September 17, 2005

 

In Search of Rescue

"There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dogs that we'll never get to," said Larry Roberts, a volunteer from Atlanta. - MySA.com, September 15, 2005

A Note from Mike

Searching and rescuing is something that seems to be encoded deep into the genes of many a dog. Even some untrained Labradors like our Hank can barely restrain themselves from coming to the aid of family members who're floundering or even floating in the water. Hank always wants to swim in, with that worried expression on his face, and help, even if he's not exactly sure how.

His more expert brothers and sisters have, in fact, found and rescued many people thoughout history. It's only fitting that we return the favor out of both love and gratitude. So, this note is a tribute to those heroic but regular folks who have risked - and continue to risk - their safety and sometimes their very lives in order that many a trapped, stranded, and struggling pet may survive the Katrina disaster.

I've read a number of rescue stories and hope they're all true. There's the one about people who swam through part of downtown New Orleans, with water up to their necks, to rescue trapped Dobermans. "They took one of the doors they had broken down and put the Dobes on it and floated them out," reads the article. "The door started sinking so they carried one and put the other 2 on their backs. They came to a Wildlife and Fisheries boat who told them they could get in the boat but the Dobes could not. The GCDR rescuers responded, 'We swam in and we will swim out.' Then the Wildlife and Fisheries took all of them in the boat."

"It's truly a race against the clock," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, over a week ago. "Our teams are working feverishly to rescue as many animals as possible and get out of the watery cesspool left behind by Hurricane Katrina, but we can't do it alone. We need the Coast Guard, fire departments, local rescue agencies, and anyone else who can lend a hand to rescue animals in need."

Later, though, it was reported that some teams of animal rescuers had to stop taking animals out of the devastation. "Rescuers trying frantically to save animals left behind when people fled Hurricane Katrina have given up on collecting pets and begun simply leaving food and water for them," reported MSNBC. It's said there was no more room available at the animal shelters. Still, much work continues to be done. I've been reading the daily dispatches from the Humane Society, for example.

For some animals, it is already too late. There were homes in the flooded St. Bernard parish, for example, where dogs had been tied or chained. They drowned, straining at their tethers, as the flood waters slowly rose. “It’s horrific. They told us before we left to leave our hearts behind,” said Tony Valenzuela of the Arizona Humane Society said.

Even among survivors, the strong bonds between people and pets have sometimes snapped. Traumatized dogs and cats can attack the very people trying to help, even their own owners. And some of the residents of the Louisiana area, claiming to be protecting themselves or their families, have even taken to shooting stray dogs in their neighborhoods. Probably the most horrific scene I've witnessed on the Internet so far is one among a series of National Geographic photos. It's too terrible to describe in these pages.

I'm under no illusions when it comes to rescue operations. I understand it's the people who must come first. But it's clear from the coverage that helping pets in a crisis can also help people.

"If there would have been something that was people/pet friendly, a lot of people would have left" before Katrina struck, said Joelle Rupert, who runs Animal Aid for Vermilion Area, a refuge about 150 miles outside of New Orleans. "They didn't want to get separated from pets. They are like members of the family," she said, according to the Washington Post. And the Reuters Foundation reports, "Would-be rescuers have watched in amazement time and again during the past week as pet owners refused to budge from flooded homes without a dog or cat. "

Even once they're evacuated, many don't want to leave their pets. "Some of these people will live on the streets and won't go to a shelter if they have to be separated from their pets," said Laura Bevan, the Humane Society's southeast regional director. I don't know how exactly how any of this can be changed but I think emergency service professionals need to learn from the pet/people dilemma before the next great storm approaches.

In the end, as strange as it seems, the suffering of the animals somehow makes the Katrina tragedy more poignant for people. One can't attach blame to pets for failing to prepare or evacuate or elect the right politicians. There is a kind of terrible purity in their victimhood. This is why people are so moved by the pictures of suffering pets, such as the oil-slickened dog shown wandering the streets of Chalmette, Louisianna.

And the loss of a pet somehow signifies a larger rending of the relationships that we all cherish as the emblem of our normalcy. When a small white dog named SnowBall was stripped from a sobbing child as he boarded a bus at the Superdome, it helped underline our outrage at all the losses suffered by so many.

Now, even as the waters recede in New Orleans, so inevitably will the attention that the nation pays to the suffering of the animals there - those lesser members of families who were, for lack of space and time and money, never evacuated to safety. The crisis is far from over, however. Volunteers continue to try to rescue and otherwise aid the many animal victims of Katrina. We offer them thanks. May the goodness and kindness they've shown be returned to them a thousand fold.

Below are just a few links to organizations that are trying to help:

Comments:
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Real spam's not so bad. Blog spam tastes a bit like rancid possom.
 
Well said. God Bless those animals and the humans saving and caring for them.
 
HANK
THEIR IS ANOTHER SPEACIAL HANK WHO IS A GOLDEN RETRIEVER, WHO SURVIVED KATRINA. HE IS A GREAT DOG HE WAS FIRST AT ARNO ,NOW AT A RESCUE IN WASHINGTON STATE HE IS A WONDERFUL GOLDEN WITH A SMILE ON HIS MUG AND A TENNIS BALL IN HIS MOUTH I HAVE FOLLOWED HIS STORY ACCIDENTALLY and intentionally
I LOVE THIS DOG WISH I COULD PROVIDE HIM WITH A FOREVER HOME BUT AT HIS TIME I CAN,T. WHO EVER BRINGS THIS WONDEROUS HANK INTO THEIR LIFE IS IN FOR ALOT OF LOVE AND JOY.
SO TO ALL YOU HANKS OUT THER
MY HAT IS OFF TO YOU
CANDY
 
HANK
THEIR IS ANOTHER SPEACIAL HANK WHO IS A GOLDEN RETRIEVER, WHO SURVIVED KATRINA. HE IS A GREAT DOG HE WAS FIRST AT ARNO ,NOW AT A RESCUE IN WASHINGTON STATE HE IS A WONDERFUL GOLDEN WITH A SMILE ON HIS MUG AND A TENNIS BALL IN HIS MOUTH I HAVE FOLLOWED HIS STORY ACCIDENTALLY and intentionally
I LOVE THIS DOG WISH I COULD PROVIDE HIM WITH A FOREVER HOME BUT AT HIS TIME I CAN,T. WHO EVER BRINGS THIS WONDEROUS HANK INTO THEIR LIFE IS IN FOR ALOT OF LOVE AND JOY.
SO TO ALL YOU HANKS OUT THER
MY HAT IS OFF TO YOU
CANDY
 
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