Log 05 - 05 September 2005

log052.jpgHello from the scene of Incident Command in the Blackham Coliseum in LaFayette, Louisiana. From an operational standpoint, we have two primary focuses: sheltering and water rescue. Nicholas Gilman of the Animal Rescue League of Boston has geared up water rescue efforts for today, and Ginger and Meredith of American Humane, and Sandy Luppi from ARL-Boston will head up our sheltering operations. I’ve been answering the phone, sending requests, juggling resources. I am very fortunate to have an awesome group of people out here. These are folks I can delegate to and be confident that things will get done safely and effectively.

We are coordinating with other animal welfare organizations, so that we can all accomplish what we’re there to do -- save animals.

We were up to midnight (again) loading boats and supplies for the water rescue efforts and cleaning out vehicles and preparing for sheltering tasks. Our water rescue group was up at 4 AM today and on the road at 4:30, and the shelter opened up at 6:30.

Water rescue operations had started in the New Orleans area, but all water operations were ceased in the early afternoon by emergency management when it was determined that units should not be in that area. Hopefully this will be only a minor setback. It’s been so frustrating knowing that we have so many animals in need -- so many rescuers willing to help, and so many obstacles to overcome to get to them.

I want to share some of the encounters we’ve had on our way to Lafayette

We spent Saturday night in the parking lot in Gulfport -- at the construction site for the new Humane Society. The building looked great! Early Sunday, we headed west out of Gulfport en route for Louisiana. Early indications from the state headed us for Gonzales but we were rerouted to Lafayette.

log053.jpgVolunteer Ginger has family in Slidell, so we parked the rig and our vehicles while she and Meredith went in to rescued poor little Yoda the Cat. After we broke down the back window, Yoda made a beeline from the fallen sheetrock for the utility room. We were able to reach her and hug her like she’s probably never been hugged. She immediately became one of our team. We brought her to the Blackham Coliseum and have given her more food and water each day than she’s probably seen in a week. Our teams are working hard so that all the animals in this disaster can be found and rescued like Yoda.

Everywhere we go, the folks are so nice. We pulled into a small town just outside Slidell for something to drink and I asked a resident for directions. She started pointing and was speaking normally when her voice cracked and she just broke out in tears. She explained that she was so moved by all of the folks who were willing to come and help that she couldn’t help getting emotional.

Even the cops are friendly! At a gas station, we were put in the front of the line, given our own pump, and even allowed to exceed the $25.00 limit. What a wonderful group of people just wanting to help us get to the animals. When Ginger told them we were headed for New Orleans one of them piped up, “Honey, you stay right here and we will take good care of you.”

Our caravan was just coming into Lafayette -- one more exit to go -- when the right front tire of our rescue rig blew. Connor said it was like wrestling a 2000-lb bull to the ground, this 82’ of truck loaded with food and water. I doubt there are a lot of drivers that could have handled that load any better than Connor, and we are very fortunate to have him. Our truck is also our home. We promised the state veterinarian that we would be self-sufficient, so Connor talked the tow truck operator into pulling the truck intact into the shelter area so that we would have our sleeping area and generator while we waited for help.

We finally pulled into Lafayette at about 3 PM, and as I walked up to the shelter, a young lady came right up to me. Before I could introduce myself, she me a bear hug. No sooner had she let go, that I received another one. They were so happy to see us. What a wonderful job these folks had done on starting this shelter. The animals were well cared for, the shelter was spotless, the paperwork was well organized and the place even smelled good!

What was most impressive was that this entire shelter was set up by a relatively small staff over a very short period of time. These folks have been staffing the shelter since it opened and are truly looking forward to a break. Our goal is to help them run the shelter while we bring in additional resources.

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