Tuesday, August 30, 2005


First off, Kathy and I feel for those in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who have lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. The pictures you see in the media cannot begin to show the utter devastation the region has endured. The pictures out of New Orleans are particularly haunting. New Orleans is a city Kathy and I love to go to - I know "The Big Easy" will be rebuilt.

Second, this post is about evacuees - animal evacuees. Kathy and I help set up a animal shelter in Monroe Sunday afternoon as Katrina bore down on New Orleans and residents started to pour into our shelters.

Here's her story from the Tuesday, August 30, 2005 edition of The News-Star.

It was 4 p.m. Sunday in the hurricane evacuees' animal shelter, and it had already been a very, very long day. Because we were fitting in evacuees around the Monroe Civic Center's already scheduled work, the animals had to slide in after the weekend rodeo was over but not get in the way of the major preparations for the Labor Day weekend dog show. We kept moving around the back of the Arena until the Equestrian Pavilion finally became our home, the only animal shelter for miles around.

By 4 p.m., we had an untold number of dogs and cats, some birds, a hamster and a ferret. And they kept coming - so fast, the perspiring and exhausted volunteer crew representing all of the local animal groups could barely keep up with them. But they were grateful, these refugees. They left their homes without a place to go. They grabbed their pets, but many came as far as Monroe with no way to care for them.

One young man brought in two parakeets in a box with holes punched in it. We managed to find a wire hamster cage for them. An SUV showed up with five cats, three dogs and a ferret. Another family brought in their pets plus a puppy they found tossed in the Civic Center parking lot. The puppy went in a crate just like someone's family pet, with a worry about ownership to be dealt with later.

Some pet owners brought their own crates, pet toys, food and medicines. Other pets came with their leashes or carried in their owners' arms. Some pet owners went to the American Red Cross shelter at the Civic Center, and came over to walk their pets and check on them. Others found hotel rooms or housing with friends locally, but restrictions prevented their pets from staying with them. We took them all.

Our accommodations for the refugees were rudimentary, but we had fans, food and water. We volunteers were trying to be sympathetic and understanding of people in an extraordinarily stressful situation. We wanted them to know that of all their worries, their pets would be safe.

At 4 p.m., I was on the cell phone with the newspaper office discussing hurricane coverage and simultaneously trying to help corner Lilly, a medium-size dog who had broken loose from her owner and bolted into a grassy area next to the shelter.

Once Lilly was leashed, I went inside to grab some water. Lilly's owner and another young man found me and asked where to put donations. I told him I would make sure they got to the right place.

He opened a money clip and kept peeling off bills. His friend did the same.

"Oh, that's too much,'' I said.

"No, I see what y'all are doing here - sending people out to buy more fans, trying to keep all of these animals comfortable,'' he said. "We never thought we would
find something like this.''

My feet were aching and I could barely see for the sweat dripping down into my eyes. But it felt good. Real good.

Our community, you see, is that kind of place. A place that will open its arms to all.


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10:43 PM  

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