Thursday, October 06, 2005

Full and Emotional Days

Well, now I understand the difficulty teams have been having posting to the blog. There is no time! There is a meeting every morning at 5:30 for any rescue or feed and water teams that are going into the city. We are out there until 5:30 or 6:00 pm, then have to return to the shelter of the day (sometimes an hour away) to have the pets paper work completed, examined, given flea and worming medication, fed and watered and put into a kennel. Then the drive back to the Lamar-Dixon grounds, grab some dinner and shower, and it is 11pm, and you need to go to sleep. If you are not out in the field, you are walking, feeding, medicating, intaking and organizing at the shelter. And it is all worth it :-)

I have been trying to write things down at least, so that I don't forget anything so that I can post it. Some things I have wanted to forget... For that reason, please be aware that some of the things I will be writing here will be difficult to read.

I drove into Gonzales from New Orleans Airport with Donna. There were many signs down on the highway, the air as soon as you stepped off the plane was muggy and smelled of mold and mildew. There were huge fans in the airport, not running, but obviously had been used. Driving down the highway I saw a Public Storage facility that had the walls completely ripped off, and someones belongings were hanging there. Amazing. Coming from a place where we get maybe 80km/hr winds, it is hard to understand how wind can do that much damage.

On Monday, I went into the city with some of the group that had been here for a few days, Rebecca, Dan, and Casey. They were a fun group to be with, and it was nice to be with people who had done this, and knew the ropes. We had an area that we were assigned to. We were to be going to houses of people that had called and said they had to leave their animals, and could we check on them. (At first the rescue groups were just going to houses that they heard animals and getting them out) We drove into the city, and just before our exit, the group with us got a flat tire. They called us on the walkie talkie to tell us what had happened, so we turned around to give them a hand. But the highways here are really confusing, the on ramps are all elevated, and it is sometimes very difficult to get back going the way you came. By the time we did, a nice Sheriff had stopped to help them, and sent us on our way. The team went to get their tire fixed, and then went on to the shelter in Raceland to help out there, and we continued on to our area. I was very silent, just taking in all the damage I was seeing. Cars are all up on the meridian (either driven up there by residents in the hopes of keeping them from being flooded, or moved up there by the army/city workers to get the streets clear). The water marks are very obvious on the cars, you can see how high the water was. Up to the top of windows of an SUV in places. Black water marks on the buildings up 3, 4 up to 6 feet high. Hard to imagine what it looked like when the water was there. There were street lights down, red, yellow and green lying in the street. Many street signs were twisted and turned so that you couldn't tell which streets were which. I can't get wind that does that. Cars in lots, an entire lot of brand new Toyotas, covered in white salty residue, pushed up against, on top of, and over each other. Trees down everywhere. Branches, garbage and debris all over the medians, cleaned up and moved out of the streets. Very little traffic, few cars on the street, very few people. No power, no street lights, just temporary stop signs, and mostly ignored, as there is so little traffic. Lots of traffic rules broken, the wrong way up one way streets, left turns where not allowed, lots of u-turns, as there is simply no one to run into. We had credentials (basically your license photocopied onto a letter from the NOPD Chief) that allowed us into the city if police stopped us, but with "Animal Rescue" written on the side of the vehicles, any police that we did see smiled and waved at us. Or stopped us and told us where they had seen dogs or cats loose. Residents also, the very few that we saw, would wave at us as we drove by. The people here are so amazing, wonderfully spirited. "How y'all doin'" was a very familiar refrain.

We arrived at our first address, put on boots, gloves and mask, and entered through the open front door. Behind the couch was what was once a beautiful big Rottweiller. He had been dead for awhile. It was not unexpected to see this sort of thing, but horrible to come across. I don't think I can put into words what it was like. I keep starting sentences and then deleted them, because what comes out is not right. I wanted to get down, and give him a pat, and tell him how sorry I was, but there are obviously health hazards to that. So I said a little prayer, and closed the door quietly behind me. We were immediately flagged down by a woman 3 doors down, who told us that the next door neighbor had a cat and that it was wandering around. The cat then came up to us. The neighbor said that she had not seen the owner at all, and wasn't sure if she would be coming back. We picked up the kitty, and went to see if we could find a piece of mail or something that we could use to find the owner. We went around to a back door, and it was open. (There was a window that was broken on the side of the house, but we always checked for open doors before going through windows. We pushed through, and I found an insurance document with a name. While I was doing that, Dan went through to the living room, and there was a bunny in a glass cage. He put his front feet up on the edge of the cage and looked at us as if to say "What took you so long". I couldn't believe it. How in the world could a rabbit survive 5 weeks? His nails were unbelievably long, curling around on themselves, he was thin, but he was alive. We took him out and put him in a kennel with some water, which he immediately slurped up. Someone found a cell phone bill, which had the owners number on it, so we called her. She was very happy we had found her pets, but then immediately asked how we had gotten into her house. We explained that the human rescue teams had come through, and we just went through her door. She said that she would not be back into town until Sunday, so we told her how she could find her pets when she returned. She told us where we could find bunny food in her house, so we took that and moved on to our next address.

We went through about 30 more houses that day, but found only fish. Their water was very dirty, but they were alive, so we put their aquarium in a cat kennel. We saw many loose cats throughout the day, but we could not get near them, so we just put out food and water for them. Basically a bag of food cut open and a large tin turkey roasting pan full of water. We went by a house that was not on our list, but as we were driving by I saw a dog lying by the fence. I got Dan to stop and we backed up. I thought the dog was tied up, but as we approached he took off. We put out food and water for him. The way he was lying in the yard, behind the broken fence, I am sure that he lived there. I am certain that as soon as we were out of the area, he would be back to wait for whoever he was waiting for. That one will stay with me. He was so scared that he didn't want to have anything to do with us, but he was sure as heck going to go back home and wait for his people. I cannot imagine how scared those poor critter must have been in all that wind and rain. I just hope his people come home to him.

We were stopped by a woman who said that she couldn't care for her cat as she was leaving, and could we take it for her. Her neighbor had heard the cat the day before. She didn't have keys to her house, she would have to go through the window, but some keys were being brought over. We went into the house, and there was cat feces every foot. The carpet was absolutely soaking wet and squished when we walked. It was very dark in the house, no lights, and the houses are so close together, not much light gets through the windows. We grabbed our flashlights and started looking. Under beds, couches, in closets, behind furniture. Upstairs, in the attic, no kitty to be found. There was a terrible odor in t he bathroom, the smell of rotten. We could not see the kitty anywhere, including behind the washer. There was many, many flies. There was an open bag of wet cat food in there, moldy, so it could have been that, but I think when she clears that room out, he may be in there. She asked if we thought he could be dead in there somewhere and I gently replied that was a very real possibility. She thanked us for looking, and we left. I left feeling as if she didn't have enough to deal with, with cleaning up here house, she was now going to have to deal with her cat. Very sad.

It was getting late, so we started to head out to the shelter. As we were heading out, we were stopped by some people in a truck, who told us of a cat they had seen that was not able to walk well, and told us where to find it. So we turned around, and went to the address. We searched for awhile, and then a skinny, wobbly old kitty came out to us. She looked just stunned. We quickly got her something to eat, which she gobbled down very quickly. It was so great to be able to find here, and give her some relief. She had the sweetest little face. We put her in the kennel with more food and water, and headed out again. We had a very difficult time finding the highway, kept getting turned around. Again we were stopped by someone who had seen a dog running loose. We stopped to quickly fill up a feed station, when behind us a pack of dogs went running by. 6 dogs, 4 and then 2, went running across the street. They hardly gave us a look. Just on their way, returned to mostly feral ways. Different breeds, shepherd crosses, maybe an australian shepherd cross. Like nothing I have seen. Just 6 dogs that had banded together to increase their chances of survival. They just found some of their own, and continued to live. If this is how it is now, we will find a way to survive. We could learn a lesson in acceptance from them, I think. We went to the parking lot where the dog was seen and we saw a very lame dog. He looked SO sore. He was walking as though every step was excruciating. We got out to see if we could get him, but he immediately started to run. So we immediately stopped. We didn't want to cause him any more pain by making him run away from us. We dropped some food and water for him. I wished I had some Metacam that I could've put in the food in the hopes of giving him some relief! As we were getting back into our vehicles, the police drove over and told us that we would want to be getting out of the city NOW, as darkness was falling, and there had been reports of shots fired every night. No problem we said, we would love to get out, could they direct us? They did, and off we went to the shelter.

The drive to the shelter was about an hour and a bit away. When we arrived, we had to wait in the intake line, so we had a look around. Hundreds of animals were sheltered already, of every kind. After our animals were taken in, the folks from the other team headed for home, but I stayed behind to help my team with intake and treatments. We finally returned home about 11pm, with a dinner of McDonalds. It was an emotional day, and we sat around outside the volunteer tent, where we slept, and had a chat and a beer. I was tired, but I needed to debrief and talk about what had happened throughout the day. I finally got to bed at about 2 am, and was up again the next morning for the 5:30 meeting.

I was hoping to get totally caught up with this tonight, but my fingers are starting to cramp. I know that there are many people reading this with family members that have either already come, or are here now, so I apologize with not keeping it updated more often. Know that we are all very well, and appreciating that we can help. And appreciating all of your support. I will post again as soon as I can.

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