September 7, 2005, I left home to go to Texas to try to help the Louisiana animals that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. I had never been part of a rescue effort before and some of the news seemed to indicate that the groups at work in both Texas and Louisiana wanted qualified volunteers, or at least volunteers who had been vaccinated against a variety of things, so when I left I wasn't sure I would be needed. I went first to Houston to the SPCA because it had taken the pets from New Orleans shelter prior to the storm and I had friends in La Porte with whom I could stay. Hotels and motels were all full of evacuees.
These next three Saint Reports are my emails from the road.
September 9, 2005
I stopped in Houston this afternoon on my way to La Porte. Luckily, the SPCA CAN utilize me and I will start working there tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 9 a.m.
From the news down here, there would have been plenty of other volunteer opportunities if the SPCA had enough help—thousands of refugees are still camped in a few buildings in Houston, most desperately trying to find the rest of their family members. Many people are there set up with computers, searching all the sites that have been set up with missing people and found people. I could have done that.
Anyway, I’ll be at the SPCA for the next two weeks. I’m very grateful to be able to do something. Tomorrow’s email will have pictures. I should have taken some today of the pallets of donations there--they’ve had to ask people to stop bringing pet food!
I arrived at the Houston SPCA at about 8:45 and found the parking lot already filled and people waiting at the door for the 9 a.m. opening. The first shift of volunteers (there are over 500 trained and active at the facility) and paid employees start work at 6 a.m. so the building is spotless when the first visitors arrive.
I’ve never seen anything like this place in my life. Petfinder puts it on its “Must See” list.
And “must see” about covers it. It is hospital-clean, has a ratio of workers to animals that is unbelieveable, and exudes an air of competent, compassionate professionalism.
Today, a Saturday, due to the unprecedented media coverage, there were an enormous number of adoptions and the phone bank set up last week for the Katrina calls was busy as can be. Since I have not been trained by the facility, I cannot handle the animals, so I worked phones and helped to put information into a database.
This second part of the job was very sad. It amounted to taking information from people who had left their pets—where were the pets left, how can the rescuers get into the house, etc. This long after the disaster, it is unlikely many of the pets who were left in the houses are still alive. But some may be, and you have to do what you can.
Tomorrow morning will be more of the same. I’m glad I am here and I feel I am helping—it is, as I hoped, much better than sitting at home in front of the television crying. And just seeing such a beautiful shelter is uplifting and makes me think so much more highly of Houston.
Today I spent looking for a new opportunity and it is here: http://www.pasadosafehaven.org/
Tomorrow night I will be writing from Louisiana (where I've never been before).
Wish me luck!
Today's pictures were from Armand Bayoux Nature Center in La Porte (golden silk spider, Nephila clavipes, commonly called a banana spider) and Half Price Books on NASA Road 1 (Mordecai, the store cat). A customer once wrote to Half Price Books HQ to complain about Mordecai and he was temporarily banned. It turned out that the fussy customer was in the minority, however, and after an uproar from the other customers, Mordecai was determined to be of more value than the whiner. If these creatures seem large, they are. It's true about the size of things in Texas.