Lamar-Dixon Chronicles – Introduction

September 30, 2015

Introduction

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which as we all know, slammed into the Gulf Coast at the end of August, 2005. Between the storm and the subsequent levee failure in New Orleans, the result was the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. History. That is the big picture, the sound-bite overview. But we also know that there are thousands of smaller stories. This is one of those stories. In the wake of that disaster, several friends and I organized an effort to send local volunteers to assist the animal rescue and shelter operations in the area – they were overwhelmed with abandoned and starving animals and had reached out across the country for help. We ended up sending nearly a dozen volunteers over a 2-month period.

Our primary resource for support was The Bay Team membership. We received substantial donations of both cash and airline miles to help pay expenses of the volunteers. I stayed home and handled the fundraising and logistics, and also sent out regular updates by e-mail for the benefit of the people who were supporting the effort. The experience was so powerful for the volunteers who traveled to New Orleans that some of them weren’t able to read the updates until long after they returned. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the disaster, I am re-posting all of the e-mail updates that were sent during that time.

I have made very few edits in order to preserve the rawness that resulted from the near-realtime posting of information in the originals. I have, however, inserted some additional information for clarity and have enhanced the text with photos that I received from the volunteers.

Each entry links to the next – please start here: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: The Story Begins.

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Lamar-Dixon Chronicles – Videos, Books, and Blogs

September 29, 2015

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #19: Wrapping Up 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.

I have crawled the web looking for additional information about the Animal Rescue aspect of Hurricane Katrina, including specials and blogs that were available at the time, plus several documentaries and books that have been released since. There a lot of lessons learned during this disaster, with its unprecedented scale. Animal rescue organizations have evolved their response plans, HSUS and ASPCA have been further exposed for their astronomical overhead expenses and mixed agenda. One of the most important changes that came from Hurricane Katrina is that FEMA now has to deal with evacuating pets with the people.

Here are my suggestions for the most relevant TV and Radio stories, Documentaries, Books, and Blogs/Articles/Websites.



Television and Radio



Documentaries

Left Behind Without a Choice (Emphasis Entertainment, 2008)

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina turned the Gulf Coast region into a sea of loss and despair. Our nation sat in dismay as our government failed to respond.

Animals desperately searched and pleaded for help as they were left behind with no choice but to endure a hurricane, floods and a fight to survive the streets on their own. People from across the United States, Canada and countries abroad heard their cries and took it upon themselves to do something about it.

Left Behind Without A Choice explores the less media-friendly side of the animal rescue efforts. The physical and emotional conditions of the animals are told by the very people who cared for them and nurtured them back to health as they recount their journey with Hurricane Katrina animal rescue. A few animals’ stories have been completely documented from peril to the path to recovery and are included in this documentary.

Featuring the staff of “Best Friends Animal Society” and music by Jessy Greene, Wally Borgan and Marc Perlman (Jayhawks).

Written, directed and produced by Kim Walsh-Borgan.

YouTube Trailer (2:53)
 Available formatsThe Bay Team library (Free to members); DVD ($20.99)

Dark Water Rising: The Truth About Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues (ShiDogs Films, 2006)

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.

They discovered widespread scenes of horrific torture, death, disease, neglect, and thoughtless abandonment of dogs. They broke the case to the FBI of sadistic police officers who needlessly tortured and shot more than 20 innocent dogs at three schools in the St Bernard Parish area.

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 were reunited with their owners while other lucky pets found 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.

Available formatsAmazon Prime Streaming (Free to members); DVD ($24.95); YouTube ($2.99)

Hurricane Heroes: Survival Stories of Katrina Animal Rescues (ShiDogs Films, 2006)

Over 50,000 dogs and cats were left behind in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as FEMA required that all animals be left behind in the mandatory evacuation.

This forced separation created America’s first-ever major animal rescue.

A dedicated and compassionate group of volunteer rescuers and animal welfare groups from around the world risked their lives to sledgehammer down doors and brave toxic floodwaters in a truly heroic effort to save nearly 10,000 animals.

Hurricane Heroes is a film about hope and survival in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

It will renew your faith in the American spirit.

Available formatsAmazon Prime Streaming (Free to members); DVD ($19.95); YouTube ($2.99)


Books

Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons LearnedCathy Scott and Clay Myers

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many animals had to fend for themselves because their owners lost them or were unable to care for them. In Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned, Cathy Scott documents her experience working with the Best Friends Animal Society triage center to rescue lost animals and reunite them with their owners. Over two hundred stories with accompanying photos describe dramatic and challenging rescue cases with details about the rescues, the examinations, treatment, and follow-up care by the selfless volunteers who worked to save beloved best friends.

Available Formats: Kindle, Hardback, Audible

Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue: A Story Buried DeepAJ Meadows

What would you do if you had only hours to evacuate your family and furry loved ones from the danger of a national disaster? In the heat of the moment, would you be prepared to take immediate action?

Using author A.J. Meadows’ personal stories of existing in a warzone named “Katrina,” this book outlines a plan easily implemented that will aide in alleviating the stress of the unknown. Being disaster ready is vital to your animal’s survival and well-being, also offering you desperately needed peace of mind in times of trouble.

Meadows witnessed the destruction and horror following a national disaster during her ten-day deployment in New Orleans while rescuing animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. She hopes through retelling her own stories to provide readers with information to ensure they are disaster ready, through such examples as:

  • Preparation of your disaster bin, complete with items imperative to your animal’s welfare.
  • Protection of your family in times of danger by being aware of your animals’ behavior and others.
  • Taking into consideration past mistakes, and making them work to your benefit in the future.
Available Formats: Paperback

Orphans of Katrina: Inside the World’s Biggest Animal Rescue- What Really Happened on the Gulf and How You Can Help Save America’s Pets TodayKaren O’Toole

A compilation of over 60 stories with photos; it’s a master’s blend of both humorous and poignanat writing. A heartfelt journey deep inside the greatest animal rescue in history.

O’Toole’s acute eye, and insider photographs, are a sharp witness to the poignant, fragile land where man and animal band together in a the ultimate race against time. She exposes this searing, uncharted world with revealing photos, striking observations, and surprising rescue tales. As she walks us through this unfathomed land, she makes a moving plea, and gives us a road map, to help America’s pets today.

Orphans of Katrina is a vivid journey, a historical account, and a celebration of the volunteer rescuers–and the animals we share our world with.

Available Formats: Kindle, Paperback

Blogs, Websites, and Articles

There are so many web resources, I can’t possibly list them all. Here is a sampling of the ones I found. You can Google “katrina animal rescue stories” to find many more.

Eric’s Dog Blog – this was one of our key resources during the emergency when the situation was changing and we needed to know where to send. Scroll down on the right and look as his archives from the Sept/Oct 2005 timeframe and you’ll see just how fluid the situation was.

Storms 411 – another amazing real-time resource. Self-described: “This blog is the top resource online for Hurricane Katrina pictures / pics, storm tracks, a picture, coordinates, flooding, tracker, tracking, forecasts, photo/photos, map/maps, information, forecast, reports, path.” I believe it probably was.

Kim Upham’s blog – first-hand blog by a rescue volunteer from Portland.

Best Friends – The Legacy of Katrina – Two Years Later – great summary of lessons learned, many other articles on their site

Lousiana SPCA – simple but compelling chronology of the disaster as it unfolded and the aftermath.

Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) – This organization was founded by Jane Garrison (from Charleston SC) and two friends in the wake of (and actually, in the midst of) the Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. With assistance and coordination from Best Friends, ARNO was handed off to locals about six months later. In addition to continuing their rescue/shelter/mission, they continue to focus on the lessons learned from Katrina.



Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #18 – Report from Lorrayne

October 13, 2005

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 Finders.com.  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.

Lorrayne


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


Lamar Dixon Chronicles #19, #20 – Wrapping Up

October 13, 2005

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #18: Report from Lorrayne 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.

10/13/15: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #19

So, now that you’ve gotten the current picture from Lorrayne, here are some more updates. First, I want to thank the people who joined us in our tribute to the travelers last weekend at Dixon. It was a small, fluid group and lots of fun. I brought my laptop and we were thus able to share not only the photos from my website that Wendy provided, but a video that Sarah had taken of the Lamar-Dixon facilities and activities. I’m going to see if I can figure out how to make that footage available on my website with some sort of streaming video format so the rest of you can see it too.

As I mentioned, Eric and Lorrayne have returned. Please send them some kind words if you get a chance. Eric has some pictures too and I’m looking to seeing and posting them. Lorrayne conveyed in her message some of the surreal sights they encountered during their journey. Eric specifically mentioned a boat on the side of the freeway – before last week, they would have naturally assumed it fell off a trailer. As the week evolved, they came to understand that it had been swept there by the surge and flooding and left behind when the water receded.  By the time they left, the sight didn’t even seem odd anymore, because it was fairly low-level on the list of visual horrors.

Cara and her three friends, affectionately known as “the girls”, arrived on Sunday. I suppose it’s time to give them names – Cara Callaway is accompanied by Hollis Jordan, Linda Tulley, and Gael Johnson.  They showed up in time to overlap with Eric and Lorrayne for two days and get the lay of the land. They also found themselves the unwitting beneficiaries of an amazing hospitality find. As Eric tells the story, they all benefited from Lorrayne’s caffeine fix one morning. Apparently, she was in need of a decent cup of coffee and started asking around at the shelter. She was guided to a coffee joint nearby. When she arrived, she also found a FEMA dining facility serving meals to the volunteers and workers in the area. That led to the discovery of a nearby shower facility, and then jackpot! The luxury party boat that FEMA had leased for housing. It was intended for the reconstruction workers, but since it hasn’t filled with them yet, Cara and her crew have been able to stay there for several nights. The availability changes day-by-day, and we’re not at all certain that they’ll be able to stay there. We haven’t given up the RV yet because we don’t want our travelers to be stranded.

I’ve received word from Kathleen Pantaze, one of our independent travelers, that Lamar-Dixon is just about shut down, and Raceland is not far behind.  Raceland is trying to find safe-haven for some of the more aggressive dogs they received. They have also reported some real success with positive reinforcement behavioral changes on some of these dogs. Hopefully, they’ll be able to find appropriate rescue organizations to relocate them. The Muttshack facility is still going strong, still receiving animals from the field, and Cara and the girls have been working very hard there doing kennel work. Cara reported that yesterday, they got a dog that had been tied to a dining room table. She had wrapped herself up completely in the rope so she couldn’t move, and the rope had dug in to her neck to the point it was perilously close to severing her jugular vein. She was skin and bones and obviously severely dehydrated, but after surgery and treatment, she is expected to  recover. Amazing.

Cara also reported that they have just opened up a new neighborhood that had previously been completely closed. So the national guard and other rescuers are going to start searching there as well. Not likely to have many successes, but we continue to be amazed by the ability of these animals to survive. She is also going to check on the Wynn-Dixie site tomorrow to see what they’re up to. Hollis, Linda and Gael leave on Saturday, but Deborah Dulaney is showing up on Sunday to join Cara for a week. Ginger Cutter is poised to go the following week – I’ve been holding off on committing to her for two reasons: first, I was hoping to find her a travel-mate (anybody interested?), and I was also waiting to confirm that there would be work for her to do. Cara seems confident that the work will be there, and she is going to get better estimates from both Muttshack and Wynn-Dixie tomorrow.

10/17/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #20

Another shift change has occurred – Hollis, Linda and Gael returned home on Saturday, and Cara is coming home tomorrow. Deborah Dulaney arrived yesterday, and no time was wasted putting her to work. Despite a travel delay in Dallas and a late arrival at 6:00pm, she arrived at Muttshack just in time for the evening feeding and walking activities.

Our mission is also winding down – Deborah is our last scheduled traveler. That doesn’t mean there still isn’t plenty of work to do, it just means that our pool of volunteers has run dry. If you know ANYBODY who might be interested in going, we can certainly help with information and contacts, probably offer up a little money, and I even have a couple of air travel donors waiting in the wings. Here is the latest plea from Jane Garrison (the original coordinator from Lamar-Dixon), who is back in business after her feral cat bite incident and resultant hospital stay. This message was forwarded to me this morning.

From Jane Garrison: “WE STILL NEED HELP. I will pay the travel cost (airline or gas) for 10 people to get to New Orleans right away. Animal Control officers or Search and Rescue people are best. Please contact me at JaneGarrison@comcast.net  Thanks!”

Wendy was able to contact Jane by e-mail and get specific instructions on where and when to meet. Cara reported that Muttshack’s activities seem to have stabilized at a manageable level – they are still getting dogs in, but are also shipping them out so they only have a couple dozen dogs at this point and the full-time volunteers are able to handle them just fine. Based on this information, we have rerouted Deborah to Jane’s location – she will be attending the morning meeting at 7:30am tomorrow to get further instructions. She has also hooked up with a volunteer from Texas, so they will both be moving on from Muttshack.

Wendy was also able to find a vacancy in a newly-reopened hotel within easy range of all of our potential locations – it actually seems to be within walking distance of Jane Garrison’s operation. So we have turned in the RV (which was parked a considerable distance away) in favor of a much less expensive hotel room. The RV guy has been great – even though he probably won’t pick up the unit until later this week, he stopped charging us as of yesterday which is the day I left the message on his cell phone. If you ever need to rent an RV in the south, talk to Richard at the Outdoor Living Center at 800-828-2241.

We also got information that the Noah’s Wish shelter at nearby Slidell is still running full tilt with 1000 animals – even if that is a huge exaggeration, that’s still a lot of animals. So depending on what Deborah and her Texas pal learn at the meeting tomorrow, they may also check out Slidell to see where they will be best utilized. The field rescues, while still producing occasional miracles, are more and more likely to be heartbreaking. Nobody can really know how they would handle that until they try.

On a brighter note, Deborah told me another amazing success story. A pug was rescued and delivered alive today at Muttshack. This little dog had been trapped in the house, lifted up in the flood waters, and found what he assumed was a solid safe surface on top of the refrigerator. Unfortunately, when the flood waters receded, he didn’t recede with them. So there he was, perched on the fridge without food or water for SEVEN WEEKS. He was rescued today, nothing but skin and bones (and that is definitely not an exaggeration – you’ve no doubt seen pictures by now). But happy and joyful and so delighted to see people and be cared for. And imagine the owner who had completely given up hope. The resilience of these animals is truly remarkable, and of course the tendency of pugs to … ah … plumpness obviously worked well for this little guy.

I am so proud to be part of an effort that can result in stories like this, and even prouder of the volunteers who are really making it happen. Sorry if this is redundant, but I can’t say it enough – thanks to everyone who has contributed, supported, responded, and especially, traveled.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: Videos, Books and Blogs


Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #16, #17 – Situation Continues to Change

October 6, 2005

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #15: More Saves and Working to Reunite 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.

10/6/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #16

Sorry I didn’t post a report last night, but I needed a break. And yesterday was a discouraging day for our rescuers, not because they found sad stories, but because they didn’t find any stories at all. The situation has changed dramatically since Sandy and Wendy were there – now that residents are being allowed back into the city (on a “look and leave” basis), many who reported their dogs locked in homes have since returned to rescue them themselves. Traffic in and out of the city is horrible all day. And more importantly, it’s starting to get more than a little dangerous to wander around with a sledgehammer breaking into homes – with more people are around, there’s a real risk of being mistaken for a looter. My hunch is that the home rescues are just about over, but we also have to face the reality that at this stage of the game, they may be approaching futility anyway.

Another distressing bit of news is that Jane Garrison, the volunteer and rescue coordinator who was clearly holding the Lamar-Dixon operation (and subsequent relocation) together, has landed in the hospital. She was bitten by a feral cat last week, and the assumption is that her exhaustion from the weeks of relentless work has led to decreased resistance and probably a nasty infection. As a result, the exodus from Lamar-Dixon isn’t quite as well-organized as we had hoped, and so we have been struggling to figure out the best place for Eric and Lorrayne (as well as Cara and her crew) to land.

We had originally concluded that the Pasado rescue site in Raceland was the best shot, because that is where many of the dogs from Lamar-Dixon (and Jane, until she fell ill) were being transferred. But Lorrayne reports that they have stopped accepting dogs and expect to wind down their operation by the 15th. Enter Wendy V., who started calling people, including some names that she and Sandy had gathered when they were there. From one of these contacts (Amanda), she learned of a kennel-turned-shelter in Mandeville, LA, with 150+ dogs or so, being run by one dedicated woman with just a couple of volunteers. Furthermore, Amanda lives within walking distance of the site and has offered us a place to park the RV on her 3-acres of land, with access to her toilet and shower and even an extra bed or two. Assuming all goes well and nothing has changed, Eric and Lorrayne will be moving there tonight or tomorrow morning and getting right to work.

When I gave Eric the details, he was thrilled, not only by the prospect of doing valuable work, but by the proximity to Slidell (about 25 miles). When they investigated Slidell, they found that not all services have been restored to the area and they were a little concerned about their personal well-being if they decided to relocate there. But as they drove west (toward Mandeville), things appeared a little more normal. So in his opinion this is the best of both worlds because they can easily decide where they are needed most. And when Cara and her team arrive, they may even be able to split their resources between Mandeville and Slidell, providing value to both.

Wendy V. continues to provide me much-needed assistance on the phones. She is still investigating other shelters so we have a fallback plan if the situation at either Mandeville or Slidell changes. Also, she is still working hard to track down owners for reuniting some of the dogs she encountered at Lamar-Dixon. One in particular is a German Shepherd named Baby Girl that she and Sandy took a particular interest in. When they returned to the shelter after their flight from Rita, the dog had been transferred away from the facility, but coincidentally she had been transferred to the San Diego. Yesterday, Wendy tracked down Baby Girl at the North San Diego County shelter (not far from where she lives in San Clemente). Now the red-tape of having her transported to TX (where her owner is staying) begins and it’s clear that it will not be easy.

Outbound volunteer update: Deborah Dulaney’s flight is confirmed on 10/16 thanks to a ticket and arrangements from Becky Hardenbergh. She will be joining Cara Callaway after her 3 friends leave on the 15th. If there is still a need after that, Ginger Cutter is poised to go from 10/23-10/29, and I’m hoping we can get a volunteer to be her travel-mate. But it’s still unclear if the local shelters will be needing support of this sort by then.

Don’t forget the gathering at the Haute-Dawgs trial in Dixon on Saturday night. My car is full of wine and plastic cups. BYOC & S & BOTW (chairs & snacks & beverages other than wine). We can still use contributions, so that will be another opportunity to participate. Hell, I even have a brand-new Quik-Shade canopy in my car that I might just raffle off to raise more funds.

10/7/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #17

Lorrayne called me at home before I left for work. They are in transit with both vehicles to Kendra’s, the kennel/shelter in Mandeville. They stopped by there yesterday to get the lay of the land and agree that it is a good place for them to put down roots. Kendra was thrilled. Their first mission today is to deliver dog food and supplies to a shelter a couple of hours away, in an area that was hard hit by Rita. That chore was at the very top of Kendra’s list because she is overrun with donated supplies and the storage is interfering with her operation. So Eric and Lorrayne will be taking two vans full of stuff somewhere else for redistribution.

Then I talked to Eric this afternoon and they have found an RV park very near Kendra’s place. Electric only for now, but they’re on the waiting list to move to a full-service spot. He called it a “resort”, with full amenities including swimming pool and wireless internet. He’s working on hooking up his laptop now, and if he can get his hands on a USB cable, he’ll even send us some pictures.

Kathleen (Sarah’s mother’s friend from Mesquite) is on the ground and on her way to the Pasado operation Raceland, which has plans to be operating until the 15th. Nicole (a friend of Kelly Gorman’s from Berkeley) will follow tomorrow. They will work there until they get different instructions from me, depending on the feedback I get from Eric/Lorrayne and Cara and her gang.

We are looking into a triage/transfer facility at the Wynn-Dixie in New Orleans – apparently, they are still accepting rescues from the city as well. Eric has seen the facility but doesn’t have any details on what they are doing or what their current needs are. Cara will probably investigate further when she gets there. The luxury of having 4 people and a rental car is that she can send delegates out on reconnaissance missions without taking too much away from their volunteer resources. Kendra is connected with a rescue operation in East NO, which is an area that our people haven’t been into at all, so it’s possible they’ll still be able to do that work. Lorrayne thinks they are just about the same distance from the city as they were at Lamar-Dixon. Eric also said that they haven’t felt threatened or endangered yet, and Kendra is discounting the risks in favor of the rescues. So they may try to go back in the field tomorrow, depending on the needs at Kendra’s place.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #18: Report from Lorrayne 


Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #15 – More Saves and Working to Reunite

October 4, 2005

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #14: More Changes 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.

10/4/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #15

Another big day in Louisiana. I just got off the phone with Lorrayne – she and Eric had a save today! They found a dog who was locked in a bathroom. It had clearly been there for several weeks, but was still healthy enough that they bypassed the triage station and took it directly to the new intake facility at Raceland. And yes, the decision has been made, they are moving to Raceland tomorrow. Lamar-Dixon is in the throes of shutting down, and we and they have been researching the best place for them to go. Raceland was already on the list on its own merits, but as it turns out, they are now the main facility accepting transfers from Lamar-Dixon. And they are still running rescue operations out of that facility – the national organizations have all pulled out and shut down. Lorrayne reports that she was very pleased with what she saw today – the facility is nice, and it appears to be quite well-organized.

So tomorrow morning, our intrepid travelers will go out on another rescue run from Lamar-Dixon, deposit their saves (hopefully) at triage stations or at Raceland, then drive back to Lamar-Dixon to pick up the RV and move everything down to Raceland. It is 72 miles from Lamar-Dixon to Raceland, so this is not a trivial bunch of driving. The only downside is that Raceland has no facilities for RVs or even tent camping, and the only nearby RV park is full to the gunnels. So they will be spending at least one night at the local Wal-Mart until we see if we can get them more suitable parking arrangements.

Raceland is being operated by Pasado’s Safe Haven, a sanctuary out of the state of Washington (I assume it’s similar to Best Friends in Utah). If Raceland doesn’t work out, there are two other shelters within range that they can transfer to – Slidell operated by Noah’s Wish, and Algiers, a new facility being operated by the Louisiana SPCA.

Wendy V.’s work continues, even with her arrival home. She is working out of her home and is now taking personal responsibility for trying to track down the owners of some of the animals she rescued and cared for. And she is helping our logistical efforts for the volunteers by researching the shelters and possible RV camping/parking facilities. Plus, she is fostering a very special dog that she brought home from Lamar-Dixon, one she has named Lefty (because it was left behind). Even though she and Sandy and Sarah had pledged not to bring any dogs home and spread them even farther from their owners, this one was special. They found it in a completely sealed up home. When they called the homeowner (from cell phone bills they found), they learned that when the owners had returned home to save their own two dogs, they found this dog inside as well but had no idea whose it was. They couldn’t take it with them, so they left it in the house with food and water and reported it to the SPCA so that it would be rescued. Along came Wendy and Sandy to do just that. I’ll post Wendy’s full story about Lefty on the blog site.  Wendy has made it her mission to find Lefty’s owner, and the homeowner where he was found is helping out by talking to his neighbors. In the meantime, Wendy is looking for a safe foster home for the dog.

Which leads me to my next topic. I was thrilled to find that the Marin Humane Society, which was a key player in taking in some of the dogs that got relocated to the Bay Area, is participating with several other area shelters in a program called “Operation Orphans of the Storm”. They are committed to the goal of reuniting the displaced animals with their owners, and have thus instituted a special policy for the dogs they are fostering out – NO adoptions of displaced animals will become final until December 31, 2005, after all attempts have been made to reunite animals with their owners.  I also found the same to be true for LSU and some of the national organizations. Hopefully, many other shelters are following suit. Wendy will be confirming this policy before she fosters out Lefty in SoCal. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be hundreds or even thousands of unhappy endings, with displaced animals being adopted out before their owners have a chance to find them. But this sort of extended fostering policy (instead of the 30 day policy we were originally hearing about) will certainly help.

Outbound volunteer update: Two people leaving from Mesquite at the end of the week. One from Berkeley. At least one, maybe two from Minnesota on the 19th (family and friends of Carolyn Allen’s). It just keeps going and going. Some are asking for assistance with travel expenses, and so far we have been able to give it. Others just want information, like where they are most needed. I think we’re giving that too.

Remember, if you’re going to be at the Haute-Dawgs trial in Dixon this weekend, I’m bringing a whole bunch of wine and some plastic cups for a cocktail party at Sarah’s motorhome on Saturday night. BYOC (chairs), BYOS (snacks) and BYOBOTW (beverage other than wine).  We will raise a glass to the volunteers (coming and going), praise the contributors who continue to make this all possible, and share some stories and tears with Sarah and Sandy. It’ll be easy to find – look for a Class A Allegro, license plate “FIT DOGS”, with all the people hanging around.  Perhaps Wendy Gurney will bring her contribution jug as well. Too bad we don’t have a Wi-Fi internet connection there, I’d bring one of my doggy-webcams so Wendy V. could participate down south – she’s envious.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #16, #17: Situation Continues to Change 


Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #14 – More Changes

October 3, 2005

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #12, #13: Saves! 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.

10/3/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #14

Every day since this saga began, I’ve wondered during the day what I could possibly have to write about that evening. Overall the news is the same every day – undaunted volunteers performing unending work in unrelenting heat/humidity under uncertain circumstances amidst unimaginable devastation and unspeakable horror. How’s that for a bit of really crappy prose?  And then just as I start wondering “do people really care about these updates?”, I get responses in my mailbox saying “thanks for sending these, I look forward to them every night.”  It’s starting to feel like a soap opera.  So as long as there continues to be news worth reporting, I’ll keep sending the updates. Please let me know if you get tired of them.

Eric and Lorrayne arrived yesterday and wasted no time getting completely immersed in the operation. From Wendy (Eric’s wife), I learned that rather than unwinding and resting from his 12-hour overnight red-eye 3-leg flight, Eric spent his first day “sweeping out barns and then catching up on filing and learning their software so people and animals can find each other.” She also reported that “30+ people arrived from Massachusetts today to help at Lamar-Dixon, so Eric and Lorrayne will decide after the 5:30 morning meeting if they would be of greater service elsewhere”. Before they left, I had sent them advice from Sandy – according to her, if they really want to find out what’s going on, they should “get their asses out of bed and go to the 5:30am rescue meeting”.

I guess they followed that advice and made a decision – from Sandy I heard that Eric and Lorrayne went straight to the field this morning to do rescues, presumably learning the ropes from Jill Moran, who was Sandy’s partner in the field most of last week. Unfortunately, based on an update I just received from Wendy, the data entry supporting the field effort continues to lag behind the actual work of the crews, and they were once again faced with a day full of redundant visits, one grim scene, and a couple of reasonably healthy dogs living under a house who refused to be captured. Eric may decide to stick around and help the database update crew.

Sandy also reported that Jane (the volunteer coordinator) was successful in finding a new place to house the shelter now that they have been asked to leave Lamar-Dixon. Apparently, they found a nice farm and they have already started relocating dogs and supplies. But Wendy reports that the new site doesn’t including camping accommodations for the volunteers so there are still some loose ends. I’ll update as I get more information – obviously, this is very important for the six volunteers who are leaving at the end of this week.  We’re also researching the possibility of moving them to different shelters – if you have any information (preferably current and first-hand) on locations in need of assistance, please let me know – they’re ready to mobilize at the drop of a hat to anywhere they can be most useful.

Returning volunteer update: Now that our first round of volunteers have returned, we’re starting to get a feel for two things: how they have changed, and how the world responds. Here are the bullet points – I’m not going to go into any more detail.

  • They have been profoundly affected by their experiences and will never be quite the same people as when they left.
  • They have a completely new set of priorities – “don’t sweat the small stuff” has taken on a whole new meaning.
  • They are finding that many people don’t really want to know what they (or other) have been through or what it’s like down there. And even the ones who do want to know and are willing to listen can’t possibly quite “get” it.

Outbound volunteer update: I talked to Cara this morning – she is SO grateful to those who contributed air miles so she and her friends could travel – it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. In addition, thanks to word of mouth, we now have more volunteers checking in daily – just today, one from Berkeley and perhaps a friend of Carolyn Allen’s from Minnesota. Some of this new batch of volunteers has actually done their own fundraising and air miles collection and are looking to us just for guidance and logistical help. It seems that we are becoming a clearinghouse of information for grass-roots volunteers!

Financial update: I came home today to find $1825 in my mailbox. $625 I was expecting – it was a consolidation from fundraising in SoCal. $500 was from Peter, one of my oldest and dearest friends, who has nothing to do with agility but loves animals and is just glad to contribute somehow. And $700 was from people who had written and said “how can I help?”.  We will keep sending people as long as we have volunteers, money and air miles to do so. I will be at the Haute-Dawgs trial in Dixon this week, and will have all of the paperwork on what we have collected and what we have spent and anticipate spending. If anybody wants to see, the books will be open.

Speaking of the Haute-Dawgs trial, Sandy and Sarah will be there too – please give both of them hugs when you see them. I’m planning to bring a truckload of wine and host a cocktail party at Sarah’s motorhome on Saturday night.  BYOC (chairs) and BYOS (snacks).  We will raise a glass or two to the volunteers (coming and going), and also to the contributors who have made this all possible.  It’ll be easy to find – look for a Class A Allegro, license plate “FIT DOGS”, with all the people hanging around. Perhaps Wendy Gurney will bring her contribution jug as well.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #15: More Saves and Working to Reunite