Friday, September 30, 2005

Team 3 Put to Work

Team 3 departed early Wednesday morning, and Team 2 returned Wednesday night. Team 2 spent much of their time in New Orleans continuing the search for pets. They continued to be amazed at these pets, dirty, emaciated, dehydrated, but alive. They were also manning the triage center in the city, examining rescued pets and ensuring they were given any necessary medical treatment. Team 3 is in the city today, performing the same duties. Donna reports that teammember Kat's enthusiasm is infectious, and the team is working very well together, and giving each other much needed emotional support.

I (Kirsten) am preparing to leave Saturday morning, along with Team 4. We will be arriving Sunday morning. I will be posting my personal experiences as often as possible (I am hoping every day). I would like to personally thank everyone for your continued support. To those who have made monetary donations, to those who have volunteered their time to help, to those who have picked up the slack at workplaces so that their co-workers could travel to LA. You have ALL helped those pets. We couldn't do the work we are doing without you. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Alive After 29 Days

I spoke with Donna from New Orleans this evening and she shared some amazing tales of animals still alive after 4 weeks on their own. What a testament to the incredible resilience of these poor creatures.

Team 2 spent their last day in New Orleans today, manning the triage center there. Pets continue to be found in residences throughout the city, and are brought to the center. There, they are examined, hooked up to IV fluids if needed, given food and water, and subsequently transferred to the Lamar-Dixon shelter. There are many animals being found dead in their homes after a month on their own. But amazingly there are more that are found clinging to life, and are being given a chance by all the wonderful volunteers.

Team 3 prepares to leave early tomorrow morning. The group is about 14, a mix of Veterinarians, Technicians and Support Staff. We will post an update from them as soon as possible.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Storms, Strength and Southern Cooking

The following (with the exception of Sept. 25th) is CAAT leader Donna's update.

The last five days has been a virtual mixture of emotions and the days have all kind of blended into one. It could have been a nightmare, but instead there are many wonderful and meaningful memories. Experiencing a hurricane and several tornadoes in pretty much the same twenty-four hour period leaves an impression on your mind forever.

Day 7: Tuesday, September 20

After a day of very hard work at the shelter, Team One all went out for dinner to celebrate our last evening together and the amazing week we've experienced. We had a lot of fun - laughing, story-telling, reminiscing,taking photos of each other, and sharing with the team how incredible our last seven days here in Louisiana has been. All team members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for this awesome, once in a lifetime opportunity.

Day 8: Wednesday, September 21

Team One was up early, ate a little breakfast, said goodbyes to me,Donna,team leader, and headed out for the drive to the Houston, Texas airport, approximately five hours away. I spent the day feeling very alone and a little bit lonely. Team one was such an ideal team - no complaining, always cooperative, always appreciative of their duties at the shelter no matter what they might be, no bickering or gossiping amongst themselves, totally united. A one in a million team. Hard workers, conscientious, reliable and responsible. They truly set the standard for future teams and will be difficult to beat.

I spent most of the day on the computer at the Red Cross building, and then at 4 pm one of the Red Cross people offered to drive me to New Orleans to the airport to meet Team Two. One thing which really hit me while walking through the airport was how deserted and quiet it was. Not one restaurant or store was opened. Only two or three ticket agents were working at each airline counter, some had nobody. The Delta flight our Team was on was one hour late arriving. It was so great to see everyone, some I was meeting for the first time. We have three team members from Whitehorse, one from Saskatoon, several from Victoria and the remainder from Vancouver. There are four veterinarians on Team Two, and thirteen technicians and assistants. We also have a documentary producer/director with us this week. He produces documentaries for The Learning Channel, specifically the program "Animal ER". We feel very privileged to have Mike with us this week. He is shooting a one hour documentary on the Canadian Animal Assistance Team's work in Louisiana. After an hour long drive up to the animal shelter in Gonzales, the team unpacked and made up their beds in the volunteer tent, and we went for a tour of the facility. We were all in bed by 10 pm.

Team Two's members are: Susanne, Carla, Candace, Kari, Sonya, Jane, Daniel, Dita, Nick, Terill, Michelle, Robyn, Yvonne, Karen,Amanda, Michele, and Mike. They're in for the week of their lifetime.

Day 9: Thursday, September 22

The Team was up by 6 am, showered, has a bite to eat and reported at the volunteer desk, ready and eager to begin their duties with the animals. All were assigned to different positions, locations, and duties and started to work. There continues to be a large amount of animals present at the shelter. Last evening, approximately three hundred dogs and cat were brought in to the shelter during intake, all having been rescued in New Orleans that day. They are very thin, stressed, tired, hungry and thirsty but are in surprisingly good shape. The large majority of the dogs and cats coming in from the city are just full of fleas, worms of every sort, heartworm, and have eye and ear problems. It's pretty sad to see that they do not receive the high standards of love, attention and care that our animals in Canada receive. Certainly it makes us thankful and appreciative for what we have available to us at home for our beloved family members.

At 2:30 pm a meeting of all the staff and volunteers at the shelter was called and we were briefed on the progress of Hurricane Rita making its way towards Louisiana and Texas. We were told that the shelter here is predicted to have what they call a "Tropical Storm Warning", with winds of up to fifty to sixty miles per hour and large amounts of rain. Our Team called a meeting and we decided that we would stay together as a group and drive just northwest to Baton Rouge and stay there until the storm passes. We had been invited to a home of another volunteer earlier in the day. Several of us wanted to stay and help take care of the animals and prepare the shelter for the onslaught. But we decided to stay together as a team and at approximately 9 pm we convoyed to Baton Rouge. Half of the team was housed with Joey and Aimee in their home; the other half went to Aimee's parent's home down the street to wait out the storm.

Day 10: Friday, September 23

After a restful sleep, and a breakfast of Southern cheese grits with butter, several of the team members decided to drive back to the shelter to see if there was anything we could do to help prepare for the gathering storm. Things were under control and practically ready at the shelter, with all of the animals and supplies secured. No more volunteers were needed at that time. They thanked us over and over again for showing up to see what we could do to help. We drove back to Baton Rouge in very heavy rainfall, sometimes so heavy it was difficult to see through the windshield. We arrived home safely and then made a trip to a nearby Wal-Mart to purchase food items to help out with the feeding of Team Two for the next couple of days.

By late afternoon and evening the winds started to pick up and blow with a lot of force. The rain continued off and on throughout the evening and through the night. Our host and hostess, the parents, Henry and June, decided we all needed to experience some good Southern cooking. A huge pot of Jambalaya was cooked up by the neighbour, Mitch; the rest of the team came to Henry and June's house and we had a Mardi Gras party and tried to forget what was happening outdoors with the storm. What fun we had! June and Henry came out dressed in Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse costumes; June brought out a box of beads for us to wear and take home; Mardi Gras music was playing in the background; photos were being snapped all evening. We really had a lot of good, clean fun. We all were experiencing an underlying degree of concern and stress because of the oncoming hurricane.

Day 11: Saturday, September 24
When we arose at 8 am this morning the worst part of the storm was over. It had gone on all around us while we slept. All of the hydro and telephone lines are placed underground here in the South, so with all of the storms they have here, there is no danger of power being cut off or phone lines. Maybe Canada needs to do the same. The power flickered on and off a couple of times during the entire storm. We were all glued to the television weather channel to see reports of what the storm was doing and where it was heading. They stated that several tornadoes were heading in the direction of Gonzales, where the animal shelter is located. We were very concerned for the volunteers and the animals left behind there.

We were all very restless and anxious to do some work, no matter where it might be, so we drove to the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, about a fifteen minute drive, and volunteered to work for the afternoon at the shelter there. All of the dogs and cats at the LSU campus have owners. Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina brought their dogs and cats their for safe-keeping. The facility was much cleaner, the animals had much more space for themselves - sometimes a whole horse stall for one dog, they each received special food, hardly ever a dirty poopy bed. What a difference between there and the Lemar-Dixon shelter. Just not enough help from volunteers and also the fact that the animals at the L.D. shelter did not have owners, they were from a lower class of people than the animals at the LSU shelter. It was like the Hilton Hotel compared to a low-budget, run down hotel. We wished we could be back caring for the very needy animals at the Lemar-Dixon shelter. But we had to wait until the storm had passed. There were large amounts of water running down the roads and driving was difficult at times. We exercised extreme caution in driving around in the rain and the flooded streets. Perhaps tomorrow we can head back to our familiar shelter with the animals we are getting to know well. Henry and June's daughter, Cathy, cooked us beans and rice for dinner, another popular southern dish. They are the most hospitable, loving, generous, caring, sweet bunch of people you could ever want to meet. We are so very very grateful for opening up their hearts and their homes to us.

Day 12: Sunday, September 25

"Rewarding, but disturbing", is how teammember Jane describes the work she is helping with. I spoke with the team just minutes ago. They have since been allowed back to Gonzales. Some of them were at the shelter there today, with most of the team in New Orleans, working at the triage center in the city. There continue to be animals rescued in New Orleans, almost a month after Hurricane Katrina. Their will to live is quite amazing. Donna reports that their bodies are in rough shape, but their spirit continues to be strong. The team is just finishing work, at 9:30 their time, and are preparing for the drive back to their hosts' home, where a nice Southern dinner awaits.

Team 2 Hoping to Return to Gonzales Today

I spoke briefly with Dr. Candace of Team 2, early this morning. They have been in Baton Rouge, but hoped to be heading back to Gonzales today. The storm didn't hit hard where the Team was, and they are all safe. Communications have again been difficult, due to the weather. I hope to have more of an update tomorrow, and will post as soon as possible.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Safe at Home / In the Path of the Storm

Safe at home now, Team 1 poses for a photo in Louisiana. They arrived home late last night to a news crew at the airport. Their time away was difficult, moving and rewarding all at the same time. They are proud of that which they accomplished, but wish it could have been more. I'm sure the pets they helped would say it was enough.

Team 2 has been in LA for just a day now, and have had to head north to Baton Rouge due to Hurricane Rita. It is unclear at this point if they are headed for LSU to help there, or are just getting out of the storm's path. Regardless, they are safe, and updates will be added as they are received.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The above quote is from Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978). Team 1 spends their last night in Gonzales tonight. As the first 6 who went to LA, they went on a leap of faith, with little idea with what they would be faced. They met the challenge head on and helped hundreds of animals. And they changed the world for those pets. They touched not only those lives, but the lives of the owners, the potential foster and adoptive homes, the other volunteers, and us here at home. They gave their time, their love and their passion for these poor creatures who so needed it. And they each gave up a small part of themselves that will never be the same. I know I speak for their families and friends, as well as everyone who has contributed to this effort, when I say I am so proud of them.

Team 2 is prepared to face those challenges as well. A group of 4 Veterinarians and 13 Technologists and Support Staff are ready to head out early tomorrow. Another group of amazing people who have offered their time and expertise, for the love of pets. We wish them good luck and good health, and we will keep you posted on their week in LA.

We continue to be supported by the media and the public. Donna spoke by telephone to Rafe Mair on his radio show this morning, and will be giving a phone update on the BCTV Morning News on Global tomorrow morning at 6:40. We also received an email from a woman from the U.S. who wrote that she was very appreciative of us coming all that way to help and sent much love and thanks to her Canadian neighbors. We are simply grateful that we have the ability to do so.

Monday, September 19, 2005

In Their Words

What follows is a day-by-day account of the team's involvement in the relief effort to date. It was written by Donna L., the CAAT team leader. Due to the nature of the work, parts of this post may be disturbing to some readers.

Today (Monday, September 19, 2005) is day #5 at the Lemar-Dixon Animal Shelter in Gonzales, Louisiana. Due to computer and cell phone malfunctions over the last few days, we have been unable to update you directly until today. We have graciously been given permission to use the Red Cross' computer for a few hours every day until a new computer arrives with our second team coming down on Wed. Sept. 21.

Our first team of six flew into Houston, Texas from Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday evening, Sept. 14. We then drove the five hours to Gonzales, Louisiana, arriving very early on Thursday. Quickly we set up our tents in the darkness and crashed. We have one Veterinarian and five animal health technologists this week. Our names are: Donna L. Registered Animal Health Technologist (RAHT) & Project coordinator and Dr. Tara H. from the Granville Island Veterinary Hospital, Janice B. and Tara G. who are RAHT's at the Vancouver Aquarium, Catherine A.- a vet.assistant from The Animal Clinic on Cornwall, and Jessica H. (AHT) from the Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital.

The Setting

The Lemar-Dixon Exposition Center is where a temporary animal shelter has been set up and is located approximately halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Armed military personnel are at the front gate and can be seen all over the property. There are six main buildings on the grounds. (open-air buildings with aluminum roofs).

Building One is the hospital. All seriously ill animals or any animals on IV fluids or are being watched more closely are housed in this building. Also the isolation ward (for Parvo virus and other extremely contagious diseases) is located here. It also houses all of the cats which are rescued and brought in. Building one is where the majority of the veterinarians and technicians are working.

Building Two contains dogs only. Dogs which are not well enough to be shipped out to other shelters across the country, and not ill enough to be in building one. It also houses one whole row of caged birds, hamsters, ferrets and some quite large snakes.

Buildings Three, Four and Six house horses only.

Building Five contains the healthiest and most robust of all of the dogs. There are a few which need am and pm medications given (such as eye medications, diarrhea meds, etc). The remainder of the dogs are shipped out daily to new shelters and foster homes. This makes room available daily for the 100-200 newly rescued dogs coming in from New Orleans.

There is a small food tent on the grounds for the workers - we are fed three wonderful meals per day and all of the bottled water, juice, soft drinks, and snacks we can eat. There is a woman's shower area and a men's shower area - crudely set up by the military. The ladies' shower area is patrolled by an armed military guard 24 hours a day. There is also a First Aid station for humans set up.

The temperatures here have been in the high 90's (Fahrenheit) and probably 80% humidity day and night. Many volunteers have collapsed of heat exhaustion and dehydration. None of our team has, as yet. Hopefully this doesn't happen. I nag the team continually about taking breaks and drinking at least a bottle of water an hour.

DAY ONE: Thursday Sept.15, 2005

Morning came quickly after only five hours of sleep. A two hour time difference doesn't help. We checked in at the volunteer desk, where we received our name tags, signed health waivers, and were sent to get our daily assignments. There is constant barking going on 24 hours a day.

Before we started our various assignments for the day we all had an opportunity to walk around the facility and check out some of the animals here. Every one of us shed tears, the first of many tear-shedding sessions today. Tara, Janice and Jessica spent their first day working in building one, the hospital performing various duties. IV catheter placement and fluid hook-up, medicating, working one on one with different veterinarians from all over the USA, running for medical supplies in the supply tent, holding animals for the doctors to examine and work on, and last but not least, cleaning kennels. Dr. H. and Catherine were sent to Building Five and spent their day going from animal to animal and examining and treating them.

Close medical records are kept on each animal as well as info on where they were found (house numbers or street names). Curfew in New Orleans every evening is at 5:30 pm and all rescue groups are required to leave the city. They arrive here at the shelter at about 6:30 pm with the 100-200 animals they have collected throughout the city (from homes, backyards or roaming the streets).

A boxer cross dog was brought in during tonight's intake who was so thin and emaciated and dehydrated that his hip and shoulder bones were actually poking through his skin, leaving a 4-6 inch open wound. He was immediately sedated and the wounds sewn up. I will try to include a photo of this dog here on this site.

We retired to our tents at 9pm for a sticky, restless sleep. It'll take some getting used to this tropical weather. Oh for an air conditioned place to sleep.

One exciting and amazing experience which happened to me today is that I was just walking along between the animal buildings with my backpack on my back. I have a Canadian flag patch on my backpack and a cap I wear here with a flag on the front of it. A gentleman walked up behind me from out of the blue and said "Oh, I see you are from Canada." He shakes my hand and thanks us for coming and helping. He then introduces himself as an official with Homeland Security for the United States Government, from Wash. DC. I got so excited and told him that he is just the man I've been wanting to talk to for two weeks. I told him how the Canadian and Provincial governments have not been able to help us with funding whatsoever thus far because they have not received an official invitation for Veterinarians and Technicians to come from Canada and help here. They need the invitation to come from none other than Homeland Security.

He immediately took my name, phone number and email address and gave me his and assured me they would do that immediately. I couldn't stop thanking him and shaking his hand. How amazing is that? What are the chances he'd see my flag and come and talk to me. Not a coincidence, in my opinion.

DAY TWO: Friday, September 16

Morning brought us an even hotter and more humid day, well into the hundred degrees. The team was up at 6 am and to work by 7 am. Dr. H. and Catherine worked in Building Five again today. They are already getting quite attached to many of the dogs there. So many sweet, affection-starved dogs. They look at you with their sad round eyes as if they are pleading with you to take them out of their cages and love and play with them. It breaks your heart to realize they will probably never see their owners again.

One thing we've especially noticed is the large number of Pit Bulls here from New Orleans. Probably 70% of all the dogs here at the shelter are Pit Bulls. And all unneutered. We have found out today that the reason they are unneutered is because people use them to fight each other. It's an illegally run sport in New Orleans. Another reason is that the owners are usually so poor that they cant afford to neuter or spay their animals. A few of the unspayed female dogs are here with huge mammary tumours. Not a pretty sight. It makes one appreciative for our high standards of animal care in Canada.

Tara, Janice and Jessica worked all day again in the hospital building. We all sat on the lawn in the shade and ate dinner together tonight. Everyone on the team has expressed time and time again their deep appreciation for this incredible opportunity to be here and to do this for these poor homeless creatures.

I spent the day trying to get my laptop computer to work. At one point, after asking several people where I could get help with it, was directed to another large building on the property and was told the Red Cross people were in there and to check with them. I wondered why the Red Cross was here and what they have to do with the animals. I walked in the front door and to my complete astonishment the entire building was wall to wall people (evacuees) and beds. I started to cry when I saw this. It was very touching to see over 1700 people all under one roof.

Once the Red Cross staff found out I was Canadian, I was treated like royalty. They led me up to their headquarters on a stage up front, and introduced me to their top computer technician, Brian, who spent two hours with me and my computer before declaring that my computer was toast and not usable. I have requested a new laptop be sent down with team two next Wednesday.

Also today my last means of communication with my teams in Canada and home was not usable - my cell phone. With no pay phones on the fair grounds, I was left helpless. It was very frustrating, to say the least. I needed to make preparations and arrangements with Team two members and with our travel coordinator to arrange flights for everyone coming down next week. The Red Cross has agreed to let me come into their building whenever I need to and work on their computers until my new one arrives.

While I was in the Red Cross building, a heavy thunder storm rolled in with strong winds. The rest of my team literally picked up all of our tents with all of our belongings inside and shoved everything into our rental vehicle. When I arrived back at our campsite later in the evening, the tents were all gone. I walked around a little confused for about five minutes until one of the team came and told me what had happened.

There were so many volunteers collapsing to the ground in the heat today that the US Government took pity on us and had a very large tent set up on the property with wooden floors, air conditioning, and nice bathrooms. They also brought in over 300 camp cots for us to sleep on. We put our tents away and moved into the volunteer tent and for the first time since our arrival we slept soundly and in coolness. It was so wonderful. Thank you US Government!


After a terrifically restful sleep in the cool, we arose early and went to work. Dr. Eric Davis (Head Veterinarian of the Rural Area Vets Organization - a division of the US Humane Society and who we are registered under) had arrived last evening from California and I was immediately put in contact with him. He promptly put aside all he was doing,pulled up two chairs and we sat down and chatted for over thirty minutes. I expressed to him some of my concerns with the conditions for the animals and the scheduling of the workers, and he made note of them. He said he would be spending the day organizing the workers to be put to use most efficiently. Less chaos and confusion.

At 11 am, Dr. Davis sought me out and asked if our team Veterinarian, Dr. H., and her assistant Catherine and myself would be willing to go down into New Orleans and start euthanizing dogs and cats. The Louisiana SPCA would be bringing the animals to us at a temporary triage emergency center they have set up there. We agreed to go immediately. We were given a magnetic sign "Humane Society of the United States" to place on our vehicle, grabbed all of the supplies we thought we would need, met up with the lady who would be leading the way for us into the city and started to drive.

The atmosphere in the vehicle was very heavy and not many words were spoken at the thought of the solemnity of the job that was ahead of us. New Orleans is in ruins. I sat with my mouth open as we drove past street after street of downed and damaged homes, garbage and branches and debris everywhere on the streets, vehicles flipped over and vandalized and sitting in the middle of the streets. Utter devastation. Armed military everywhere you look.

The LA SPCA trailer arrived with perhaps 30-40 cats and dogs. Their generator had broken down on their vehicle so the air conditioning was not working for these animals. We quickly assessed as many of the animals as we could and concluded they were suffering from heat exhaustion, more than any other problem and did not need euthanizing. There were two older small poodles brought in that were flat out, but all vital signs were normal, but very dehydrated. Donna placed an IV catheter in the one dog and hooked him up to fluids immediately. The other dog was in better shape, at least raising his head.

We told everyone that to save all of these animals' lives we needed to beeline it to our Gonzales shelter. We immediately packed up and started to drive the one hour. Once the animals arrived and were able to be placed in coolness, they perked up and started to get up, eat and drink and walk around. Not one needed euthanizing. We felt really good about the work we had done, otherwise all of those animals would have been dead.

We were also told that the police in New Orleans had started shooting dogs roaming the streets today because they were becoming a dangerous threat to humans. They were so hungry that they were killing smaller dogs and cats and were starting to try to attack humans to have something to eat.

We were emotionally and physically exhausted when we arrived back at our campsite tonight. The other three team members had also spent the day in New Orleans, going into abandoned homes with bags of dog food and water to give the animals until they could be rescued, and also working at the Triage shelter downtown. Quite an amazing experience we are all having here. We will never look at our lives the same again, I'm sure.

DAY FOUR: Sunday, September 18

Tara and Janice again accompanied a LA SPCA woman into downtown New Orleans today, delivering food and water to some of the most poor neighbourhoods in the city, the slums. They saw some horrible sights which will affect their lives forever. They went into one home and found a beautiful cat curled up on the bed, dead. In the back yard was a dog which had been tied to a chain, and it was hanging dead over the side of the patio. Very disturbing.

Jessica worked at the triage center again today - working hand in hand with the main veterinarian there. They saw over 70 animals today and shipped them up here to our shelter. Dr. Huggins and Catherine were back working in building five, medicating and checking on all of the dogs. I spent the day doing the team's laundry and buying a few much needed items for the team. I spent an hour being lost in the dark, ending up way out in the boondocks somewhere. Don't ask me how that happened. It probably has something to do with my lack of a sense of direction. The vehicle even had a compass on it but that doesn't mean anything to someone who is directionally-challenged. Is that a word? All of the team members made it back safely tonight with many stories and experiences to share.

DAY FIVE: Monday, September 19

All of the team members arose early and headed down to New Orleans for the day. Dr. H. and Catherine to deliver food and water to animals shut up in their homes awaiting safe rescue; Tara,Jessica and Janice to the Triage center for the day. I have stayed behind to work on the computer at the Red Cross building and do this update.

The team only has one more day here before they fly back to Vancouver on Wednesday and team two comes down. Seventeen team members will be coming this time. four veterinarians and thirteen technicians and support staff. They need all of the help they can get here. So many dogs have to spend hours and hours laying in their own feces and urine every day until the volunteers can clean their kennels, bathe them and walk them. It's so time consuming and such hard work. I'll update you more tomorrow on our team's progress and efforts today. A HUGE THANK YOU once again to all of you for your financial support, your best wishes and your thoughts and prayers for us and for all the the wonderful animals here who need help and our love. God Bless.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Wounded and Weary, But Safe at Last

A dog brought into the Lamar-Dixon shelter today from New Orleans was so emaciated and dehydrated that his hip and shoulder bones were actually poking out through the skin. For people who have chosen to make the care and protection of animals their career, it is a difficult sight. But at the same time there is the pride and privilege of helping out these poor souls. The dog was heavily sedated, placed on the volunteer sign up table, hooked up to IV fluids and the skin over the joints sutured closed. He faces a long recovery; but at least now he has been given a chance.

The team is doing well. They are working lengthy days in the heat, but they are all healthy. They have been given the opportunity to go into New Orleans for one day on a Humane Society rescue team, continuing to look for stranded or abandoned animals. Those choosing to go will be seeing first hand the fate of some of the pets who couldn't find refuge from the hurricane--many animal bodies are in the streets now that the water is being pumped out.

Donna has been moved to tears many times over the past 48 hours. She says she has cried more in the past 2 days than she has in her entire career as an animal health technologist. She has taken many pictures of the teams experiences. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, she has been unable to send any to share. She is hoping to have this worked out in the next few days. We will post them here as soon as she can get them to us.

Here at home, plans are being finalized for Team #2. Included are a Vet and a Tech from Whitehorse, as well as Techs from Victoria and Saskatoon. All are looking forward to putting their skills and abilities to use in the relief effort. The team will continue to keep us updated on their experiences.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Canadians Welcomed in LA

"Wonderful and life-changing" is how CAAT member Tara describes her first day at the Lamar-Dixon Shelter in Gonzales, LA. The shelter is still in chaos, and our team was the first group of Vets and Techs to arrive, with others expected throughout the day today. The team has been assigned to a large building that is housing sick animals, and their skills are being put to good use. From placing IV catheters to monitoring anesthesia, they have been working since early this morning, in hot (100F--38C) and humid weather.

They arrived at 1 AM local time, pitched their tents, and were up at 7 AM this morning to start work. "We have all shed tears at what we've seen" this morning, says team leader Donna in a phone update. There are 200 animals being shipped out to other areas of the U.S. every day. Unfortunately, there are 200 more being brought in to replace them, as rescue efforts continue in New Orleans. "These animals are looking pretty rough, very thin and shaky," after 2 weeks on their own.

The team has identified themselves as Canadians by applying Canadian flag patches to their backpacks and ballcaps. "The people here are so happy to see us," says Donna. "They walk up to us, shake our hands, and say 'Thank you for coming'".

The team has not yet received government funding for airfare to the area. Part of the reason for that is the Canadian government has not yet received an official request from the U.S. for help from Canada. That may soon change. John Minnick, with the Department of Homeland Security, introduced himself to Donna when he saw the flag on her hat. He reported that a Senator was coming to the area on Monday, and that hopefully, when the Senator sees the need that our CAAT is helping to fill, that request will be made.

Each day 3-5 additional Vets and Techs sign up with the CAAT and donations continue to flow in from all over Canada. We will continue to keep you updated with the work the CAAT is doing in the disaster area.

Team arrives in LA

"It's very muggy here, lots of mosquitos", are the words of Donna, leader of CAAT. I spoke with the group via cell phone about 2 hours ago--they were about halfway between Houston and Baton Rouge. They have likely arrived by now, and are setting up their tents in the dark. They have been deployed to the shelter in Gonzales instead of the shelter at LSU. Gonzales is about 36km south-east of Baton Rouge. The shelter there is still quite chaotic; Dr. Eric Davis with the RAVS will be arriving on Friday to coordinate the work there.

Donations continued to come in today; a national radio spot on CBC and an interview on the Morning News on Global both aired this morning. We received donations from as far east as Newfoundland!

The team in place will likely be working very hard tomorrow, their first full day in LA. Expect a new post outlining their first impressions of the difficult work ahead.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First Group to Louisiana

The first group of 1 Vet and 7 Techs are on their way early tomorrow morning. They will land in Houston and drive to LSU, about 3 hours, and will likely be put to work soon after arriving. According to Dr. Davis of RAVS,
"there is an enormous need in Louisiana"
for vets and techs.

CBC radio and City TV interviewed CAAT leader Donna today, and Kirsten will be on the BCTV morning news tomorrow. Several other radio stations have called and asked to have interviews with the team while they are in LA. News travels fast!

As the first group leaves, the rest of the team sends love and strength with them to help them get through the long and emotional days ahead. They are truly amazing, warm and caring people. Watch for future posts of their experiences.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Donations and Support

We have been receiving overwhelming support over the past few days. Donations have been coming in from all over BC. We received a call from an animal lover in Ontario who saw the news on satellite, and has taken up a collection in her town, to purchase and send us supplies. And we have had more requests from media wanting interviews.

Tickets were reserved today for the first group to fly out on Wednesday. They will be flying into Texas, as the airports in Louisiana are still chaotic. Also, at least 3, possibly 4, new members were added to the team today, bringing the total to 28.

We appreciate all the support we have received so far. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and check back for continued updates.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Organization and Planning Efforts Underway

We have begun organization efforts to prepare to travel to flood-stricken areas. Thanks to media coverage on BCTV last night and in the Vancouver Province today, donations of goods and funds have begun coming in. The overall need is still great, and we appreciate any and all donations you might be able to contribute. See for information on supporting our efforts.

We hope to post to this blog throughout our experiences with animals in the flood-stricken areas -- please check back often.


Donate Now Through!