Hurricanes Seven Years Apart

I am home now, enjoying it until I leave again next week.
Chicago part two awaits.
I’m loving being home, driving and going out to lunches and playing with my dogs.
I sit and watch the coverage of Hurricane Isaac which is seven years to the day of Hurricane Katrina and am amazed at the difference.
There is a plan, preparation, people keeping and staying with their pets.
Not the pandemonium that was palatable seven years ago today.
I wasn’t working then either and had lots of time to sit and watch the coverage, the devastating decisions people had to make to leave without their pets or stay with them and try to survive that water, that heat, that helplessness.
I sat day after day, dismal and distraught, desperate to do something, anything to help.
So after a week went by, I did.
I called Rachel,who was also not working and always up for an adventure and off we went in the direction of Louisiana.
Guiding us on our journey was a Cracker Barrel map that showed us where the next restaurant would be but not much in the way of actual highways or street names.
Michaels’ car, at the time, was a Lincoln Navigator so we loaded it up with pet food and supplies, pillows and blankets and food for us that didn’t require refrigeration.
We weren’t going with an organization and we really had no proper training or skills but we were determined to go get those dogs off of those roofs and out of that water.
I was as compelled as much as I had been about the Breast Cancer Walk, eight years earlier maybe even more so.
I was also as clueless.
I had promised Michael that we would stay in Baton Rouge and that would have worked except that we had nowhere to sleep.
Naively I thought we’d just get a hotel room when we arrived, not one of my brighter moments.
Rachel had offered to bring a tent but the only other time I’d slept in one was with her on the walk and I really didn’t think we’d need it.
I was shocked to see people sleeping in the lobby of the Marriott.
Like I said, not my brightest moment.
So we sat on the LSU campus, drinking our only cold bottle of Chardonnay,
trying to decide what to do when Rachel called a friend of hers. He was in New Orleans pet rescuing and desperately needed the food and supplies we were carrying.
So off we went to the barely open Wal Mart and bought a bottle of shoe polish and maybe another bottle of wine, I can’t be sure. We then proceeded to write Humane Society of United States all over the windows of the Navigator and headed south to New Orleans.
We got through three military checkpoints and drove in after dark.
Black doesn’t describe it.
Scary doesn’t either, although it was both.
No lights, sounds, street signs, nothing to guide our way.
It took us hours to find the little trailer that used to be an annex for a YMCA by the Super Dome. What we found were three girls like us that had driven in from Florida the day before. The friend Rachel had called was running dogs out of the water straight to these girls who had commandeered this building and a national guard guy from
Oklahoma who was sleeping there and guarding them with a machine gun.
No lights, no running water and dogs coming in at a pace that was overwhelming.
We were holding flashlights in our mouths trying to get crates put together in a dark so intense you couldn’t see your hands.
For the most part, these dogs were all left behind to guard people’s houses and loot.
They were un- neutered Pit Bulls and Rottweilers and all had fight marks on their faces and bodies.
We were putting collars and leashes on probably for their first time and shoving them into crates as fast as we could assemble them.
We finally stopped around 4am to wipe off as best we could and try to sleep in the front seats of the car.
The heat and Mosquitos made it almost impossible.
The next few days were a blur.
We hadn’t been properly vaccinated so when a real rescue worker asked us about it, we were sent directly into the French Quarter where a command center had been set up for all medical personnel, police and firemen were everywhere.
We were exhausted but so happy to be there helping.
The shots were given in an assembly line sort of way and we would have to have three more rounds of shots over the next year because of all we were exposed to. It was great! We drove around with pieces of hot dogs and cheese and gathered up loose dogs anywhere we could. We even found a few dogs left inside homes, we got those too. The destruction and desolation finally broke us. We needed a break, a bath and to help some Golden Retrievers or maybe a Poodle.
It was our first real exposure to dogs of this magnitude and it was hard, hot work.
We left for Baton Rouge after four days.
We went back to the barely open Wal Mart and bought the very last tent on the shelf and this time I know we bought some wine.
We showered and helped for two more days at the fairgrounds and decided to come home when the crisis seemed under control and more volunteers were arriving.
We had done it.
We had seen a need and driven to meet it.
We felt proud and happy and drove home with the Cracker Barrel map guiding our way.

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