2005 – Not long after Hurricane Katrina leveled the Gulf Coast,
Cynthia Hart hopped in her car and left her job, her husband, seven
pets and her comfortable home in Asheville, NC, to spend a week with
an animal rescue triage near the tiny community of Pearlington,
She knew ahead of time that conditions would
be rough, but she was not prepared for what she saw when she arrived
scene. Located on Pearl River just a few miles from
the Gulf of Mexico, Pearlington (population
had been hit with a 20 foot storm surge which began at the Gulf and
rolled northward up
the river, destroying everything in its path. Cynthia writes,
"Homes had been ripped off their foundations;
walls were taken out and washed away; furniture was ripped out and
deposited in yards, trees,
marshes. Two inches of mud coated everything, including whatever was
left of homes, vehicles and boats. After seeing the extent
destruction, I could not believe many people and animals
area managed to survive, but they somehow they did."
The triage area where Cynthia worked was
crude, but effective. Shelter for the rescued animals consisted of
metal holding pens topped with tarps.
saw dehydrated dogs and cats, sick goats and pigs, along with fractured
to the ongoing stress and
intense heat, most dogs had some sort of skin condition.They were
in after being found running loose, hiding under houses, or huddled
in attics. They were vaccinated, tagged, de-wormed, de-flea'd and photographed.
Their pictures were cataloged in hopes that they might later be
identified by their rightful owners. Meanwhile, rescue groups from
North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Washington, DC were
to transport these poor animals out of the destroyed area. They
will later be released for adoption, but only if after
a 60-day holding period they've not been claimed."
Cynthia spent her nights in a tent pitched
on the front lawn of the Mandeville, LA, kennel where many of the
Pearlington rescues were being temporarily housed. The kennel had no
electricity, little water, and about 100 animals filling every available
morning she commuted 40 miles to the Pearlington Triage to spend long,
hot days cataloging and caring for scores of homeless animals. Not
she developed a special relationship with one of them:
and I met on the first day I was in Pearlington. Almost as if it was
to be, the rescuers who had been out searching brought her into the
triage area just as I was walking up on my first day of volunteering.
It had taken them four hours to coax her out from under the demolished
house where she had been hiding for two weeks since the hurricane.
I took one look at this aging, emaciated, frightened Dane and announced
that I would be fostering this one! From then on, I tried to spend
moments with her every hour while I went about my work.
We shared the same chicken and rice dinner given to us by the wonderful
folks from the Salvation Army. I think she enjoyed it even
more than I did.
I took Dahlia back
to the kennels in Mandeville, LA, where our group was holding the Pearlington
dogs. She spent the next four days shaking, backing away from anyone
who came near her, and growling at me whenever I put a leash
on her to take her out for some exercise. I thought to myself, 'This
girl obviously had a rough life to begin with. During those hellish
hours on August 29th, she lost everything she'd probably ever known.
She must be scared to death.'
a hot, sweaty week of helping to feed, walk, catch and rehydrate some
200 animals, it was time to say goodbye. Dahlia
climbed into my car and we headed off together for home. She was a
hour drive and I was certainly glad to have the company.
In the two weeks she's
been living with us, this unsure, skinny black beauty has truly blossomed.
She's a happy girl, jumping around excitedly when I get home from
work, tumbling around the floor with our Dalmatian, Olive, and afterwards,
relaxing on the big bed like a princess.
On her first trip to
the vet we learned that Dahlia is 7 or 8 years old, 30 to 40 pounds
underweight, has severely damaged teeth from chewing on stones or
a kennel, (probably
boredom), and worst of all, she is heartworm positive. This week she
will be sedated and closely examined to determine the full extent of
the damage. Hopefully heartworm treatment can begin right away.
What does the future
hold for our beautiful foster fur-kid? Nothing is written in stone
for now. I have to remind myself that for the next 45 days we are JUST
taking care of her. There is always the possibility of her former owners
coming forward to take her away. If she is still with us by Halloween,
I can breathe a sigh of relief.
You're probably wondering
if we'll keep her and make her part of our already too large family
– another Dane, Dal,
four cats and two guinea pigs. It depends on who you ask, me or my
husband. We'll just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, though.
Dahlia's future is much brighter now – and I get all the slobbery kisses
from her to prove it!"
brought Dahlia down to see me this past weekend, just so I could photograph
her and put together her story.
It was almost a four hour drive each way. That's devotion to a cause!
I was impressed by Dahlia's sweet disposition
and not at all surprised
to Cynthia. She seems quite well-adjusted, particularly after all she's
been through. She is a petite Dane, just skin and bones at 90
pounds. You can tell at a glance that she has had a tough life. She's
whelped at least one litter, probably more. Her elbows are heavily
calloused, along with her bony rear end. (I have never seen such calluses
a dog.) As Cynthia pointed out, her front teeth are a wreck, but they
don't seem to bother her. Her dental status will be further evaluated
Cynthia told me that if she was SURE Dahlia
would be going to an exceptional home, she would be willing to give
her up, assuming her original owners never come forward. (Perish the
thought.) If you would like to find out more about Dahlia's future
availability, or if you'd like to learn more about Cynthia's volunteer
experience, you can email her at Cynthia
Paula Stebbins, Hit by Hurricane
Those of you who know me personally or regularly visit DaDane of DaWeek
know that Paula Stebbins is my cherished friend. I have featured
her companion Danes off and on for almost a decade – Maggie, Gambler and Quincy.
What many of you don't know is that Paula
lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a city that was hard
seen video clips of battered and flooded Lake Charles on the news.
Like all of Paula's close friends, I was relieved when she was able
to Little Rock, AR, well ahead of the storm. Grateful that Paula and
her pets are safe and sound, we've been anxiously
for word about
her home and business. Paula lives on the southern edge of Lake
Charles near the airport, which was very heavily damaged. Her business,
Phototek (a camera store and digital imaging center), is located just
3 miles away.
Paula wants everyone to know that so far,
things don't look too bad:
"The good news is that
my home sustained some damage, but nothing catastrophic. I've been
told my house is not flooded – there is no standing water in the subdivision.
There is roof damage which means there will be water
inside, but at least no flood waters. The plywood board on the windows
is intact, so
are down and one
of the big trees in front was uprooted but did not hit the
house. I am very relieved, to say the least.
The store, however,
sustained some significant structural damage. Part of
the front wall
came down. We are told you can see
inside the building, but it is up toward the top which should make
it difficult for looters. The sheriff's department is aware of the
situation and patrolling regularly. Although the building didn't flood,
there is probably a lot of water inside since part of the wall was
knocked out. We are hopeful that the lab equipment is okay
covered everything with visqueen before leaving. We'll know more as
soon as we can get back to inspect everything personally."
During Hurricane Katrina, Paula
opened her home to five friends from New Orleans, plus their
and cats. She housed the group for several weeks until they
were able to make other plans. Little did she imagine that
soon she would be an evacuee herself. If you'd like to send Paula a
of encouragement, you can email her at Paula
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