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  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 #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 

Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #6, #7 – Back to Business

September 25, 2005

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #4, #5: Hunkered Down in Mississippi 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.

9/24/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #6

Just another lazy day in the Deep South, wearin’ white gloves and sippin’ mint juleps . . . NOT!   No RC Cola and MoonPies either, but that doesn’t mean that the last 24 hours hasn’t met with a few Southern clichés.  Today found our intrepid volunteers faced first with a tornado watch, escalating quickly to a tornado warning as the eastern edge of Rita passed by. Toto, we may not be in Kansas, but the weather is just as sucky down there in Mississippi.  I’m not sure Sarah appreciated my wry remark about the magnetic attraction between tornadoes and trailer parks – in fact, I’m pretty sure I heard the F-bomb fly through the funky cell phone connection.

After breakfast at The Waffle House (how’s that for cliché?), Wendy and Sandy went looking for work to do. They caught wind of a temporary shelter at the Jackson Fairgrounds, and quickly went back to collect Sarah and their supplies and go back to work. Once at the Fairgrounds, surrounded by reassuring brick buildings to use as tornado shelters, they found there were only about 50 animals and the staff on site had everything under control. So back to the RV to anxiously watch the news and wait for the opportunity to return to Gonzales.

The news from Gonzales is good – from Judie Mancuso: “I just spoke with my friend Jane’s (she’s leading the rescues at Gonzales) husband, Mark Garrison.  He said that Jane has reported all is well in Gonzales, as a matter of fact they have a team of people out doing rescues today. So, I left Wendy a message that it’s OK to return, they can use all the help they can get. Jane told Mark it hit around 2:30am, a bad storm with 65mph winds. But, the animals and people left (about 30 folks) are all OK and everything is back up and running.”

I forwarded this message to Sarah, in case they can’t get voicemail. Hopefully, with the continued northern travel of Rita, they’ll be able to head back sometime tomorrow to get back to the work they went there to do.

In the meantime, Sarah said they all laughed when they got my message about using a non-profit to “launder” the collected money. It seems that the three of them had had a similar idea over dinner, and actually discussed the merits of starting a non-profit to do exactly what we’ve been doing here – funding volunteers who want to go to disaster sites and help out.  There are lots of organizations set up to fund the actual rescues and shelters, but none who are willing to pay expenses for anybody other than their established staff and volunteers. So we’ll see how that goes – stay tuned.

Volunteer update: We have a confirmed crew of two leaving on October 9, driving, so no air miles will be needed. But we may be able to help with gas money, and of course, they would be MOST grateful if the RV was still there. That means we need to keep that RV occupied and funded. Anybody up for the trip?

9/25/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #7

Our intrepid travelers are back at Lamar-Dixon.  They left Jackson early this morning and made it back safely, but not without encountering some pretty heavy rain and some white-knuckle wind conditions. They went back to work immediately upon returning to the shelter.

Here’s an update from Wendy’s husband: “I talked with Wendy this afternoon she says that everything is OK but a lot of dogs were not there when they got back to Dixon today, hopefully they just moved them around. But more could be on their way after Rita’s damage. Wendy and Sandy are going to stay an extra day and return Wednesday instead of Tuesday as previously planned. They had a tough time in Mississippi because of all the tornado threats, I can imagine that sleeping wasn’t easy or comfortable. They are doing a great thing over there and I for one am very thankful and supportive of the job they have taken to heart. The stories await their safe return. God Bless them and all who read this. Thanks for your support and prayers, Mike V.”

Volunteer update: Jill Moran, an animal control officer, is leaving Wednesday for Lamar-Dixon. Her airfare is being covered by HSUS, who apparently is helping “qualified” people (ACOs and Vet Techs) get there to volunteer. She is hoping to use the RV, and I don’t see why not. Our current plan is to keep it in place at least through the 2nd week of October. Our own Lorrayne Bailey is getting her shots as we speak, and is planning to leave on Oct 2 for a week or so.  She’ll overlap with Jill, but I’m hoping for another volunteer to join her during that week. And we have two more volunteers leaving from SoCal on Oct 9.

Financial update: Between the HSUS (for Jill) and the people who have offered mileage awards, I’m certain we’ll be able to cover airfare for anybody who wants to go. Once the volunteers get there, the expenses are minimal – the volunteers are well fed, and there are even locals doing laundry for the volunteers. Our biggest expenses are the RV rental, car rentals, and gas for those who drive. The RV may feel like an extravagance, but I can assure you it’s not. Even though FEMA finally put up an air-conditioned tent for the volunteers, the tent got taken down for Rita and there is no confirmation yet as to when or if they will put it back up. Volunteers are sleeping in their cars and in camping tents – not conditions we want to encourage for our volunteers.  Also, without the RV, our girls would have been in a world of hurt when they had to evacuate – there are no hotel/motel rooms available anywhere from Houston to Florida. And without a car available, they are also too exposed if they have to get out in a hurry.

Many of the volunteers just got dropped off on the site, and it was a real hassle when they had to evacuate – the organizers had to arrange for buses to get them out of there. Others who had no place to stay were being stacked up 10-deep in hotel rooms. One of the first rules I learned as an EMT a jillion years ago was “don’t become a victim”. In this case, one could say “there’s no point in being a rescuer if you end up having to be rescued yourself.” Our volunteers have been completely self-contained and able to care for themselves and stay safe when it became necessary. In other words, they haven’t been able to participate in the solution as much as they had hoped or planned, but at least they didn’t become part of the problem.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #8, #9: Our Volunteer Effort Expands