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Blog #15 - Raggs comes home

October 1, 2005

I have heard many stories about people who wouldn’t leave their homes when Hurricane Katrina hit, refusing to leave their beloved pets behind. Deborah Dickinson is one of those. She lived in Slidell and as Katrina raged she rescued eight dogs and a cat from her complex and brought them back to her apartment and safety. She already had two cats, Raggs and Radar, and the new animals just made her family larger.

Katrina passed, but the area was flooded. There was neither power nor water, and looters began ransacking the apartments in her complex. She had a chance to evacuate, but was told the animals couldn’t come. She refused to leave without them.

She stayed there for five days, alone in the dark without food or water, and fearful that any minute someone would break in.

”The dogs were a big comfort,” she said. “They made such a commotion that I think they scared the looters away. No one broke in.”

Finally a Slidell Police SWAT team came to her area, noticed her plight, and arranged for the animal control officer and Noah’s Wish Animal Rescue volunteers to evacuate her and her animals. The animals went to the Noah’s Wish shelter set up in town, and Dickinson flew back to Portland, Maine to stay with her sister.

Shelters and Pets

At most shelters owners are not permitted to bring their pets. Red Cross shelters are designated to accommodate everyone, including people with pet allergies, a fear of animals, children and infants and seniors. The risk of animal bites, fleas and other insects, pet-borne diseases and hygiene issues would add to the already stressful environment of a mass care shelter.

Pet rescue shelters such as Noah’s Wish provide a safe and clean alternate place for pets to stay while their owners are also staying at shelters. Noah’s Wish has rescued more than 1,200 Hurricane Katrina pets so far, including more than 700 dogs, nearly 500 cats, and 20 other species of animals from chickens and snakes to rabbits and horses. All are given a thorough check by volunteer veterinarians and are fed, groomed, and watered in separate, clean cages. Volunteers pamper their guests and walk them daily

If the pet’s owners can be identified, they are notified so that the pet and family can be reunited when the family is able to return to a permanent home. Until that time, the pets can stay at Noah’s Wish shelter indefinitely. If the owners cannot be located, foster homes are found for any orphan pets. Noah’s Wish has a strict “no kill” policy.

”We have been able to located owners for nearly half of the Hurricane Katrina animals we have rescued,” said Terry Crisp, Director of Noah’s Wish. “Nearly 200 pets have been able to go home with their owners, and others will leave us as soon as the families have a place to go home to.”

The Noah’s Wish pet rescue shelter is located near the American Red Cross Slidell shelter for storm survivors. Several pet owners are staying there and come over to visit their pets. One 10 year-old boy has come every day for the last month to visit his dog, who is staying at the shelter until the boy and his family can move back to their damaged home.

Raggs and Radar

Radar did not survive the ordeal and had to be put to sleep. Raggs, however, was fine and has been staying in a cage at Noah’s Wish ever since. She is an eight-year old blue tip rag doll breed, whose formal name is Ragtime. Dickinson had no way to get her cat shipped to her, and Noah’s Wish had not been able to find anyone coming to Portland who could help.

I dropped by to talk to Tammy Harlan at Noah’s Wish on Wednesday, September 28. “Are there any new reunions that you can tell me about?” I asked, looking for a story.

She started to tell me a story about rescuing an African red parrot and how it was reunited with its owner, when she was interrupted by a volunteer asking about a cat who was going to Maine via Vermont in a few weeks. My ears perked up when I heard “Maine”, and I asked “Who is this cat, and where is it going?”

Harlan then told me Raggs’ story, and asked me; “Aren’t you from Maine?”

One thing led to another, and I am going to have a passenger with me when I come home on Tuesday. I will be picking Raggs up at the Noah’s Wish shelter on Monday on my way back from New Orleans, and when I fly out Tuesday morning she will be under my seat for a long-delayed reunion with her. I called Dickinson on the phone to get her permission, and she broke out in tears of relief. She didn’t think she’d ever see her beloved Raggs again.

I’m off to New Orleans today (Saturday) to cover the beginning of feeding stations there as part of the return to the city by people forced to evacuate when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. I don’t know what the internet connections will be, if any, so I am going to upload this blog today before leaving Baton Rouge.

With luck, my next blog will be from a sidewalk table at the Café Du Monde in the French Quarter, over a cup of café au lait and a beignet.

Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree