Every day, people travel with their pets on United Airlines, but one pup was sadly left behind at the airport with no one to claim him. This is a story about Polaris… No, not our United Polaris® business class, but an adorable, four-legged friend who ultimately found his forever home with a United family.
In late August 2022, Vincent Passafiume, United’s Airport Operations Customer Service Director, found himself in a unique predicament. A United passenger traveling internationally left their puppy in San Francisco during a layover because they didn’t have proper documentation for him (for example, an updated rabies vaccine and a health certificate).
“The puppy was left at SFO,” Passafiume says, “and we were instructed by the authorities to euthanize the dog.”
Passafiume, however, refused to accept this outcome. After reaching out to several teams at United to ask how to keep him in the U.S., the dog, now named Polaris, was saved. He was placed in a three-month-long quarantine in a government-approved facility, until he was ready to be adopted.
A couple of months later, Polaris found his forever home with William Dale, a San Francisco Airbus A320 captain who has been with United since 2015.
“I first found out about Polaris through an email from our SFO customer service announcing he was ready for adoption on December 6, 2022,” Dale recalls. “My wife and I had been discussing adding a pet to our family. We had recently moved to a bigger home and finally had the space to welcome a dog. There were already 40 applications, but my wife, Luz, was certain that we would get to adopt him.”
Dale submitted a brief statement about how their home would be a perfect fit for Polaris: It was equipped with tons of space, a wonderful backyard, parks galore, and two children who would love him endlessly.
Luz’s hope, it turns out, paid off: The Dale family happily welcomed Polaris into their home last December.
“The first time we met him was at the adoption ceremony,” Dale says. “He was about six months old and had grown quite a bit. He was huge! At first, I couldn’t believe he was a puppy.”
Polaris was recognized worldwide and featured in publications such as CNN Travel and The Washington Post. Three months after Polaris’s adoption was final, Passafiume, Dale, and Dale’s new best friend appeared on The Kelly Clarkson Show to share their story.
“Being invited on the show was an incredible experience,” Dale says. “Kelly and her entire staff could not have been nicer, and they all treated Polaris like a rock star. I don’t love the spotlight, so I was very happy Polaris got all the attention.”
It has now been one year since Polaris settled into his home, and Dale and his family know they made the best choice of their lives by adopting him.
“He loves to play fetch in the backyard and will leave a cloud of dust when he gets the zoomies,” Dale says with a laugh. “Polaris is a wonderful dog, and we are so lucky to be his humans. It’s an incredible story of our United family coming together for a good cause.”
To celebrate Polaris’s adoption, United has donated $5,000 to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) where there are plenty of animals waiting to be adopted.