(tissue alert, do not read it if you do not want to cry)
For all those poor lost animals who have lost their fight after Hurricane Katrina and for all those souls who wait for rescue a candle to find your way.... and to those who gave of their time to go search for them
This free script provided by
I'm so tired but I can't sleep
But I will remember you
I'm so afraid to love you, but
more afraid to loose
And I will remember you
And I will remember you
Weep not for the memories
As many of you know myself and Heather Walton volunteered to head down September 23rd and stayed down for a week in New Orleans, Louisiana to help in the rescue efforts to help save still trapped animals with the many other volunteers. I have added a few links below for those of you are interested in any updates on what is going on down there.
Here is Heather's story.
is a rescue organization that has been down there from the get go. They have been updating photos on a regular basis. Some of the pictures are quite graphic so view their slide shows at your discretion. They have kept me informed of what is going on and it is this site that gave me the guts to go. Project Starfish is a link to Broken Down Dogs shelter whom have already sent 15 dogs for adoption to the Cambridge Humane Society here in Ontario. Note: These dogs were already in the Broken Down Dogs shelter prior to Katrina's devastation and were already up for adoption prior to her arrival. These were not victims of HK. .
I would like to publicly and personally thank Kathie Perron of Niagara Sheltie Rescue, a great friend and a wonderful caring person for allowing me to be the other half of this rescue team. It was an experience of a lifetime, one that many people could not have done and one I would gladly do again.
"If I could save just one animal, one persons beloved companion, then this whole trip would be all worth while..." a quote from myself prior to us leaving
Many people have asked me about our trip and face to face I have said as very few words as possible. This is very hard for me to write and even harder for me to talk about as it was such an unbelievably emotional week and I am still very emotional about it and as you read if you have any love for animals at all, you will understand why.
Who would have thought that what normally only took 2 days of evacuation would turn into a month long nightmare...... for animals and people..........
When Kathie had emailed me saying she was thinking of heading down to New Orleans to help out I phoned her up immediately without so much as a blink of an eye and said count me in. We had just a week to plan it all and with the help of donations from wonderfully caring people we headed down on the long 2 day drive to Louisiana and the Lamar Dixon Center, temporary home of the LASPCA and HSUS and temporary home to over 6,000 animals including livesock. We had decided we wanted to go into the field and look for animals. Little did we know what we were heading in to.
Yep, we were in the trenches as they say. Breaking into houses to get dogs out, finding dogs still tied up to a rope with a collar around their necks dead and half decomposed. Dogs that had survived by eating another dog, only to die when the second hurricane flooded out the houses again. Dogs bodies battered and tangled up in furniture that had been swept thru the house by the storm surge and then blown out windows on the other side. Dogs safe in an upper untouched bedroom, with blankets and dog beds and toys and food and water bowls sitting empty beside their lifeless body having starved to death. Dogs in completely closed up houses that were 120 Fahrenheit, with window shades drawn, full of mold so strong it would burn your lungs, mud, toxins, furniture everywhere upside down and backwards and coated in wet and moldy mud, ceilings falling all around. Having to climb over and around all of this with a flashlight searching for animals and when you found them they were so thin and so scared that they start peeing as soon as they see you and hide in the farthest corner they can get to. 45 minutes later, being soaking wet from sweat dripping from you and running down your arms from being in an oven, slowly coaxing them with food that they are so afraid to come get yet so badly needing and then so happy when you have a leash around their necks as they actually walk out into daylight and fresh air that they haven't seen and have real food and non toxic water, something they have not had for a month. Dogs with cuts so deep in their necks from collars or ropes from trying to save themselves, dogs dead hanging over a fence trying to survive the flood waters until they have no strength left to hold on....... people with nothing at all left, their homes, their possessions in their homes, their cars, their jobs, their lives all lost........ just their clothes on their backs, sometimes no families, sometimes no animals....... many homeless animals, many homeless people....... sooooooo very sad. You can not begin to understand what it was like until you actually go into the houses and see a pair of babies first shoes on a shelf covered in mud and mold, or wedding pictures ruined, or antique furniture destroyed, houses in the middle of the road where they are not suppose to be, or in pieces, cars in the middle of houses, boats in the middle of the road or someone's backyard, a freezer sitting on top of a 6 foot tall fence post resting where the water had set it down as it reseeded. Fish in a dark moldy house peering out of their aquarium waiting for someone to feed them and racing to the top when you do to gulp down some food...... lizards being thankful when you put them in their cages where they feel safe, .......... no cars on the road, no people on the streets, houses all empty of life except for what you are hoping you find, being so scared and trying to fight your own fears and get enough courage up to walk into a completely dark home that is about 150 F sealed up tight with no air circulation, smelling like a cross between oil, mold, raw sewage and rotting food/meat, with no hydro, not knowing what is inside, 6" of muddy slop on the floor and walls, ceiling falling all around, furniture thrown everywhere so you have no idea what room is what and having to climb over it, peering under with a flashlight for a body of a dog or cat or perhaps a human, dead or alive.....and having to try and open a door that will not open hoping that when you do or if you do get it open that nothing will fall on you be it man made, dead or alive.......
that is just a taste of what it was like....you had to have a very strong stomach, hard shell and a strong constitution........ and the will to find a live animal and have the company of a darn good partner and friend that you would trust your life with........because it is just her and you out there.
The first live animal we found was a cat and when I finally got to pick that cat up and had it in my arms I held it so tight to my body and I cried....I cried tears of joy and great sadness because I knew that one was finally safe and had survived what many had not, and many will not....... and when we rescued the last two of our trip, a tiny old, terribly thin poodle and a beagle cross that was in a bit better shape I again cried knowing that these ones didn't have much time left and many more will not be so lucky and that we had to leave them behind to go back to our real lives, hoping someone else would keep looking until no more are found alive.
First of all, you have to realize that people had no choice but to leave their animals behind. They were removed at gunpoint if they didn't want to leave their animal. There were a few brave souls who decided to ride the hurricane out with their animals instead of leaving them. Some made it through, most did not.
All in all we managed to find alive and rescue a monitor lizard, 2 cats which were in the same house, and 6 dogs. The lizard happened to have his crate by the window as we passed by on the roof top to go into the cats home as the bottom door was jammed shut. The first dog was a very thin cattle dog that was locked up totally in a house. We had to break the glass in a kitchen window and climb in through to get in. This dog was lucky. I don't think he could have lasted another day in that heat. Kathie spent 45 minutes in this heat gently talking to the dog until the dog gave in and came close enough to be noosed. We found out this dogs name was Bruce by a neighbor that had been allowed into the area to check on his house. We were lucky and he actually let us talk to Bruce's owner's daughter on the phone. She was in tears when she found out her fathers dog was still alive. This was a dog they had rescued a year before. Next we rescued a fair sized old red lady that was hiding under a bed. The poor dear had been so careful to only potty on the newspaper that her owners had left for her and the only way we could get her out was to toss tiny bits of treat out for her and she scrambled out from under the bed as she was so hungry. The next dog we saved was a pit bull that was 'locked' in a small back yard shed behind a steel door that was on the back of the house. We had to break the door knob off with a crowbar to get her out. She would not let us get near her to bring her in so we left food and water out for her and two dogs that were hiding under the house next door. Then we rescued a very very happy but very very thin german shepherd girl from a back yard. The neighbor had stopped in to check on his cat and when he couldn't find his cat he opened the 6 cans of cat food he had for it and gave it to the shepherd. She was so very sweet and so very happy to see us. One of our days where we went out and had no success finding any live animals we decided to stay out late to the 8 pm curfew time for feeders and just put feeding and water stations out. We were running into darkness as we rushed down the empty streets to get out of the city before it got completely dark as we did not want to get stuck in a totally dark city with no lights and no help. We saw a flash of red with white in its mouth run across the road in front of us. We then realized it was a smallish red dog. We stopped to see if we could catch it in the few minutes we didn't have to spare. It was a young red hound cross girl that again was very thin. She had a bag that holds a plastic knife and fork in her mouth. I guess she could smell the remnants of food on the bag and had decided that the bag would be her meal for the day. As Kathie and I approached her she scurried off and then stopped. She turned and looked at us and as I knelt down to call her I opened my arms up and she hesitated for one second then ran as fast as she could into my arms wiggling in delight but still very scared. We quickly scooped her up and put her in the back of the truck with a hand full of cookies and headed on our way to get out in time.
On the outside of houses after the National Guard had been there to check for humans they would leave a spray painted note and codes to say what they had found. Well we had been driving down the roads putting out feeders and trying to catch a few dogs that we could not get near. We turned a corner and there was a tiny little dog running down the middle of the road in front of us. We pulled over and got out to follow where it had disappeared into a house. We found the door open and went inside. Kathie pulled the door closed behind her so the dog could not get out. I walked into the next room which was littered with furniture and stuff. As I climbed around a piece of large furniture that was in the middle of the floor I looked down and here was the tiny dog, a very thin scruffy little poodle laying on a pillow so scared. He kind of turned his head and looked at me with these green goopy eyes as if to say please don't hurt me. He was so thin you could see his hip bones sticking through his hair, matted with dried mud. I found myself again crying for this poor little fellow. He was so afraid of me touching him with my gloves. I managed to get a noose over his head and then when I got him standing up I very carefully reached down and picked him up. He was so scared and afraid that he felt like a board, so stiff in my hands. Once we got him out and into the sunlight he finally gave in and you could feel him give a big sigh and relax in my arms. We fed and watered him and put him in a crate in the back of the truck and jumped in our truck to head on. I happened to glance at the house right across the road and noticed that the National Guard had wrote "Dog"......"Dog In Bedroom" on the front of the house. So Kathie and I got out and went in to double check. The door was closed and as we carefully looked through the house and into the bedroom two eyes peered back at us from behind a furniture laden bedroom. This poor sweet fellow had been locked up in the room since the National Guard had come in to check and they had just left him there. This boy would not come to us and it was getting dark out so we decided to go with a catch pole and a can of food. It didn't take much to get him to eat the food so we put the noose over the food and then once he was done eating we just lifted the noose up and gently put it around his neck. Once he felt the noose he followed us outside. Very happy to have human company. These houses had not been checked nor were they on any lists to be checked. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
We found an awful lot more animals that had not made it. Some probably died quick when the surge went through and some died a painfully long death......from heat, lack of food and water or from being trapped. Some were left in dog runs and some tied up in yards. Some had been let out by the National Guard to at least have some chance of surviving. When you walked into a house where the water had been up to the ceiling for a week you wondered how anything survived. but some did and we were honored to have been given the opportunity to be a part of giving even just a handful of animals their lives back.
Bless these animals for holding on and bless all the volunteers that gave of their time and love to go down and help these animals.
You are truly angels!
Here are some of the photos I took on the trip. Click on the thumbnail pictures to see a larger photo and then click on your back button to return to the main page.
Driving into New Orleans on Highway 10 from the Lamar Dixon Center in Gonzales where they had the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) tent for HSUS and LASPCA volunteers. The Lamar Dixon Center was the temporary headquarters for the Louisiana SPCA and HSUS as well as temporary shelter for evacuees who could also house their animals that they had with them.
One day while driving into the city we saw an unfortunate alligator that had been hit by a car after it decided to try and cross the road. He was huge and I could imagine the damage he had done to the car! I guess this gator needed some "gator aide"
It was a 50 mile, one hour trip each way not including what ever driving we did in the city looking for animals. We would go through a whole tank of gas just driving to, around and from our daily routine. Our daily routine started at 5 AM when we headed to the main barn for the daily briefing, to get our addresses to be searched (we were only searching for animals in houses that people had called in and requested we check on their animals), loading of our vehicle with 300 lbs of dry and wet dog/cat food, 50 gallons of water and any supplies we needed. We got gas on the edge of New Orleans so it would last longer and then headed into the city for our search and rescue. We had to be out of the city by 6-7 pm as they had a curfew placed for looting, we would get into Lamar Dixon by 8 to get in the line up of vehicles full of animals so we could get the animals we had rescued thru intake and ended at 11 pm, then it was our time to get showered and get out to find a restaurant that was still open and then hit the sack exhausted.
We could not say enough good things about the HSUS/LASPCA and FEMA operation. The set up was all looked after by volunteers. Food was always made available for snacks and twice a day meals for those that happened to still be on sight when the meals arrived (usually after we left in the morning and before we got back in the evening), coolers left around everywhere with cold drinks, 2 air conditioned tents for sleeping in. One was left a bit warmer for the folks that preferred not quite so cool. Portable cots for people to sleep on (tent housed about 400 cots and all were full) Mess tent that was air-conditioned for eating in, first aid tent, green cross people riding around on bikes so if you just needed to talk to someone to de-stress you could, showers, washrooms, a triage set up for the vet for surgery for animals, wash racks, tons of animal food and brushes, collars, leashes, crates of all shapes and sizes, any kind of pet supply you would need and any kind of thing that would help you to break into a house to rescue an animal.
All animals that were brought in were photographed, microchipped,
vaccinated, checked over by a vet and each pet had paperwork of where it was
picked up etc that never left the animals crate..... so that they could
hopefully reunite the animal with its owner. There were many many very
caring volunteers working here day and night. Many happy and sad stories and
many tears of both joy and sorrow.
Below are some of the photos I took while in the city. I apologize for them not being terrific as it was a disposable camera I was using.
You will notice there are no cars or trucks on the road. There were few
people allowed into the city and the National Guard was kept on every exit
off of the highways to make sure that only emergency personnel were allowed
in. it was kind of eerie being in a city with no people..... and a city
where very few people had been in to for the past month! So the animals had
been without food or water for a month unless someone had left lots for
them. Many were starving or had starved to death or found other means to
survive. We also came across a few people who had decided they would rather
die with their animals then leave them.
Some of these cars were driven and parked, some were blown where they sit. These cars are deserted as were the streets, except for the occasional national guard or police or hydro worker or street cleaner. You will notice the light standard to the left and top how it is bent.
this was a lucky area of town. They only got wind damage.
This area had allot of flooding and wind damage. You can see the car just to the right of the middle hanging over the edge of the levee. The cars that are in what looks like a parking lot were washed up there. These houses were not in good shape.
This was the same area. You can see the water level where the red lines are. The van was almost completely under water and the cars had been completely under water.
These houses had received some flooding damage but most of it was wind damage. This was one of our feeding stations. If anyone saw a cat or a dog running loose we would put out a feeding station which consisted of a 20 or 40 lb bag of food and 10 gallons of water. We would also leave a tin of wet food in a paper bowl to help direct the animals in the neighborhood to come eat. You can see the little black cat above the arrow. She was a bone rack and looked like she was feeding kittens. We did not take her in even though we could pat her and pick her up in case she was feeding kittens. So we left lots of food to keep her going for awhile and gave notes on where the feeding station was so that it could be maintained.
Here is another feeding station. Not long after we put this one out we had not one, or two, or three cats but 4 cats showed up to eat. They had been laying around on the porch of this house waiting for their owner to return.
This fine fellow was left in his yard by his owner. He had been checked on and fed by another HSUS team the day before but we decided to double check and make sure he had enough food for a few weeks in case the owners could not get back to feed him. He was a rottie cross and a big happy fellow. He was so happy to see us and just wanted to play when we went in to feed him. Kathie is pictured above giving him a good hug. We spent a good 15 minutes just visiting with him.
Here is another street where the water had gotten quite high. You can see the water level on the side of the house to the left, just under the awning over the window. That is a dog running up the middle of the street. It would not let us get near it so we left food and water for it.
The same area. Notice the trees have no leaves left on the top.
Cleanup had been started in this area. Usually everything and anything ended up in the trash as nothing was worth keeping afterwards. Again you can see where the water level was. Just below the top of the back door on the left.
This was getting down towards the "French Quarter" area of town. It was not damaged at all by water and only some wind damage for the most part. We still had to check on animals. We had to look for a dog at this home. We found no dog but when we stood in front a flock of pigeons came down so we gave them some food (we had hamster food in the truck) and some water. They were quite tame.
This was a restaurant in the "French Quarter". It had sustained quite a bit of wind damage and the other side had been demolished as well. This was the day when the owners had been allowed into the city to check on their homes. The owner was here looking over what was left of his building. We chatted with him for awhile.
One of the beautiful old buildings in the "French Quarter". It had not been damaged.
CNN was set up doing updates.
This is a Winn Dixie store. They had allowed their parking lot to be used as a temporary shelter to house rescued animals by another rescue league.
Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read my story about our New Orleans rescue trip. It was something that Kathie and I both will never forget.