Sunday, October 09, 2005

It Seemed Like Days

Continuing on with Tuesday...

All about the city I continue to be amazed at the destruction. Houses moved completely off their foundations, like they were picked up and placed in the street. Old trees completely uprooted. Cars thrown on top of other cars and fences. Power lines laying in the street. Boats everywhere there shouldn't be boats--on medians, on houses, on top of cars. Outside of one house, parked against the curb perpendicular to the road, was a bright yellow Aztec, the doors all hanging open. I imagine it was stolen and just abandoned. It was weird to just see it sitting there, like someone had forgotten it.

We had been given instructions to look for a dog at a house, but we had no address, just 'white house with peach trim'. Likely a neighbor or the National Guard had called it in. We found the location: it was a 2 story house. One of the others went upstairs to search, while I looked downstairs.

The front door was open. I walked in to absolute destruction. The foyer was a shambles of furniture and plants. Mold was 3/4 the way up the walls. The ceiling tiles had all fallen to the floor, completely waterlogged.

I went into the room at the back right of the house, whistling and calling for the dog. It must have been a girls room; pink walls, lacy curtains, photos collaged on the walls. In this room, the mold reached almost to the ceiling. I could not walk very far into the room. The bed was totally collapsed and covered with belongings, likely landed there as the water receded. There were toys, clothes, videos and CD's. Again, I was struck with the fact that this was someone's home, someone's belongings that were completely lost to them. It was so easy to forget that, when there were so few people in the city.

I returned to the foyer, and was surprised to see my foot prints on the floor--I hadn't realized that the floor was totally covered with a film of mud and dirt. I went into the next room, continuously calling and listening closely for any sign of the dog we were looking for. It was a living area. Again, furniture all over, mold up the walls. The ceiling tiles again were soaked and falling onto the floor below. No sign of the pet.

I went back outside and searched around and under the house. A lot of houses, if not most, are up on foundations and many pets had taken refuge in the coolness and safety underneath. Not in this case. I met up with the others who had searched the upstairs and the backyard, but with no signs of the pet.

It was so difficult to be looking for these critters and not finding any sign of them, not knowing what had become of them. Only a fraction of what the owners must be feeling.

As we were driving around to our other addresses, we passed a vacant lot that we had passed a few times. Only this time, I saw more than just a lot. It wasn't obvious, but right in the middle was the body of a medium sized dog. I think we must have driven past more slowly than the other times, because I picked up on what it was from seeing the collar. In my head, I ran all the scenarios of what might have happened that he was there in the middle of the lot. Did he drown, and that's where he lay when the water receded? Was he crawling across the lot to his house when he just couldn't go any further? Or was he killed by one of the packs of dogs that were now running loose? I didn't tell any of the others with me. I never shared that one with anyone until now. I just wanted to leave him at peace, free from whatever hell had taken his last breath.

Our last house of the day was my first experience with the sludge that everyone was talking about. I had been in house that had dirt and mud on the floor, but not like this. We walked in, and and someone stepped up on some debris to go into the kitchen, they slipped. They caught themselves with no harm done, but I looked down at the inch thick sludge that covered everything. The smell was indescribable. Acrid and rotten. The countertops also were covered in this stuff, only it had dried and cracked so that it looked like it could have been meant to be there: a funky design in the tile.

I went down the hall and checked the bathroom. It took me a minute to realize what all the blue things were in the sink, toilet and bathtub. They were pee pads, probably laid out so that the floor wasn't soiled. A lot of people had put them or newspaper out, along with food and water, thinking they would be back within a few days. No sign of the dog.

The next door was a child's bedroom. There was so much debris leaned up against the door, it took myself and Sarah leaning against it to get it open enough for her to get through, and she is pretty tiny. She looked around as much as she could without having to climb over mountains of clothing and furniture, but nothing.

Rebecca had gone to search the back of the house, but had found nothing either. A search of the yard revealed nothing. Once again, all we could do was hope that the dog had gotten out the open door and was picked up.

As we went back out to the van, I heard a noise and looked up the street. It was simply a leaf, skittering along the pavement. A simple thing, but completely 'ignorable' if there is traffic, people working in their yards, children playing. I was struck with the total quiet, the complete 'ghost town feel'.

Before getting back into the van, we tried to clean our boots off as best we could. This stuff was thick and gooey and was not easily cleaned. I got as much as I could off, and then wrapped my boots in plastic to not get it all over the vehicle. We started the hour drive to the shelter, with the kitten we had rescued what seemed like days ago. Kat continued to pick off fleas and syringe water into her.

To be continued

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