Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #4, #5 – Hunkered Down in Mississippi

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #2, #3: Getting Down to Business so you have some context. If not, I suggest you go back to the beginning (Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: Introduction). Each episode links to the next for continuity.

9/23/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #4

Well, the subject of this message should really be Jacksonville Chronicles, because that is where they are now – safely ensconced at an RV Park south of Jacksonville, MS.  Thanks to the proprietor (I think), who not only let them stay after turning dozens of others away, but bought them a 50A-30A converter so they could plug in and loaned them a TV so they could catch up with what’s going on around them. Sarah was also able to repair the generator, with help on the phone by the guy that rented it to them (10 hours away), by finding a loose wire in the electrical system – sounds like the coil wire or a spark plug wire. So whenever they are able to go back, they will have electricity even if their plug-in spot is gone.

All this was gleaned from two very brief phone conversations with Sarah, so I still don’t have any more first-hand details about the Lamar-Dixon facility.  Here’s an update on the evacuation from one of Judie Mancuso’s contacts (Judie is the volunteer who returned just before our crew left):

“There are still a lot of volunteers who stayed behind and there are huge trucks on stand-by in case they need to get the animals out. They are taking down the FEMA tent and are expecting winds as high as 75 mph, as you said.  But they seem to think that unless it is upgraded, things will be OK.”

Second Shift update: I have one confirmed volunteer ready to go, but not until October 2. Another is considering it. I’m investigating what other housing arrangements are available, because the RV was the single biggest expense (and I gather somewhat marginal accommodations). If we can find other suitable places for the volunteers to sleep and clean, we can spend the money much more efficiently. The following just came from Judie:

“We slept in our car and in a tent. There are showers on the premises. FEMA had set up a tent with cots and air conditioning after we left. This would be used by the volunteers.”

I also heard that they are feeding the volunteers three square meals.  If I can verify that these reports are both true, is there anybody up for a vacation on the Gulf Coast?

Financial update: If we can ditch the RV, we definitely have the funds and air miles to send more crews. And more keeps coming in from both ends of the state. Hopefully TRACS this weekend will be productive – drop by the Everything 4 Paws booth to contribute if you’d like. Some people are using my Paypal account as well.

9/23/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #5

Now that our heroes are holed up in Jacksonville, they actually have good connections for both cell phone and e-mail. They are busy charging up their devices now – the cigarette lighter in the RV doesn’t work, so they had to take turns in the rental car.

From Sarah, I have this (I filled in some words to supplement the thumb-typing short-hand):  FEMA has supplied an air-conditioned tent for camping. They took it down for Rita, but we assume they will put it back up – will verify upon return. Showers are available. Food is fine – even had veggie hot pasta dinner. It was good. Breakfast bar and coffee, but you have to get there early for lunch. Lots of water, gatorade and sodas all day. [and this is a direct quote] “I only worked one day, it was the hardest work I have ever done.”

I have also learned the following from Sandy, compiled from a voicemail message: We can keep the RV indefinitely if we can keep occupying it (and of course, paying for it). The rate is somewhat lower than I thought because the initial rate included delivery from Arkansas. Even if somebody ends up going alone, there are volunteers who are sleeping in their cars who would love to have a real bed for a night or two. All three of our folks are planning to stay at least a couple of days longer than originally planned, partly because of a sense of moral obligation to make up for the days they got chased away by Rita, and partly because they expect their flight plans through Houston to be messed up by Rita.

So far, I have three tentative volunteers: one (male) who can probably leave anytime, another (female) who can leave October 2, and a third (female) who can leave October 10. If you can sign up to be part of one of these potential teams, please let me know. I’m going full-steam ahead with planning and I’m confident we can come up with the funds to pull it off for those who can’t cover the expenses on their own.

Last but not least, I am forwarding the following message from two other volunteers on the ground, not part of our crew but friends of Judie Mancuso’s. If we don’t come through with new crews of our own, we will consider supporting their desire to continue working. This story is about rescuing animals from the street, not working in the shelter as our folks are doing, but it gives a good first hand view of the enormity of the situation.

From Pia and Megan:

In re-reading the e-mail we wrote on 9/15, it seems like years ago-  Re: the dog we mentioned setting out to get that day, though the info relayed by we were able to get him!  His name was Peaty and he was loyally guarding his abandoned water-logged home – he was in the front yard when we arrived with the US Marshall assisting us as it was after dark and we were beyond the curfew – he immediately ran inside – we ultimately found him rested up against a set of drawers in the bedroom corner – we got a loop around his neck and eventually he came with us walking low to the ground and with tail between his legs – his eyes were really bugged out which a handler later described as a phenomena called ‘whale eye’ that happens under extreme stress and heightened awareness – we saw this in so many of the dogs – they share many of the signs of trauma seen in humans – exaggerated startle response, etc. Peatie has since been re-united with his mother – hooray!

IMAGE_4Following Peatie’s rescue we got a call from Peatie’s neighbor who asked that we find his Jack Russell mix, Jack.  He recounted the heartbreaking tale of how he had been forced to leave Jack behind on a bridge. He had placed Jack in a bag and was about to be rescued off of a bridge where many people and their pets were awaiting rescue. Jack was quietly hidden in a bag and an officer forced him to open the bag and place Jack on the bridge if he wished to be rescued himself. Glenn, Jack’s dad pleaded but the officer wouldn’t hear it and Glenn relinquished Jack instructing him to go home and wait for him. Glenn recounted how so many people were forced to do the same with little animals that could easily have been carried to safety. He also told of the larger dogs who were behaving well and staying with owners or frantically trying to attach themselves to people to get saved but were not allowed to leave. Ironically Glenn was permitted to take the very same bag with him that Jack had been hidden in- so the issue of not having the room for these animals was ridiculous. Animals are considered property under the law, like a TV or chair- we could understand if you could not take you TV b/c it took up too much room- but in this case the authorities essentially determined which property one could take -and they permitted a bag that took the same space, over a dog who would have been rescued in that space- this should be criminal. The law must be changed regarding this status!!!!! Glenn explained that a female trooper was near him and pleaded with the authorities, explaining that this made no sense and asking why- but she too was shut down. So animals frantically ran up and down that bridge watching as their “owners” were forced to leave them- many making promises to return for them. Jack heeded his dad’s instruction a returned to his house blocks away and waited. We found him under the car- right where Glenn said he would be- he quietly ran behind the house but we were able to lure him out with potato chips as He has since been reunited with is dad who drove in from Texas to retrieve him- hooray!!! Ironically, Jack had been adopted by Glenn following another flood that he was rescued from!

Among the other rescues were sickly or injured kittens and countless dogs with chemical burns from the water- David Meyer rescued some skinny caged birds earlier today-Unfortunately our days were also punctuated with sighting of dogs still on chains- having drowned trying to get free-injured cats, etc.  It is very hard to tolerate and I sob as I recount this-too too much to wrap ones mind around.

There are many kittens and puppies too-with their faithful nursing mamas and papas staying to protect them and dragging the open cans of food we leave under houses to feed them. Unfortunately there have been some instances in which mother dogs are attacking their puppies over food though. The US marshals assisting us recounted a case like this but they were able to get the puppy and bring it to a vet triage set up. Another sad sight we saw all too often were live dogs sitting by decomposing dogs who were likely their friends and companions- who had clearly died from starvation. We recount all of this not to shock you or turn your stomachs but to let you know how truly bad the situation is and how much help is needed. Many of these animals are so scared they are virtually impossible to get without a catchpole, which we ultimately used to get many. Others are quicker to come into your care and get in to crates.

Most of these guys are like your average family dog or cat who would be trusting and run right up to you if not so traumatized. And many came around to trust very shortly after arriving at the facility. They are grateful for the rescue and they seem quick to forgive and trust given what they have endured. We learned a great deal from the animal handlers about the signs of trauma in these guys and the signs of how they will respond.

Rescue efforts are split between dropping food and water for those in the streets, going to specific addresses and maintaining animals that we know are living there and breaking in to houses to get out ones we either hear inside or have been directed to check on by their “owners.”

IMAGE_1Some days the facility in Gonzalez had more room to bring animals back, other days we were instructed to get only the most critical. Those decisions were hard to make each day as all the animals out there need more help as the days pass. Many of the animals are so stressed they are starting to fight and even eat each other. Megan rescued a small dog that had been attacked by pit bulls that day-she needed to be euthanized as she arrived at the shelter. Megan stayed with her as this was done and helped offer peace in her last moments. We saw other instances in which pit bulls were beginning an attack on a yellow lab but were able to distract the pitts enough for the lab to get away- we tried to retrieve her but she had run off- hopefully to safety. There are many pit bulls down there as dog fighting is legal- many of them are as sweet as can be- like the one we mentioned that crawled right in to Pia’s lap (black and white pitt- see photos)- she is actually slated to go to the Marin Humane Society today.

In terms of Pia and Megan- well Pia definitely wins for personal injuries- the cat bite we reported earlier actually got worse and on the 2nd trip to the ER they wanted to admit her for intervals of IV antibiotics but Pia was able to cut a deal in which she would agree to take an additional antibiotics and check back in with them- phew! So that bite is healing well and responding to the meds. The US marshals we have befriended have made this the butt of many jokes and consistently instruct Pia to be careful of hamsters and other rodents- all in good fun though. Pia sustained a minor dog bit that has benefited from the antibiotics already in her system so that’s under control- the only remaining injuries to speak of were heat exhaustion, some cuts from breaking glass windows and being side swiped by a car as she was running across a street- this was a very lucky situation indeed- and what happened basically amounted to being punched in the jaw and arm by a car- Pia was a bit dizzy but since we had Dave Kaplowitz nearby in the field, who is a doctor- he was able to check her out and simply said to monitor things- so she is fine just a little stunned and very, very grateful.

That is all for now- we are seriously considering returning over the next weeks if we can cover the costs  – anyone interested in coming along or making a trip there sooner, please do so!!!!!!! Megan’s brother-in-law, Casey McDonald joined us for a few days and rescued many animals in that time!!! We can instruct you on the specifics if needed.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #6, #7: Back to Business

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