Minnesota. They also have a Cockatoo, named “Corky” and two rescue dogs.

But there are dozens of other animals that have found a safe place with Mariash and his wife.

Back in the early 90s a hobby flying model airplanes lead Mariash to flying a glider, and then to earning his pilot’s license. Since then, he’s owned or flown about 16 different planes and owns a single-engine 1964 Beechcraft Bonanza.

When the couple lived in Minnesota, Mariash provided free medical transportation to patients facing financial distress. He volunteered his services through the charitable organization called “Angel Flight.” The move to Indiana resulted in fewer patient transports so he offered his services to another cause, “Pilots N Paws.” The organization provides rescue flights, overnight care or shelter for animals.

Dog travels in the back of a car

And it’s not just dogs and cats that catch a flight to a safe place. There are birds, turtles, and snakes, too.

Mariash and his wife mostly transport dogs. Many transports can involve multiple pilots flying from one state to another. Most fly about 200-300 miles per a flight.

“The longest transport I was involved with was a bomb-sniffing dog that was transported from San Diego to New York. It took six or seven pilots to transport it across country in one weekend,” said Mariash. In all, he has taken part in about 70 different flights – some with two to four animals per a flight. He estimates he has transported well over 100 animals.

“If I’m flying on my own, I want the animals crated. If I have someone with me, I’ll allow them to be tethered. The untethered ones want to be a co-pilot,” said Mariash.

“Pretty much every dog I’ve rescued has behaved extremely well. Most lie down and go to sleep except during the decent and the landing. There was one flight with another pilot when a dog got a little anxious and broke out of his crate. That caused a little excitement with the pilot and air traffic control,” said Mariash. Other than that, there’s another little challenge with the volunteer effort.

“As we fly, there is change in air pressure and for some dogs that leads to certain gases escaping from the rear end. In a closed airplane that can be tough,” Mariash says with a laugh. He adds that he’s never had a dog have an accident in his plane.

“I love transporting dogs. It’s something I can do with my wife and we know we’re helping dogs from being sent to kill shelters. It’s almost like they know they are being rescued,” said Mariash.

Since he started flying, Mariash has made trips to Florida, Maine, San Diego, and parts of Canada. The farthest he’s traveled is to Alaska.

What are Mariash’s favorite flights? He said: “To Minnesota to visit our kids and grandkids.”