Monday, August 30, 2010

Katrina: five years later... why not commemorate with a few new rescues?

A note from Kelly, Director of Dogs of the 9th Ward

Dogs of the 9th Ward Supporters,

Yesterday, I got an email from a good friend of mine, James, who moved away a few years ago. It started out:

"Hey baby, five years since our lives were turned inside out. Life has never been the the same since the levees broke. It kind of feels like it was yesterday and it kind of feels like a bad dream that you know really happened when you wake up. There were so many tragic things and people lost there lives. Many left and never came back, yet through it all I have some good memories as strange as that is. One thing is for sure that damn storm became a part of our lives forever, and those that did not go through it will never get it."

Through the build up to August 29, 2010, I steered clear of most of the media hype. I didn't turn on the TV at all. But that email was all I needed. It sort of chilled me. Because it's true. It did change our lives, and things will never be the same.

Some things are better, some not. Mostly, it's just different. Friends and neighbors have moved away. The neighborhood I grew up in, which did not flood, is still totally different. It's a different place. It will always be New Orleans, just a different New Orleans.

And in a way, what my friend James says is true. Going through Katrina is something you just can't understand if you didn't do it.

A lot of rescuers from around the country were in town for the fifth anniversary of Katrina. These folks all came down in 2005 and got dirty, exhausted -- they saved the thousands of animals left behind after Katrina. "K5," they called the "reunion" of rescuers. An award-winning documentary filmmaker was filming. There was a very interesting agenda of seminars and talks. A few friends of mine were involved.

I was Facebook invited -- but I didn't feel that the K5 Rescue Reunion was mine. I didn't rescue after Katrina. I sat in exile, obsessively watching the news and checking and wishing I was home.

By the time I got home in December, I was depressed, exercise addicted, and anorexic. That was my Katrina experience. There was no rescue, except perhaps of myself.

And I'm busy. I have the dogs, the rescue, and of course my "day job" -- my second year of law school at Tulane -- to keep me occupied. So I didn't think much of K5, or any of the Katrina anniversary events.

'Nough said, I thought, about Katrina.

I woke up on August 29 feeling no different than ever. I walked or jogged with my dogs and all the fosters. I am not very good with dates and anniversaries anyway. But I woke up to an email: a report of a pregnant pit bull roaming in the Lower 9th Ward, at the Make it Right development (aka "Brad Pitt's Houses"). We were full, but I knew we had to do something. The last thing D9 -- or New Orleans in general -- needed was another feral litter on the streets.

Game time, for sure. And to anyone who loves dogs and has never gone out on a challenging rescue -- you need to. That shit is addictive.

So, D9's go-to team of volunteers came out with us on the evening of the 29th. These folks deserve some serious applause. Earle, Emily, Michelle, Margaret -- we ended up with a big group for a serious search party.

It was raining. It seems like it's always raining when we go out on a rescue. Raining, cold, muddy -- those are prerequisites. I was wearing muddy jeans, a tattered New Orleans Hornets T-shirt, and hadn't washed my hair all day, despite getting drenched at least 5 times. I was not looking glamorous.

Charlotte, the director of Animal Rescue New Orleans, called me. A rescuer in town, Scotlund Haisley, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, had found a dog in the 9th Ward. ARNO was full to overflowing. Have him call me, I said.

And he did. Would I help him with the dog? Well, yes, I said. It's just we're out looking for this pregnant pit bull right now. We are at Deslonde and North Johnson.

Oh, he was only a block away.

What a coincidence. So, he pulled up and opened the back of his rented truck. A truly terrified male chocolate pit was there, shaking, and when I reached out to pet him he flinched, almost -- but not quite -- snapped.

Do you have a lead, this Scotlund asked.

I have a slip leash in the back of my truck, I say. I jog over to get it.

And as quickly as he came, he left. And there I was, holding a slip leash from my vet, Prytania Veterinary Hospital, with a terrified chocolate pit bull in the middle of a muddy, torn up street in the Lower 9th Ward.

And that was how I saluted the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The chocolate boy, Woadie, had a very tight, almost embedded collar. His neck was swollen. It is draining through an open, infected wound. As I held his leash, Emily got his collars -- yes, both of them -- off. He immediately decided he loved both of us.

Woadie went to the vet today. He was so scared, they couldn't do a proper exam. But he got much-needed antibiotics and pain pills. We'll try again for a full exam next week.

We have two other new recruits to the D9 foster program.

Dolci is a brindle pit female who was found by some wonderful folks in June. She was suffering from chemical burns down her back -- a common occurrence for pit bulls in New Orleans. This girl is sweet as can be with people, and good with most other dogs. She's about 2 years old and a lover. Dolci is heartworm positive and will be treated. But we know she has a bright future ahead of her.

And then there's this nameless little black and white girl. She was found during a Katrina Anniversary event in the Lower 9th Ward. This baby is super-sweet but a little shy, and was being literally kicked away from people at the gas pumps at a gas station. A kind person took her in, but cannot keep her, and she is in desperate need of a foster home. She loves other dogs and people. Please let us know if you can foster this baby. We are working overtime to find her a place.

As always, thanks for your support. Five years after Katrina, the dogs of the 9th Ward are still in desperate need of help. Only with your support can we save even more of them. Please help us save the dogs that care forgot from a fate even worse than euthanasia.


Dogs of the 9th Ward

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