Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #18 – Report from Lorrayne

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #16, #17: Situation Continues to Change 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.

10/13/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #18

Forgive me, faithful readers – I’ve been remiss. Here it is Thursday, nearly a week from my last update. And not because there hasn’t been anything to report. Truth is, I was able to let go a little of my sideline obsession at the trial last weekend, and I had enough distractions this week that the time just slid by. But I’m back again. Lorrayne and Eric returned home on Tuesday, and I’m hoping they are recovering as well as can be expected from their 10-day stint.

Lorrayne wrote me a note on her return that summarizes what she experienced far better than I could ever convey, so I’m just forwarding it straight through with her permission. I think that her report, though not specifically the same as the others, generally represent the experiences and emotions of the travelers.

I’ll follow up with a separate update of my own on what Cara and her friends have been up to, as well as a report on the party last weekend, Deborah’s upcoming trip, and a few other things as well.

Hi Holly –

There’s no place like home!   I was very happy to get home to my three papillons and husband last nite.  It has been both wonderful and extremely sad to experience the hurricane up close and personal.  I actually cried when I saw my husband at the airport, very unlike me.

I will send you an overview of the last few days, since last Thursday and perhaps you have already heard it from Cara and Eric, but her is my cut.

I think it was last Thursday that we moved the RV to the Abita Springs RV Park.  Things took much longer than expected and it turns out the Kendra is a very independent lady.  Kendra had given us detailed directions for getting to Abbieville the previous night, but we still had to find the food that she wanted transported and get it loaded.  I don’t believe that she has actually come to terms with how sick she is. She will undergo chemo for a year, have an operation and feels that she may not actually make it beyond next April. Regardless, she decided she is not about to take any help now because she can still function. However it was 2:00 before we got underway to Abbeville, LA.  We arrived at 6:00, unloaded the food, which they were very grateful for. The area (3/4 of the way to Texas) was hard hit by Rita and many cattle were still floating or isolated on small islands, stuck in the mud. They were going out on barges on the weekend to see if they could rescue them. It was definitely farm/cattle country. We visited for about half an hour and got home that night at about 10:30.  Eric seared some chicken for dinner on his new teflon frying pan and we gorged.

Friday, Kendra insisted that the Mutt Shack Rescue needed us far more than she did so we reported to 8400 Hayne Blvd, East New Orleans.  We both worked for the day in the kennel walking, loving, cleaning, etc.  Melody, the kennel manager mentioned that she would train me for her position if I were staying longer, but since I would only have 4 more days in New Orleans, she needed a longer commitment. Basically I stayed there as kennel help for the rest of the assignment until yesterday.

The dog walking consisted of taking the dogs across Hayne Blvd., up a flight of about 20 cement stairs to the top of the levy, interacting with the dogs and getting a P&P out of them.  Just the other side of the levy was the railroad tracks and Lake Ponchartrain, so you know that the houses in this area were extremely hard it. Half a mile to the west is the New Orleans Lakefront Airport and Marina. This is where FEMA set up the restaurant (all meals free to construction workers and Mutt Shack people) and the “Lake House” a houseboat where showers are available. Early on, the high management of the company who sets up such facilities noticed that the female workers from the Mutt Shack were sleeping in their cars and extended the invitation to them to use one of the bunk rooms on the Lake House. It has full service, clean linens and towels every day and in every sense a luxury party boat, with living room, dining room, decks, etc.ed  The day that I found out about it (Sunday) was the day that 5 vet techs from the Milo Foundation (Berkeley) were leaving and so it created space for Cara and her crew, a very lucky find. FEMA pays the bill and it is very handy to the Mutt Shack.

During my work experience I learned about the MILO FOUNDATION (Berkeley) and learned that they had an air-conditioned uhaul truck completely set up for animal transport and I helped them load the dogs on Sunday for their drive home.  They also took a significant number of cats. They were delayed by 2 hours because there was an argument about a valuable brindle colored mastiff which they selected to take with them. Someone (worker?) felt that it should remain behind and that there was a “possible” owner in the area but they could not locate the owner after 2 hours and the girls finally took off, with the “valuable” mastiff. Intact Male, good for breeding. Their only purpose was to rehab the animal and find fostering for it as it was emaciated. ric has pictures.

Another significant person who I met through transport/loading for the airport shipment was Susan Marino, who was also taking a large shipment of dogs to her location in New York State, I think Long Island. She is a vet tech who spent quite some time at the Mutt Shack and was returning to the Mutt Shack for more work, as soon as she had the animals situated at a facility, maybe her own, in New York. She may be back as early as today. She wrote a book which I have a copy of, called Lucky Dog, which talks about her experiences with some of the most beloved pets who found their way to Angels Gate. This is a hospice in her home for dying animals. “Lucky” was one of her favorites, hence the title. I would be happy to share this book with you. I read it on the flight home yesterday. It is obviously a heart-breaker as it tells the stories of how the animals wound up in her home, her love and care for them, and in some cases, their final days.

Every day, search and rescue continued and I could see that I was out of my league as most of the rescuers are now dresssed in army fatigues, are trained feral cat catchers with traps, and are basically willing to go out on night detail with the National Guard to catch packs which have taken up residence under stilted houses. Many of the houses are on cement blocks about 2-1/2 feet off the ground.  It is cool under there and they hide out under the house during the day.

Gael and I were permitted to go on one half day rescue mission to double-check a neighborhood about 5 miles from the Mutt Shack. We found a family who had just returned their ponies from Lamar Dixon and were moving back to their property. They also had a black chow. They had a large wooden sign indicating that they were in residence and that they were feeding the ponies (so they would not be taken erroneously). We indicated that they should add the dog to the list (to avoid over-anxious rescuers) but we just could not get the point across, so we added the dog to the list/sign ourselves to avoid a possible future pick up.

They continue to bring in emaciated dogs. One arrived in the vets hospital just as I was leaving.  and they are making a concerted effort to get the feral cats, fix them, and possibly release them again?  not sure of the latter. Some are set off to other shelters out-of-state.

All animals were microchipped, polaroid and electronic pictures taken and documentation prepared on their capture location prior to being shipped away. They all go up on Pet  This organization was not perfect but under such circumstances, they did as much as they could for the animals under their care.

Because of the nature of the neighborhood where we are working, most of the dogs we cared for were un-neutered male pitts, rotts, chows, and mixes. The cages were color coded so we were not handing the ones with red codes. Even some of the yellow coded dogs where difficult to handle and hated to return to their cages. I luckily missed a bite on Monday when returning a chow to her cage. All the dogs were truly grateful to get out and have a walk and relieve themselves. Some were okay with people but were aggressive toward the other dogs in the kennel and had to have special walks to avoid going down the aisles of other pitts and rotts. Many were not pretty dogs and were severely malnourished and needed love, even the pitts! I have a new understanding of the breed and do not generally fear them as I once did.  Some are severely scarred from previous fighting. My heart went out to them as all they needed was kindness and touching.

This particular site had difficulty with people who would drive by, watch us walk the big dogs, observe their characteristics, and then attempt to adopt them. The Mutt Shack were very wary of folks who were not adopting their own animals but looking to get good “fighters” to take home. They were screened carefully and many left  empty-handed. They were not allowed to go thru the kennel and “pick out a new dog.” I suspect that they stand a much better of getting what we might call a normal home by leaving the area (especially the big, mean looking ones). Just across the street from the Mutt Shack, the National Guard has set up their headquarters for the area. It is reassuring to know they are there, especially early in the a.m. and when it gets to be dusk because the whole operation is run by generator and everything tends to shut down at sunset because they don’t have enough generators.

Many homeless people were voluntarily surrendering their dogs because they had no means to keep them. They are staying with family or friends who could not take additional animals.  Some animals were brought in because they are actually neglected to the point of near death. On Saturday a mid-sized mixed breed came in covered with fleas and had only ten percent of her hair left. Its skin was all wrinkly and it had several special baths.  When it dried it was referred to as “armadillo dog” because that’s what it looked like. There was neurological damage on some dogs. There was every kind of ear infection and tons of heartworm. The dogs will need a long recovery time.

The juxtaposition of the normal life (in the marina) next to crashed airplanes and tumbled boats was unreal. All available to see in the same eyeful.

I am most grateful for the experience and the ability to help in a very small way. I will be checking out the websites of these organizations to learn more about them, especially the MILO FOUNDATION.

If there are any more gaps you would like filled in, please call me. I truly appreciate your confidence in me.  It was an experience I will never forget.


Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #19, #20: Wrapping Up

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