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Team 3 in New Orleans

Danielle and I got back yesterday from Gonzales, Louisiana where we volunteered at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, the place where the New Orleans rescued pets were being processed. It was quite an experience. There is a lot to be done there and I feel I need to go back. It was hard work but I would do it again in a heart beat. Below are some of the operations going on with funds donated to help the pets of the Hurricane Katrina victims.

(Intake and Export) We processed a lot of dogs as well as many other animals, cats, snakes, pigs, horse, birds, tarantulas, lizards, ferrets, and small rodents, to name just a few. We were processing animals as fast as we could. First they came in to Intake pertinent information was noted, such as where they were rescued from (address, street, or neighborhood), then they were photographed, given a tracking number and then examined by a vet. The critically ill went to intensive care and the others went into a clean crate with food and water. This process took most of the night. Once they were processed they spent a day or 2 in one of the barns. There were many dogs with open sores and chemical burns. I saw one puppy whose skin was gone from his 6" tail, one of his paws and a spot on his leg. He did recover nicely and was shipped off with his 2 siblings a few days later. After they settled down, the animals went to what they called Export where they would be vetted, micro chipped and given all their shots. All documented animals were then given the ok to be shipped out to many different groups who would foster them. One night starting at about 6:00, two 18 wheel trucks with air-conditioning arrived. We then took all the dogs that went through Export that day and loaded them into the trucks. This group went to a correction facility where they had a lot of love waiting for them with air-conditioned accommodations. We turned around about 150-250 at a time.

Barn Duties: We also helped with walking the animals. They had to be walked, cleaned and fed every 6 hours. The heat was not in our favor. It was stressful walking 95 lb pit bulls in very close areas where not all volunteers were dog savvy. It was over 95 degrees every day and many of the animals were pushed to their limit. But many of them were still full of so much love and they just wanted to find their families. Other barn duties included checking any available space left due to export. We had to set up crates with clean bowls and wait to start the whole process over again.

At the end of the week they started letting the hurricane victims looking for their pets onto the property. Many of them still do not have anywhere to stay or any way of looking for their pets on Petfinder so they just walked through looking for their pet. We tried to assure many of them that they would be cared for but for many people. They expressed that their pets were all they had left and they only wanted to find them.

We know there are many stories about pets being put down at a fast rate but I did not find this to be true where we were. I worked with many vets who gave these little guys all they had and then some. Even the aggressive dogs had a place in the shelter where they were clean and dry and fed with experienced handlers attending to them.

Although there are many good people doing good work saving thousands of animals there are still many more that need help.

Preparing for Hurricane Rita. After we arrived we started right in. After being there for only 3 days working 14 hour days living on Gatorade and snack bars we heard of another hurricane coming. We were given 10 hours to batten down the hatches. We had to decide who was going to stay behind with the animals sleeping in the horse barns. Every available person was putting down cases of dog food to make a wall around the barns to keep water from getting in. We then had to move any loose crates to stop them from flying around. Big 18 wheelers were put into place around the barns to block out the weather. Anyone with a large RV also placed it around the barns. Cars were then placed on the back side of the RVs for extra protection. Any open boxes of any type of supplies had to be moved. Only a few hours into this preparation we were told about the tornado warnings that were a result of the hurricane. We all had to be evacuated. This was not an option as there was still so much that had to be done. We were give just a few more hours so we worked to a whistle; when you heard the whistle blow we all had to run to the bathrooms as these were the only safe structures to house people - the tornados were within a mile of us. As the storm drew near anyone not staying behind had to be relocated to another shelter. We were loaded onto buses and relocated. After the stormed passed we all returned and started the process of cleaning up, walking and feeding the animals. This took about 2 days and then it was back to intake and export.

You try hard not to bond with these animals as it can rip your heart out but you just could not help it. I had one very large dog that just did not eat or want to come out of his cage. He had messed in his cage so he had to come out. Due to his size not too many people wanted to try. We were working the barn that day and I just could not bare the thought of this dog not being held or loved for one minute more. I closed the stall and opened just his crate. I sat in the corner of the stall and just talked to him. After about 20 minutes I had won him over. He came and just laid down next to me just looking into my eyes. The connection was made. I removed the pan from his crate and handed it to the cleaners. He got fresh food and water. I then tried to get him out of the stall to go for a walk but he wanted none of that. I was happy to clean out his cage. I went back a few hours later and I sat with him again. This time he let me touch him. He was all skin and bones. This time we went out of the stall about 5 feet but with all the commotion he wanted to go back in so I sat on the ground and he was like a shadow. This went on for a few more visits. On my last day I could feel him just melt in my arms. He finally had a few moments of peace. It was so hard to leave him. I hope he will soon move to export or find his forever home. I will send pictures as soon as I can. This is just one of many stories that I am sure will be told.

It was quite an experience, one we will always remember. There is still so much more work to done so please don't think we are close to the end. It will take many more months to help in placing these animals.

Gail and Danielle

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