This is a blog about animal rescues happening in the New Orleans area after hurricanes Katrina and Rita under the auspices of the Humane Society of the U.S.

Monday, July 17, 2006

DARK WATER RISING, POLITICAL LESSONS FROM THE FRONT LINES IN NEW ORLEANS
By Kim Upham
July 17, 2006

If you only see one film on the subject of Hurricane Katrina, this is the one to see. Dark Water Rising: The Truth About Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues (www.darkwaterrising.com) chronicles the volunteer efforts to rescue pets left in peril after their owners fled New Orleans and were prevented from returning to retrieve them. Beyond its overt message, that Americans need to take better care of animals, Dark Water Rising is an indictment of what is wrong with our federal government: “compassion” is merely a slogan for political gain, not a modus operandi.

The film documents the plight of thousands of animals who perished in the floods, or who waited hour after hour, day after day for owners or help that never arrived, trapped in homes or braving the toxic streets in 105-degree heat indexes bereft of food, water and shelter. Dark Water Rising underscores the fact that animals suffered because humans failed them. No one can stop a category five hurricane from ravaging a city, but the government’s failure at every level to plan for evacuation ahead of time, as well as its inadequate response to the chaos and crisis afterward, resulted in needless death and prolonged anguish of both humans and animals.

Between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina’s landfall Americans gave the Bush Administration a blank check on Homeland Security, assuming the agency was marshalling resources with the singular purpose of securing us against disaster⎯both natural and manmade. However, the hopelessly inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina revealed that any sense of security had been false. The problem stems from the way this Administration views government’s function. If the Administration’s reason for being has less to do with helping people, and more to do with transferring public resources to private interests, it will have no framework for helping, and no idea where to begin when called upon to do so.

This film is the smoking gun that illustrates the government’s callous disregard for the individuals and pets in need. While it may be possible to cynically dismiss the human suffering, claiming that people had the chance to evacuate the city before the hurricane’s landfall and chose not to, our sympathy for the pets is undiluted by such arguments. We recognize that pets are subject to the choices of their owners, and in this case the owners’ hands were tied by government policies. As such, this film resonates emotionally.

The film opens with a post-apocalyptic scene of seemingly endless rubble, and a narration of the obstacles facing animal rescuers, many of whom traveled from far away states at their own expense, putting family, children, pets and jobs on hold. Those obstacles include searing heat, inaccessible homes, packs of loose dogs, bureaucratic red tape, and toxic streets filled with chemicals, raw sewage, and rotting garbage. Filmmaker Mike Shiley in interviews called post-Katrina New Orleans more traumatic than Iraq, the setting of his last documentary film, Inside Iraq.

From the get-go, it’s clear that the rescuers are understaffed and overwhelmed by both the scope of the problem and the time-critical nature of the effort, with some 50,000 pets left behind, by conservative estimates. Despite the odds, and with little regard for their personal safety or comfort, the rescuers worked from dawn until long past dark for over six weeks to meet the need. The rescuers’ story, and that of the stranded pets, has gone largely untold; the mainstream media pulled up stakes after the human drama ended or moved to Houston, while the animal side of the disaster response was just getting under way.

The message of the film ultimately is one of hope, as relieved owners are reunited with their family pets, and other cats and dogs find new loving homes. In one segment dogs are temporarily housed at a prison, giving inmates a chance to care for and bond with them, transforming both man and his best friend. And rail-thin dogs just days from death get a new lease on life as they are saved in the nick of time.

Whether owners chose to leave their pets behind, thought they’d be back after a few days, or were forced by government policies to abandon their pets, the animals paid the price. Compassion and relief came in the form of a small band of dedicated individuals willing to make personal sacrifices to alleviate animal suffering. As one rescuer writes in the film’s epilogue, “Tragedies will happen again, and we will be there with dog food and leashes in hand.” These are the kind of heroes that great films are made of. For that reason, this film is a gripping must-see.

A screening in Congress is being scheduled and the film will be shown at the National Conference for State Legislators (NCSL) and the National Animal Rights Conference in Washington D.C. in August. House party viewings of the film can be scheduled by visiting Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Theaters site (www.bravenewtheaters.com) and the film’s trailer can be viewed at www.darkwaterrising.com.

Saturday, July 01, 2006




This photo shows the panic felt by animals left behind in the stormwaters in New Orleans, and the urgency of the situation that the rescuers came to address. With at least 50,000 animals left behind, there was a lot of ground to cover, and not nearly enough people. It became a race against time.

A note from Mike Shiley, producer and director of Dark Water Rising. So far we have been getting really positive reviews from those who have seen the movie, both those inside and outside the animal welfare movement.

Greetings from Mike Shiley!

I am pleased to announce a private DVD release and pre-theatrical sale of DARK WATER RISING: The Truth about Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues. This is the only documentary film made about animal rescues of Hurricane Katrina.

About DARK WATER RISING:
Over 50,000 dogs and cats were left behind in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The pets (mostly dogs) that survived the flood were locked in houses and chained to fences without food and water for up to six weeks.

A small group of brave rescuers from around the world risked their lives to sledgehammer down doors, brave toxic floodwaters and dodge corrupt cops in a race against time to rescue up to 10,000 trapped and starving animals.

Some rescuers worked with the official rescue organization, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), while others joined a more aggressive rescue outfit, code named Winn Dixie.

This film also tells uplifting stories of hope and survival as pets are reunited with their owners while other lucky pets find loving new homes.

These hard earned lessons will help our nation understand the need for animal evacuation plans in natural disasters.

Join me for a behind-the-scenes look at the grim reality of the life and death struggles on the toxic streets of New Orleans.

***************************

You may already know me from my other documentary film called, INSIDE IRAQ: THE UNTOLD STORIES (www.InsideIraqTheMovie.com).

I am offering you a one-time opportunity to own the DVD before it’s theatrical release.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER: http://darkwaterrising.com/trailer.html

ORDER THE DVD: http://www.filmbaby.com/product_info.php?products_id=997

--
Best,

Mike

Mike Shiley
Producer/Director

DARK WATER RISING
http://darkwaterrising.com/



Friday, May 12, 2006

Our film, Dark Water Rising, is in the final stages of production. We had a viewing party at Mike Shiley's house, the film's producer and director. As it is now, the film far exceeds my expectations, and I filmed at least 1/4 of it. We got feedback from the assembled guests that the editor, Lindsey Grayzel, will use to improve the final version. The music is really good. The still photography is really good. The film is really gripping. I've seen several documentaries on animal rescue after hurricane Katrina, including Animal Planet and National Geographic segments, and this is by far the best, in my opinion. I can't wait until the film is finished and I plan to order 50 copies to give out at Christmastime. Here's a link to the film's website: http://www.darkwaterrising.com/.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

October 20, 2005

For those that have asked, yes, the animal rescue effort is still going on. I received the following e-mail from Jane Garrison who is heading up the effort in New Orleans. I can attest to the fact that it is indeed a life changing experience to participate in the animal rescue efforts. If you have the time and the means, please go and help out, or forward this information to anyone you know who would be interested in going.

Thanks,

Kim

10/19/2005 A FINAL DESPERATE PLEA...
We know it is hard to imagine that more than 7 weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit that animals trapped inside could still be alive--- but it is true.

We rescued Bingo tonight, a dog trapped in a bathroom of a house. In a desperate attempt to get a drink of water, Bingo crawled into a bathtub but then was too weak to get himself out. Bingo could not even lift his head or stand.. but he is alive. Sadly, there are others like Bingo waiting for their turn to be rescued...

Meet some of the pets in New Orleans who need your help:


Hi my name is Rambo, I was left at 7370 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans. My guardian called to have me rescued on Sept 16th but I am still waiting and I am very scared.
Hi I am Indiana I was left at Belair subdivision off Airport Rd. I had a PetSmart bandana on but I think I lost it. Please come get me, I am very hungry.


Hi my name is Princess. I was left at a two story apartment building with Annie and Foxie. There is a balcony with stairs. The apartment is at the intersection of Mumphrey Road and East Judge Perez in Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish. Three of us are waiting to be rescued. We are too little to do much on our own.
Note: Photos were taken when the dogs were healthy, extreme weight loss may make it difficult to identify them by photo now.

We still have a list of 1267 homes in downtown New Orleans where animals have been reported by their guardians to be trapped. We still have this many because we do not have enough volunteers to open the doors and rescue the pets that are slowly starving to death. THIS IS WHY WE NEED YOU! Please get in your car or get on a plane and come help us get through the rest of these houses.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT! We are certain (based on the pets we see everyday) that there are animals still alive in these homes.

Things you should know before you come:

This will be the most rewarding life changing experience you have ever had. To save an animal from starving to death is a very rewarding experience…one you will never forget.

The city is safe…we have been rescuing since the hurricane and have not had any problems with any of our rescuers' safety.
People have requested that someone breaks in and rescues their desperate animal.

You will need to bring a small tent or stay in your car. That is a small sacrifice to make for these animals who are desperately waiting for your help.

Hurricane Wilma is not heading anywhere near New Orleans so please do not wait until after it passes…it may be too late.
You do not need any special passes to get into the city.

Although the city is open to residents, most have not returned or even plan on returning.

You can get updates and information on rescue efforts here: animalrescueneworleans.com

"I have spent 6 weeks rescuing animals in New Orleans. I have climbed through windows, on roofs, and under houses to get to these animals who are trapped. This has been the most rewarding and heartbreaking experience of my life. With every animal I rescue I think about the dozens of others who lay trapped behind closed doors dying a slow, lonely death from starvation and dehydration. I am begging every compassionate person to come to New Orleans and help us get through the rest of these homes and get these forgotten victims to safety."

Jane Garrison
Animal Advocate, Organizer of Search and Rescue Teams
843-343-8887
JaneGarrison@comcast.net

"This is the single worst tragedy for companion animals in the history of the United States. Despite all you have seen on TV and the various organizations that have pitched in, it has been volunteers like you and me who have come forth, made the trip to New Orleans and saved thousands of pets, one by one. Now the last ones need our help and there is no one left to save them but us. If you stay home, in a month you won't remember what you did in the next few days. If you come and save one of these dogs and cats, you will remember it for your lifetime. I know, I have been here for a month and held them in my arms.

David Meyer
Executive Director www.1-800-Save-A-Pet.com
310-897-6546
david@grappling.us

Thursday, October 13, 2005


A dog we rescued, waiting in line at "intake" at the Lamar-Dixon shelter


Our beautiful girl we named "Rita," rescued from a side yard where she was tied to a tree on a three foot leash. Her leg was injured so she was limping, but happy to see us. The heat index was probably 102 degrees. The Oregon Humane Society shipped her to Portland for us, since Mike plans to adopt her. Once there they found another dog's tooth in her leg, plus she had heartworms (many dogs in New Orleans are heartworm positive), and she was pregnant


Filmmaker Mike Shiley, Shidog Films


They're serious about stopping looters


A dollhouse?


A dollhouse within a dollhouse?


Not only was this house stripped to its metal studs, but the owner's car was upended


I can relate to this sentiment


The water was so strong rushing from the broken levee that all three signs on this pole were bent at a height of at least 12 feet in the Ninth Ward


New Orleans PD car with handcuffs and mardi gras beads. Some NOPD officers are worthy of respect, but there is corruption within the department, and some NO residents told us they were very afraid of the police. Evidence has been uncovered of abuse and killing of dogs in St. Bernard Parish at three public school buildings. Local police are suspected of being the perpetrators. A woman who reported this to the FBI, with evidence, was told to stay away from the schools or she might turn up missing at the hands of the St. Bernard Parish police.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Me, with car loaded, ready to head out


Gas was hard to come by along I-10 prior to Rita's arrival

I returned to Portland and had to be treated at the ER for dehydration. After a few days of recuperation I decided to return to New Orleans. I hooked up with Mike Shiley, documentary filmmaker (www.insideiraqthemovie.com). He was making a film about the hurricane and its aftermath. I agreed to help get the story, especially if the animals could be part of the story.

We flew into Jackson, Mississippi and headed west toward Baton Rouge to get to the shelter, three hours away. Along the way we passed gas station after gas station out of fuel, which was worrisome at 1:30 a.m. Vehicles streamed eastward, leaving Houston and the gulf coast. We surmised they might be heading to Atlanta.

We pulled into Lamar-Dixon, the site of the animal shelter, at 2:30 am. Everyone was pulling out of there due to hurricane Rita bearing down. We crashed and in the morning made a plan to go into the city to do some filming and see about some cats that were trapped in houses in Algiers. While there wasn’t any official rescuing going on, we were given a list of 100 houses in the Algiers area where the owners had asked us to check on their cats. Algiers is an area we hadn’t been visiting yet because it was about to be opened back up to residents, but the second hurricane delayed that.

The wind was blowing pretty hard and the rain was coming down in sheets sideways. The water in Lake Ponchartrain was being blown into whitecaps and the water level had risen to just below the causeway. We debated what criteria we’d use to determine when it was no longer safe to proceed.

Though the hurricane was still headed for the Texas/Louisiana border, it was so large that the entire state was affected well in advance of the storm making landfall. The governor was telling residents to evacuate and suggesting that if they did not, they should write their Social Security number on their arm in permanent marker. We got out the pen and wrote our SS numbers on our arms. I didn’t think we were likely to die, but if hit by a piece of flying debris, it might be helpful to have some ID readily available.

Back at the shelter they were tearing down the large FEMA tent and asking everyone to leave the premises. A skeleton crew was chosen to stay overnight with the animals, sleeping in the horse stalls. Randy from the Oregon Humane Society was the manager for barn five. He also asked all his overnight people to mark their arms with their Social Security numbers.

HSUS rented many large trucks that were parked protecting the horse stalls containing the animals. We also off-loaded many of the animals to the Dixon Correctional Institute where the prisoners were caring for them. To get onto our site you had to have a password at the front gate. Many of us took refuge in the Holiday Inn, where a conference room was rented to house us on air mattresses. We got lucky and got a room that had been rented by Lowes but their employees were not showing up that night.

The storm raged all night Saturday with the wind and rain pummeling garbage dumpsters, signs and other standing objects. By Sunday we were experiencing heavy dumps of rain from the rain bands. By Monday we were back in business again doing rescues.

Prior to the second storm the authorities pierced the 17th Street Canal in three places to release water. They chose to intentionally reflood the area that had flooded before, rather than taking the risk of the levee breaking in a new place. Enormous Lake Ponchartrain still overtopped the levee, putting the Ninth Ward, in St. Bernard Parish under water again. Entire houses were lifted off of their foundations and deposited blocks away. The devastation was incredible, as we would soon witness.

There were a couple of bars open in the French Quarter, one of which had never shut down through the storms, thanks to a generator. Something tells me that you can always find a drink in the French Quarter. Residents cheered when the power came back on, but the fire department quickly shut it off again when a small hotel caught fire.

Firefighters from New York were on the scene immediately. They had come to New Orleans to pay back the New Orleans firefighters who, like other crews, had graciously donated equipment and personnel during the 9-11 search and rescue. Ironically, the New York crew rolled into the city in an engine named The Spirit of New Orleans. The hotel fire address was 911.

My friend Steve Wozniak sent me a camera and some computer equipment to a nearby hotel so I could continue the blog. He is friends with Emmylou Harris and reported that she mentioned the animal rescue effort at her concert with Buddy Miller the other night.

He wrote, “At one point Emmylou spoke of how we all had been affected by the hurricane(s). There was about 5 minutes of silence and I was in the perfect seat and wanted to yell out "save the animals" but didn't. Then she talked about how we all give to the Red Cross and other organizations but implored the audience to give to the animal rescue groups. Emmylou always tours with her dog, who was backstage.”

In New Orleans, the temperament of the animals has changed. The dogs are forming packs, or are loners that run away from you. It’s hard to round them up, or to even get them to come to you to feed. There are dead animals everywhere, especially in the areas that flooded. I think the flood killed them and the carcasses are decaying now. Thus the task is somewhat more gruesome, less rewarding and more draining. But when you do find an animal that’s been trapped in its home for a month, helping it is still a great feeling.

Mike and I rescued a beautiful black and white pitt bull we named Rita. She was in a side yard, tied to a tree on a three-foot leash with a small bowl of water next to her. She had a broken leg, possibly an old break that had healed wrong, and an abscess, causing her to limp. She sure was happy to see us and jumped up, despite her bad leg. It was in the 90s and she was baking in the sun, so we were happy to get her out of there.

I think Mike might end up fostering Rita and adopting her if an owner doesn’t claim her. Because her ears and tail are in tact, she doesn’t look much like a typical pitt bull, but instead resembles a cute snoopy dog. Within hours we were in love with her.

At one house, rescuers saw framed AKC papers on the wall for the dog. When they took the dog, they took the papers, too, so they could remain with the dog.

Mike entered a house, filming a crew of rescuers. He said it was a beautiful home owned by an elderly couple. They must have thought the end was near because they hand wrote their wills, and taped each of them to a bedpost. They kept a journal with entries reading, “the waters are coming, the helicopters are overhead, not sure how much longer we can hold out.” An empty bottle of gin and bottle of wine (perhaps their finest bottle?) were on the table next to two glasses. I’m sure they were eventually evacuated. How fascinated we are about the human condition under extraordinary circumstances. Unable to turn away, we devour the details of lives under duress.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Lynn and Stephanie.


We broke out an air conditioning unit to get to a Shitsu. That was a feat.


Stephanie calling for dogs. We combed a block at a time looking for animals.


A vet tech on the left is comforted by a colleague after one of the vets said our rescued dog may not be worth saving because of a multitude of medical issues. He quickly rescinded his comment, adding that this dog would make a nice pet for someone. I thought vets and vet techs had seen it all and thus were immune from breaking down over a "patient." I'm glad that is not the case.


We rescued this dog in its living room in a crate. It had been there for 18 days with no food and water. It had urine burns on its skin. The vets did a fabulous job of cleaning him up and attending to his many medical needs.


You really can't blame anyone for wanting a little "puppy therapy" amidst all the destruction and chaos.


Four DEA agents led us to this puppy inside a house under a bed. Three EMTs stopped to converse. The ten of us were huddled around this puppy on the sidewalk at one point.


The overwhelming majority of dogs were friendly and thrilled to get some attention.


Backyard food drop. Next door we found a dog locked in a bathroom with a bathtub of water but no food.


Dropping food and water for a cat.


We stopped to rescue a very small kitten and these chickens were a bonus. They came out from a hole in a house onto the porch. Luckily they seem to like cat food.

Everyone at the shelter seems to be getting sick these days, probably a combination of stress and lack of sleep. I developed a cough, which sounds similar to Drew’s. I like to call it kennel cough. Half the people have diaper rash because you’re constantly wet and dry, wet and dry.

At the morning meeting they told us that we dropped 177 feeding stations in one day, which feels good, knowing we are making a dent in the problem. Of course there is still a need for volunteers and people can sign up at www.hsus.org. One of my friends, Tom Gray, is coming down from Chicago to help out, which is exciting. And more people are coming from Oregon. Our state is well represented.

Stephanie came out in the field with us today. Finally she convinced her fiancé Geoff that she would be safe going out in the field. Plus the shelter is really getting to her. She wants to see the dogs walked more often. When we were filling up water containers she was on the phone with her beau, trying to reassure him that she’d be safe. After a while, I said, give me the phone. I said, “Look, Geoff, we’ve already written Stephanie’s Social Security Number on her arm in permanent marker, so if anything happens to her out there, don’t worry, we’ll be sure to be able to identify her body.”

I thought that mocking his fear would make him realize how silly it was, but I guess it had the opposite effect. Oops, oh well.

We gave Steph the run-down on how everything works. Despite only having two days of experience Lynn and I felt like experts, we’d been through so much trial and error.

We returned to a block we visited at the end of the previous day and encountered another guy, not affiliated with HSUS, who had been doing the same thing we were. He and his partner had also sprung the dog from the bathroom when Lynn and I could not. He gave us the rundown of the block because he had visited all of the houses. He pointed to one house and said there had been four dead dogs there, and one live dog, most of them chained. He freed the live dog.

Stephanie approached the front door and I asked what she was doing. She said she wanted to see for herself. I told her that I was sure she didn’t. The stench alone was usually enough to repel anyone.

She said she wanted to see for herself and again I told her there was nothing to be gained. She said the media has been reporting certain things, and she needed to see for herself. I feared that if she witnessed something awful it would have a very adverse effect on her, and she’d be a liability from that point on, which might have been a possibility for anyone. I think I underestimated her strength. She was a trooper all day long, jumped in and took a lead role in finding dogs and cats.

Of course in our small group there was some sniping, but I think that’s how everyone acts under stress, when you have to communicate information and gain compliance under pressure. Plus, I would say that Steph, Lynn and I all have strong personalities and ideas about how things should be done, ideally. However, there was more camaraderie than strife, and as we drove the minivan with all its doors open and wind streaming through, ready to stop and jump out at the sight of an animal Stephanie remarked, “I feel like we’re Charlie’s Angels!”

At one house we picked up a very small emaciated kitten. Lynn climbed a fence to lure it out. Once we got the kitten in a carrier, we were surprised when two chickens came out from a hole in the front of the house. Not the first time we’d seen chickens at a home, but we lacked any chicken feed. Luckily they seem Ok with making due with cat food in a pinch.

We discovered a dog locked in a bathroom. Breaking in through the window in the backyard wasn’t adequate, so we broke through the front door. The bathroom door was nailed shut from the inside of the house. After removing the nails we discovered the dog in the bathroom, with a running bathtub but no food. He was emaciated. We dumped a lot of food on the floor, left a bucket of water, and decided to come back for him since he was pretty big and would have been some work to care for in the car. I turned off the bathtub water.

From there four DEA agents flagged us down and told us of a puppy in a backyard. We followed them to a house and entered the house to find a very young lab puppy under the bed. He could not have been more than five years old. It is tempting to ask why in the world someone, anyone, would leave a very young puppy to fend for itself, but I try not to ascribe bad motives to anyone. I have to assume they thought they would be coming back in a short timeframe, or that they were desperate to survive themselves.

When holding the puppy, an ambulance pulled up and three EMTs got out to talk to us about the process of reporting animals needing to be picked up. The puppy was a real show-stopper as the ten of us were then huddled around it on the sidewalk. I’m sure that was quite a sight, 10 adults captivated by a puppy. But you know, sometimes in this business you need a little puppy therapy, or kitten therapy to keep yourself on an even keel!

At the end of the day Steph and Lynn approached a house with “dog” spraypainted on the outside. They broke through the front door to find a dog in a crate in its living room who had been sitting in its own urine for what we figured was 18 days without food and water. It was pretty overwhelming. They gave the dog food and water, but it growled at them when they tried to remove the water for a short period. We took the crate into the car to bring the dog into the shelter. We almost gagged with all of the windows of the van open and the crate in the rear of the minivan. I can’t even imagine what that dog has experience. No doubt it has some burns on its skin from the urine.

We brought the dog, puppy and small kitten into the shelter to the intake area at barn five. A vet saw our dog right away and we explained its circumstances. The vet said go immediately to barn one, where the vets and intensive care are located. One of the intake people started to give us a hard time about paperwork, but we immediately resisted, and drove the dog over to barn one.

There the vets put the dog on an IV and someone removed him from his cage, attaching a muzzle. How that dog had the energy to fight us is beyond me. I can’t even imagine why he’s still alive. When we found him, there was a small bowl of water and food nearby, so we wondered if the owner planned to evacuate the dog and some intervening event occurred. It’s hard not to drive yourself crazy with these things.

Speaking of which, we decided not to go back for the emaciated dog that had been trapped in the bathroom because he couldn’t be considered “critical.” Critical was defined as laying down, unable to stand, unable to bark, or likely to expire within 48hours. This dog’s tail was wagging, by contrast.

We had been warned earlier in the day to be more strict: “We can’t risk getting shut down because we let in a ‘critical ear infection.’” In hindsight I hope that turning off the bathroom water didn’t lead to his demise. We’re told the water is essentially coming straight out of the Mississippi and it’s not safe to drink. One thing I take solace in is the fact that he can now get out of the house if he needs to. Hopefully this will afford him more access to food and water if his runs out.

We went back to look for the dog with the broken leg we saw on the first day out, but we couldn’t find him. Again, he was wagging his tail, so could he be considered critical? Anand, a wildlife vet, expressed surprise that we hadn’t brought in a dog with a broken leg and I felt very bad. I hope that someone else in our area comes across him and picks him up. I was afraid to bring him in, for fear that he would be euthenized because we may lack the resources to operate on him.

I think I’ll be haunted by these decisions for a while, wondering if we did the right thing. It’s not a good feeling. I reconcile these feelings by telling myself that our goal should be to help/save as many animals as possible, and that the more resources we put into one, the more we let suffer. We have to make split-second decisions in the field, and I think we have to learn to live with those decisions. The alternative is to drive yourself crazy and thus end up being ineffective, unable to help any.

There was a rumor going around that we were euthenizing a lot of animals. The powers that be assured us that this isn’t the case.

Lynn and I watched on as the vet techs bathed, shaved and cleaned the eyes of our rescued dog. He was certainly feisty. I think one of the vets said he wasn’t worth saving, because a female vet tech was visibly shaken. I figured the vet techs have seen everything and therefore they are immune to excessive emotion, but our dog was a compelling case. The vet must have rethought his remarks and instead reassured her through her tears that our dog was going to make a nice pet for someone. The vets told us they hoped that he would make it. I’m guessing from his demeanor that he will.

In the vet area they needed someone to transport a cat to the LSU vet school in Baton Rouge for an amputation. We took the cat with the bandaged leg in his carrier. It was a poignant reminder than animals are so stoic. The cat never whined or made any noise at all. In the half hour rush-hour journey to Baton Rouge, Lynn urged me to use our hazard lights and pass any slow vehicles. We agreed that we were essentially a cat ambulance, and therefore an emergency vehicle. The LSU surgical team had already been waiting for two hours for the cat, due to a miscommunication.

Back at the shelter in the food tent area we ate our dinner and Lynn remarked, “Now I know how cops feel about their partner.” There’s nothing she could have said would have made me feel better. Despite all of the ups and downs, I still like think of us as Charlie’s Angels, ever ready to hop out of the minivan and crowbar a door to get to a suffering cat. I think at the end of the day my cats Emma and Diego would be proud of me, and would forgive me for leaving them with a roommate. And sometimes that’s all you need.