9/11/08: 'TINY IKE RESCUES' (these kittens are now looking for their forever homes)
Having just followed the story of Gustav and the animals who were abandoned inside boarded up houses for days, forwarding emails as much as possible about the needs there, and almost feeling that I had lived through Gustav myself, I had begun to understand a hint of ‘hurricane fatigue’. And now with the news of Ike pressing towards Galveston Bay, some deep coping mechanism within me had come forward and without conscious thought I found myself numbing my shocked psyche and my gut feeling about the magnitude of this hurricane - by rocking back and forth on the couch for about 10 minutes while singing improvised lullaby melodies to myself. In fast rebound, I then found myself having filled my SUV’s gas tank and gone to several stores to complete needed supplies, all within one hour. Synchronistically, I was driving back out early that evening, to pick up a forgotten supply, when a cat I had never seen before slinked across the street in front of me, with the telltale adornments of motherhood swinging auspiciously above the pavement. Ike rescue had officially begun, with only hours to complete the mission.
Scouting among the nearby houses, I found people who confirmed that they had recently taken in a very thin mother cat with her kittens, and that there was also a semi-feral cat believed to be a sister to that one…whom they had been feeding and who was also a mother. So far, they had been unable to find the kittens. One of the residents, "D", took me to the yard and as we stood near a pile of thickly leaved tree branches that had been freshly cut to prevent home damage during Ike, I heard the tiniest and softest of mews from underneath. "D" sifted one tiny and frightened charge from beneath the ground cover. By this time, the owners of that house had arrived to do more hurricane readiness and they joined in the search for several minutes. Near us, they found kitten #2, her perfectly camoflauged body hunched and ‘hunkered down’, Texas-style, against the rung of a grey ladder that was laying on the ground… her soft fur was already wet and clumped with pre-Ike rain. Added to the carrier, she huddled with her siblings. With no more kittens visible, we waited outside the latticework fence, watching the ‘feral’ mother as she arrived to investigate. After several minutes she walked to an airconditioner unit that sat on the ground which I had already looked behind, but when the mother walked nearby, a melody of desperate communication arose from beneath the unit. "D" lifted one end of the very heavy unit up, and I extracted a small black and white ball of fur. This made three. Were there more and would we find them before Ike?
We could find no more. At hand now was the rescue of the semi-feral mother so that she too could have safe haven from Ike. I backed the carrier of kittens against the cornered adjoining of the house and the fence (where we had found the first kitten), and set a humane trap in front of the carrier, laden with tuna and canned food. Then, I arranged some of the cut tree branches to lay on top of and on the exposed side of the trap and carrier, creating a forest of privacy and safety, and also to require the mother to go into the trap in order to get close to her kittens. As dusk descended, it became apparent that it would take some time for her to enter the trap (if she did), and since the mother recently had been entering "D's garage to eat at dusk anyway, we abandoned the trapping and placed the carrier of kittens in his garage. They were in good company with their Aunt and her own playing babies, all of whom were beginning to retire for the night in his garage. By the time I had gathered my supplies, the semi-feral mother was already visiting the garage and seeing her kittens in the carrier.
With the inexplicable, rewarding feeling of a successful rescue before an impending hurricane, and now expecting to be up all night to continue my own preparations, I went home. While throwing away the food from the trap, I realized that I had left one of my work gloves in the backyard where the kittens had been. I thought of waiting to go back until the next morning, just before the outer bands of Ike arrived, and I had planned to go then anyway just to look one more time for any more possible kittens…but then I had a fantasy thought: “Wouldn’t it be something if I was meant to forget my glove so that I would go back and there would be another kitten?” And besides, I had a new venue in my life to take care of things immediately rather than procrastinating, so I went back. First, I made a trip around the yard, re-checking for any left kittens. Satisfied, I retrieved my solitary glove from the corner of the yard where the trap had been, and walked back around, staring ahead while musing to myself about my earlier fantasy of finding another kitten.
Suddenly, something in my consciousness jolted into awareness, like those puzzle pictures in which you find a hidden object in a heavily detailed picture. Right there in the telescoped tunnel of my mindless stare, the tiny and perfectly-still form of a kitten had shifted into laser-like clarity…she was hunched on the ground against the side of the house, incredibly camoflauged with the colors of the ground and the bricks, and overhung by a cluster of palm trees and bamboo (an area where I had crawled through the thick undergrowth and both 'D' and I had searched thoroughly). I gently approached and lifted this frightened and most precious find, and in absolute awe of the scenario that had led me to her, I took her to 'D' to add to his loot.
ANIMAL RESCUE JOURNAL: Hurricane Ike
* New entries will always be added at the bottom of the page
* My prayer is that this grassroots journal will help inform and bring awareness of the truth regarding the impact of disasters on the lives of animals (especially the surprisingly immense numbers of animals who are left behind)....information that has either not been covered at all by the media, or minimally so, and so the situation of the animals goes largely unknown in its magnitude. Thank you for being willing to open your heart and expand your awareness for the animals, and for simultaneously bearing witness to my experiences.
* Some photos were taken with a friend's borrowed camera which has a dysfunctional date recorder. Hence the 2007 dates on the photos.
9/13/08 : The Still after the Storm – Post-Ike Rescue
After having finally allowed myself to fall asleep during the last hour of the 8 hour Ike, I awakened an hour and a half later, to a sense of extreme stillness. Slowly and timidly, we all emerged from our den within the hallway, to survey the backyard, yielding a shocking scene. A huge cedar tree snapped in half, which then took down half of a very old and huge Magnolia tree, which took down the power lines in the back, ripping fuse boxes, meters, and trim off of the house and demolishing the patio cover, and other damage. Due to the downed power line, the dogs had to go on a walk around the block, which portrayed many more downed trees and branches…it was so quite, I was certain that I would hear a leaf if it fell blocks away. Several cars drove through the neighborhood already. Some who had left were already returning and those who had stayed were also venturing out. Seeing Koda licking some apparent food trash on the street that someone had thrown out, or worse, possibly some harmful debri, I called out to him my usual automatic protection which he always responds to instantly. “Koda, leave it!”. As he ignored me and continued to lick the pavement, I felt concerned and I profess slightly irritated in my fatigue, and firmly implored him…”Koda, leave it…LEAVE it!!!”. As I approached to pull Koda away, I peered through the drizzling, grey rain. There I beheld Koda - slowly and ever so lovingly caressing with his tongue, a tiny brown bird that was flopping and struggling helplessly on the wet, brown pavement. Dazed, Water-drenched and seemingly injured, she was unable to stand or fly. Fortunately, Koda, the ultimate rescuer, had known when to heed his human companion, and when to ignore her. (Once, when 6 mths. old and in the height of his rambunctious border collie teenage era - Koda had rescued a stranded goldfish that had jumped out of a friend’s pond. He had come to us, holding something gently in his mouth which he then tenderly placed onto the ground at our feet. The goldfish was unharmed and was returned to the pond.)
And now, as Koda overlooked, I took off my rain poncho and smiled at the perfect available carrier for this little bird….the deep hood! Taking a deep breath, I sang to her as I slowly inched my hands toward her and then quickly but gently closed them around her body and eased her into the poncho hood, pulling the drawstring tighter so that she could not possibly fly out. I cradled the hood, carrying her home, where I emptied her into a cat carrier padded with a soft towel, some leaves and twigs, and with a small container of water. I placed the carrier in the middle of a forrest of potted patio plants that I had placed on top of the washing machine and dryer in the garage the day before for refuge from the storm…this made a safe and familiar sanctuary for our new charge…right next to the garage door which we left open for breeze and ventilation.
Within an hour after this, my friend Ronnie found a soaked bluejay in the back yard - live, but very weak - entangled, with outstretched wings, in some fallen branches on the ground. I set up another cat carrier with the same comfort items as the first, and placed this carrier in my ad-libbed bird triage center in the washing machine plant forest, on top of the carrier with the little brown bird. Now they had each other.
Numerous calls to my local wildlife rehabilitator rendered no contact. When her usual voicemail did not come on, I realized that if she were home, she either had no electricity or damaged phone lines. Calls to the wildlife organizations headquarters in Houston brought the same lack of power dead-end…a phone line that rang and rang. After several hours, I decided to see if roads were passable to drive to the rehabiliator’s home with the birds…hopefully she was there. Before leaving, I had a sense to scope my neighborhood again for any other injured wildlife…if I was going to make a blind trip to Sharon’s, I may as well get all aboard. Several blocks away, I saw a waterbird of some sort, in a yard, struggling to remain standing. Obviously traumatized, confused, and drenched, he eyed me fearfully but seemed unable to move away from me. He needed rescue, but a cat carrier was too small. I went home and grabbed a chicken cage that I had scavengered a year earlier from a neighbor’s street trash pile. I could never have imagined that it would end up being a perfect rescue crate. Arriving back to the bird, I sang to him as I gradually unloaded and brought the cage closer and closer to him and opened the door. When he tried to move from me, he fell on his chest and tried to crawl, dragging a leg behind him. Moving my hands closer inch by inch, I then grasped his torso firmly and put him into the cage, quickly covering it with a sheet so that he would feel safe.
Later in the day, began my advent to Sharon’s. Already, the little brown bird had dried out and was standing on the towel, hopping around. The bluejay, who had seemed in the most critical shape, was amazingly also dry and was standing and hopping around joyfully, chirping at me. Rather than stay back at the back of the carrier, he came to the door, chirping to me and communing with me. It was as though he was a domesticated bird. Whereas athough little brown bird didn’t seem afraid of me, she kept her distance and maintained her ‘wild’ status.
Along the way, I saw several squirrels and birds in yards, or in the grass near the roads, dazed and confused. At Sharon’s, I was greeted by an empty driveway, save for the fallen trees. She had apparently evacuated. How would I care for these birds? I did not know how to help them, and had no birdseed, nor did I know what to feed the waterbird. Being vegan, I had no fish products in the house, and no stores were open. Communications were cut….no email. My heart quickened for a few moments, as it sank in that this was truly disaster rescue. There was only my common sense and my best insights. There was no Best Friends Animal Society triage center to bring the animals to.
This was not like the rescue I had known in new Orleans, in which you went out into the absolute warzone areas that was like being on another planet, where there was no electricity, no gas stations, no food, nothing and spent the day or the night rescuing, but then brought your rescued beings into a slightly more functional area of the city…to the warm, welcoming glow of the lighted ‘celebration station’ triage center sign and satisfyingly carried your precious cargo into the incredible state of the art triage center and turned them over to the many kindred spirits bustling around inside…the experts who provided anything that these animals could need. Then, tired warrior that you were, you sat down at a long community table to the delicious food (yes, even vegan was available) and hot drink provided by one of the incredible chefs hosted by Best Friends….and shared comraderie with fellow rescuers who instantly knew with nothing more than a knowing glance, all the ways that your heart had been inspired that day in the field, and also all that your heart had endured. There was sanctuary and there was sanctity.
In the field, you had to be very resourceful, often concocting ways of achieving a rescue or trapping a cat, or tracking animals in situations so unique, that you couldn’t always have been trained beforehand exactly how to do it. But you only had to do the frontline part, after that there was a point of turnover, there was a central command center. There was none now.
A day and a half now without sleep, I tried to think as I sat in Sharon’s driveway. I would have to be resourceful. My bluejay friend hopped happily and cheerfully and talked to me … little brown bird flew joyfully and alternately to the top skylight of her cat carrier and to the door, perching on the rungs each time and inquisitively checking me out…I half expected her to break into a canary song at any moment. The waterbird was still, silent, and calm, under his canoped cage. They seemed so trusting of me. I was the totality of their earthly sanctuary.
Sharon’s was at the edge of town, maybe some of her semi-rural neighbor’s were home and maybe they would tend to have birdseed on hand. And bingo, her next door neighbor’s were out already cleaning debri from their driveway. Ends up they frequently take injured wildlife to Sharon, and they were aware that she was out of town, not to return for several days…and they had birdseed! They also didn’t know what to feed my waterbird friend though…but at least I had birdseed now for the others. Then I remembered, that I had cans of tuna at home that I use to make a diluted tuna water to mix powdered nutritional supplements in for my cats. Surely this would be my answer for him. Once home, the waterbird did not touch the tuna…or the birdseed. It was dark now, and he stood regally, peering back at me as I checked on him with my flashlight. Little brown bird had bedded down in her tiny bowl of birdseed, as though protecting it. And Bluejay greeted me at the door of the carrier on my check-ins, chirping softly to me. It seemed that they had both just been waterlogged and stressed and weren’t injured after all. Happily, I expected that I would be releasing them the next day.
I had wanted to drive to the Kemah waterfront to look for injured animals, but the road was flooded and impassable to there, and was blocked off.
A picture of Waterbird is on its way.
Beginning one day prior to Hurr. Ike, Kathy began hands-on helping of Galveston Bay animals, based upon her 2 month experience as a volunteer rescuer and trapper in New Orleans post-Katrina (through Best Friends Animal Society and Animal Rescue New Orleans). The affect of Hurr. Ike on Galveston Bay animals is far from over...and despite damage to her home, 2 weeks without electricity, and major impact on her self-employment, Kathy is continuing to help animals in her own devastated community of Kemah and Seabrook (most of which had storm surge flooding of 7 feet and more).
Monetary donations of any amount accepted below via PayPal for animal food, supplies for setting up of food/water stations, medical needs of animals Kathy rescues, and support of Kathy to be able to continue helping abandoned animals, 'strays' and ferals affected by Hurr. Ike.
The Kittens and their Aunt/Surrogate Mother
From left to right:
Kitten #2 (female, hunkered in the ladder, gorgeous with white boots and the most mellow)
Kitten #4 (female, the 'forgotten glove' rescue who hissed and spat but who now is the one who most loves to be held and carried.)
Kitten #3 (male, under the AC unit, a strikingly handsome boy with equally striking white boots, he looks like he knows he has it made now!)
Kitten #1 (female, the little 'runt' who was the one who meowed and so enabled us to find her and her siblings! She is a mother to the other kittens and also the bravest and most explorative and a real sweetie too...she's exudes wisdom)
"Noah", a Hurricane Ike Left-Behind & Shaken Survivor
(Was still trembling 48 hrs. post-Ike. Some of his companions paid the ultimate price
of being left behind.
UPDATE 10/10/08: The back yard from which they were rescued flooded hours later with more than a foot of water. These 4-5 wk. old kittens would likely have drowned, especially where they were 'hunkered down' on the ground! 'D' and his wife fostered the kittens for over a week after Ike, but then brought them to me along with their Aunt, explaining that after rescue the semi-feral biological mother would no longer nurse them, and so the Aunt (whose own kittens had just been weaned and were promised to homes) immediately began nursing these. But it had all become too much for them to handle, since 'D's wife has a health challenge in addition to major Ike damage to their home.
The Aunt is a sweet, affectionate 'old soul' who tenderly loved her nieces and nephews as her own, but when she arrived to me she had severe diarrhea and panting spells. The kittens were already eating solid food, so were separated from her so that she could begin to heal. Medical care found Aunt to only weigh 5 lbs. and to likely be just having a problem associated with lactating and nursing kittens. She is now doing very well, has gained a couple of lbs., and has enjoyed some special time with the kittens again at times, as they are not trying to nurse and her milk has dissipated. She still enjoys lovingly grooming them. She also enjoys watching TV, and is very interactive and talks (and she has a lot to tell!), and enjoys being touched and rubbing against your hand Having enjoyed motherhood and fostering her sister's kittens, she is now ready for a lifetime of TLC for herself. She is ready for testing/vaccinations/spaying. And the kitten nieces/nephews are ready for testing/vaccinations/deworming/defleaing.
To help sponsor the vetting of this family (with any amount paid securely through Paypal): CLICK HERE.
P.S. 'D' and his wife have had to move into an apt. for sev. mths while their house is repaired, so I am feeding the semi-feral biological mother of the kittens in-place at their house, and they also drive over to visit/feed her (otherwise she is all alone now, but neither of us have absolutely any room left in our homes to foster her right now.) I am securing resources to TNR her soon and she has also begun allowing them to touch her, so as foster resources and sponsoring allows, she can also be a great forever companion for some lucky, lucky human.
9/12/08: 'THE ARRIVAL OF IKE'
Although I have not completed my diary of the night of Ike, I do want to go ahead and share that in my experience, Ike began around 6pm with one definitive gesture...an announcement and moment forever etched in my psyche...one sudden and swift, soft thud...the clicking off of all electricity and connection with the outer world, followed by a surreal and almost deafening silence...well before even a breeze had begun in my direct area. I also want to add into your picture here: Sylvie, a petite black and white cat who I first found one week before Ike in my front yard. Pronounced by a vet to be about 1-2 yrs. old, she was an emaciated 3 lbs., and also had a severe upper respiratory and eye infection. Her eyes were so infected, she could hardly open them. But even then, she would reach her paw out to me every time I went to check on her or give meds to her. During the days before Ike, she had see-sawed between improvement and slight relapse. Throughout the night of Ike, I could hear her congested breathing and her medication and nutritional doses continued via flashlight. I consider Sylvie an Ike rescue, because if she had lived until then in her condition, it is very doubtful that she would have survived Ike out on the streets.
Update 10/10/08: Today she is almost well, and also has gained several pounds. A true miracle survivor of starvation, not feeling at all well, AND Hurricane Ike - Sylvie is the most gentle and sweet being in the world, and exhibits gratitude for all that she receives. She is just a precious, precious soul. Tested negative for FIV/FELUK, and is almost well enough for vaccinations and spaying.
To help sponsor her vetting (with any amount paid securely through Paypal), so that she can then be adopted: CLICK HERE.
Sweet Sylvie reaching out when very ill
9/14/08: "Two ways to Fly Free"
Next morning everyone was the same. Waterbird seemed stronger, but no stronger regarding his inclination for canned tuna. But on my second check just 2 hours later, I was suddenly shocked and sorrowed to find my Bluejay friend lying on his side on the soft towel, having flown to another realm. Just several hours earlier, he had greeted me at his carrier door like a companion animal, and had conversed cheerily with me. My mind could hardly grasp the sight that I now saw, and just several hours from having his freedom returned to him. I grasped to think what could have happened. The only explanation was that he had had internal injuries, as Ronnie reminded me that when he had initially found him, the condition of this bird had appeared so dire, and that he had seen droplets of blood near the base of one wing. I had forgotten, as the blood had disappeared and there had been no more. Now Knowing that this precious soul had been on the eve of his transition from this world during these hours he had been with me, shed new spiritual light on his unique communion with me that had crossed all normal boundaries. In my deepest heart, I now knew that he had known that he was leaving, and he had graced me with a closeness to him…together, we had ascended beyond the illusion of his being a wild animal, and I being a domesticated animal…instead we had been two souls, spun together through the winds of a hurricane, to weave precious moments of one heart to another. Fly Free, my friend.
As is typical in disaster rescue, there wasn’t much time to grieve or to be with Bluejay’s crossing. I could only intend to carry the sound of his soft chirps in my heart as I worked on more resources for food for Waterbird. My days were also woven with procuring resources to repair the electrical damage to my house and to manage a household of special needs animals of my own, and sick Sylvie...all in a disaster mode without electricity. Every single aspect of my life had suddenly become extremely altered, complete with imposed curfews, needing to walk dogs that couldn't be in the back yard. The night before, I had been invited to hook into my neighbor’s generator...an incredible blessing, I could have one light on, several fans, and either TV or computer at any one time, and refrigerator. It was still warm and humid, and at night the remainder of the house was in darkness, and the entire household had been rearranged logistically to fit the altered needs of living in this situation. It was almost like an army camp. Often between 3 houses on the same generator, the power that I did have would trip out for a while. Still, it would have been much harder to do any rescue if I had been even without a generator. And now I had email, as amazingly, my DSL was functional. Along with sending out an email to my animal rescue lists about what I was now able to see on local TV about what the storm surge and damage had been in various areas of our coast, accompanied by my insights about areas where animals were likely to have been left behind, including left chained/crated, I also began going on bird websites to try to identify Waterbird. I suspected he was an egret, but the pictures weren’t completely jiving. But I found a picture of an exact replica of him, a bird who frequented a McDonald’s for handouts of french-fries. So I tried some organic blue corn chips, and little pieces of bread…he just peered at me. No. Finding a wonderful bird-watcher forum, I signed up, and posted my situation and a description of Waterbird and how his markings differed from egrets. Caring people responded from all over the country and revealed that he is a cattle egret who eats insects flushed up by cattle. They had a simple solution…go in your back yard and find some crickets, frogs! But the community was now quietly devoid of any crickets, birds, or even insects of any kind…they had either drowned in the flodding, flown away, or gone underground when Ike arrived. I tried to communicate with my friend and ask him what I had that he could eat, but I was still fatigued and in overwhelm. By now it had been at least 48 hrs. since he could possibly have last eaten, just before Ike. He was standing firmly and strongly, and also walking around the cage normally. Maybe he too had only been waterlogged. So I decided to release him in the fenced back yard, if he could fly up and out, then he was fine…if not, maybe he would find some insects on his own, and then we could corner him and rescue him again. He walked around the yard, seemingly fine, but was hesitant to fly up. Maybe he needed more room to get a running start in order to lift up. So making certain that the neighbor’s left-behind dogs were not out, we opened the gate, allowing him to go in the front yard. He wandered ours and the neighbor’s yard, but even when we walked close to him he didn’t take off in flight. He did seem to find a morsel or two of something in the full water ditches. Finally, he began to walk with a slight limp that seemed to originate in his hip. Easily we herded him back into the back yard and into a corner where I once again picked him up and rehomed him into the cage…he seemed very compliant to our urgings.
I took little brown bird’s carrier to the back yard and opened the top door. Although minutes earlier she had been flying and hanging on to the rungs of that door (and I expected her to instantly fly out and away), she now sat in her birdseed bowl, as though she had always lived in the carrier. Open sky and late afternoon sun gleaned through the tree above her, with nothing between her and them...but for 10 min. she alternately nested in her birdseed bowl or happily hopped around the towel.…if I approached and looked at her, she looked back at me. Maybe she was not well, I thought, though it had been more than 48 hrs. since her rescue, and she had numerous times flown around the carrier, using both wings perfectly and both legs perfectly in landing and walking. Should I instead keep her for taking to rehab? Suddenly, she flew straight up out of the carrier and continued effortlessly and quickly across several yards to disappear into a large tree. She had been saying goodbye to her sanctuary that had given her safe keeping, her birdseed bowl that she had come to love, and I felt she was also saying goodbye to me. In my scatteredness, I had not thought of having Koda, her true rescuer, come be in the back yard as she flew away or to say goodbye to her. But I suspect that she and he had a means of communication that required no physical prescence. Fly free my little friend, fly free. May there be only soft, gentle breezes for the rest of your days here on earth. And may you find a nest that you love just as well as the birdseed bowl.
The celebration could only last moments, as I was becoming more and more concerned about what Waterbird would eat.
Finally late that night, I was able to get in touch with other rehabilitators from neighboring areas, all of whom were rescuing and caring for large numbers of injured wildlife on very little sleep. They informed me that cattle egrets often do not eat well in captivity and have to be forcefed, but also that Sharon would be back home next day!! In the meantime, I could try dry cat food soaked in water…to this, he peered at it, and back at me.
9/15/08: Companion Animal Survivors and Deaths in Kemah
Waterbird went to rehab. The rehabber’s husband was there who is a well-veteraned assistant to her and he picked up waterbird quickly and expertly, simultaneously holding his neck and beak in a way that he could not bite. Though not harming to Waterbird, it was not the gentle and slow approach that he was accustomed to with me and he squawked in shock and protest. He had come to trust me and although I was present now, it was not I touching him and he was experiencing a contrast that seemed like a betrayal of him. I sang to him and stroked his head for sev. seconds before he was taken away. This was a disaster, and they had many animals, and damaged home, and there were many injured wildlife still at large, and there was simply not time for slow approaches and extra gentle ways…but they were experts and knew how to handle this bird so neither themselves or the bird would be harmed. I sent a message to Waterbird that though he might sense a more bold approach, they had hearts of gold here at his new sanctuary and that he was OK. The quick initial assessment of him seemed to be that he would most probably be just fine and would ultimately be taken to a flight program in Houston where he would be flight rehabilitated. I missed him instantly after leaving.
I was able to get into one section of Kemah (an area about 7 blocks inland from the waterfront) where according to already returning residents, the flooding had been 7 ft. In this approx. 8 city block area, I could smell the bodies of dead animals on every block that I drove down. I am sure they were not human bodies, as each house was already marked with an orange X where the National Guard or other authorities had gone door to door. The water had receded, leaving these neighborhoods to hauntingly resemble the devastation and debri of the lower 9th ward in New Orleans post-Katrina. The water had busted out windows and garages and belongings were strewn, including open containers of motor oil and other toxic substances. On many blocks, the ground is covered with the same slippery, brown sludge as in katrina-affected areas.
On the first street, I saw the deceased body of a dog slumped in a crate that was sitting on the curb. A woman congregating with a group of residents in a yard, said that this was her dog whom she had left in her house several blocks closer to the Kemah waterfront when she had evacuated in her car. On Sat. afternoon when Ike had subsided she had waded to her house to try to rescue her dog, but was blocked and denied by police. On Sun. she tried again and this time a police officer finally agreed to enter her house to check on her dog, whom he found ‘pinned in’ and already dead. I was not clear whether the dog had been initially left in the crate, or if the dog had been left loose inside the house, and then she placed his body in the crate. Either way, the dog had suffered the ultimate price of his guardian’s leaving him behind.
Also in this same cluster of people was a quite different scenario…a woman who had traversed all odds to keep her cats out of Ike’s harm. This young woman was homeless with no car, and had been staying at different neighbor’s houses before Ike. She had convinced friends to evacuate her and her 3 cats (one of whom is 15 yrs. old), because she told them that the only way that she would go was if her cats also went! Today she and her cats had been brought back, but with the neighbor’s houses here no longer being habitable, she had nowhere to stay with her cats. But she had snuck past the barricades into La Porte (slightly north of Kemah) and walked a long distance (with 3 cats in hand) to where her mother (who was still evacuated) lives, and was able to enter her garage and leave her cats there with only one small bowl of food (all that she had) and water. Since we are in a cool front for a week, the garage was not hot, and she felt they would be OK until her mother returned in a day or two. She asked if I could acquire more cat food for her as she had no money, and that if so, her friends would drive her to sneak in again and leave more food. Being in a ground zero with the grocery stores damaged and unopened, I was reluctant to give it all from my own carefully stocked food for my special needs cats and fosters and injured animals I might find, but I drove back to my neighborhood and solicited donations of cat food from people on my block who were out cleaning debri and who had cats. Everyone who had cats, thereby having catfood, instantly gave a baggie of food and within 20 min., I had returned and given this woman about 10 days of food to cover all 3 cats. We exchanged phone numbers and I asked her to call me if she was not able to get back in to her cats or if her mother was not returned soon. Tearfully she hugged me over and over, and said that she has previously volunteered at animal shelters, and would like to help with future animal rescue projects when she is back on her feet in her life. (Update: This woman's mother returned to her home within a day or two, and is still caring for the cats. The food I had gotten for Brandi was therefore not needed by her own cats, and instead she has been feeding cats that she has seen. )
Several houses down, I saw a lone cat sitting under a carport. I stroked and comforted her, and set up food and water. The flooding had left the garage door slightly lifted by several inches and underneath it, was a the dead body of a tiny newborn-appearing puppy covered in the same gray sooty powder as the debri in which it was camoflauged - half of its body inside the garage, the other half outside. The next day, it was evident that the owner of the house had since returned as additional food was out for the cat, and they had closed the garage door all the way down, completely flattening the tiny lifeless body of the puppy.
Just several blocks further, I saw a black cat, partially covered in caked-on sludge, sitting in a driveway. As I approached him, this non-feral neutered cat greeted me with continual and adamant vocalizing, as he profusely rubbed on my legs as though I were an old friend. 48 hrs. after Ike, he was still trembling and appeared traumatized. I comforted him, tried to pick off the clumps of gunk, and set up food and water for him, leaving him gulping down food in between his vocalizing. As I was returning to my car, the owners of the house drove up from evacuation, saying that their neighbor had moved away months before Ike leaving this cat there and they had since been feeding and caretaking him, and asked that I not take him (Be sure to read further down,l the happy ending for this cat named Spook! Sorry, no photo of him but the story is not to be missed!)
Several houses down from here, I was greeted by an especially strong smell of death. In the grass lay a dead gray tabby cat with blood oozing from his mouth. As I got out and walked up to the body, 3 cats seemed to come from different directions around the yard and then stood facing me just several feet from their friends’ tragic body, their bodies touching and pressed tightly together as though comforting one another, with all three tails waving in perfect unison. They also vocalized to me. They had bits of debri caked on them. I set up a food and water station for them. While doing so, I saw two more dead cats, one just at the edge of the crawl space under the house, and the other just a few feet away stuck underneath a wire fence. I am continuing to feed these survivor cats daily. The next day when I returned, the family of one of the houses had returned and was going through their debrid belongings. A landlord was there helping them, who informed me that the renters were all having to move out due to the extreme damage and that they would not be taking any of the cats with them. He does not mind the cats being there, but is concerned for them as there will no longer be anyone to feed them, and he is concerned that new renters down the line would likely not feed the cats and might even not want them there.
Photos: Two cats of the survivor trio. This boy, whom I've named Noah was still trembling 48 hrs. after Ike.
To help sponsor his vetting, so that recruitment of a forever home can begin immediately: CLICK HERE.
The unneutered siamese has never been seen before in the neighborhood, he is skiddish, but does eat within a foot from my hand.
The third cat whom I originally thought was feral, is not. I don't have photo of him yet, is an unneutered long haired grey torti, who is almost allowing me to touch him...he watches me touch the black cat and I can feel his yearning....he has a sweet energy. The owner of the house says that he has always allowed her to touch him. He also eats within a foot from my hand. I am working on resources for neutering for these two cats and hopefully as time and fostering permits, recruiting of adoptive homes.
To support Kathy in continuing to help abandoned strays and ferals in Ike-impacted Galveston Bay, and to sponsor ongoing rescue supplies, and the medical care of Kathy's rescues, please make a monetary donation of any amount of your ability, paid securely through Paypal): CLICK HERE.
© 2008 Kathy J. Landry
All rights reserved to this journal and rescue stories.
THE STORY OF SPOOK: FERAL CAT TURNED SPOILED HOUSECAT AFTER HURRICANE IKE
Remember the first black cat I saw 48 hrs. after Ike, partially covered in caked-on sludge, sitting alone in a driveway? As I had approached him, this seemingly non-feral neutered cat had greeted me with continual and adamant vocalizing, as he profusely rubbed on my legs as though I were an old friend. 48 hrs. after Ike, he was still trembling and appeared traumatized. I had comforted him, tried to pick off the clumps of gunk, and set up food and water for him, leaving him gulping down food in between his vocalizing. As I was returning to my car, the owners of the house next door drove up from evacuation, saying that their neighbor had moved away months before Ike leaving this cat there and they had since been feeding and caretaking him, and asked that I not take him. UPDATE 10/12: For days, everytime I passed by this house, there was always fresh food and water there. Sometimes I saw this cat nearby and ached for him that he could possibly ever have to go through another hurricane, and that he wasn't an internal part of a family. Then, one day, the bowls were gone and there was no sign of him either. Many scenarios went through my mind and left me very worried. The neighbors were not home and so I left food and water and a note on their gate to please call and let me know what had happened. As I drove home, a positive ‘fantasy’ played out in my mind…maybe the man who had originally lived in the house who had moved away, had returned and his heart had opened more deeply to Spook and he took him back with him, and he was now living it up as a house cat. I could only hope.
For several days, my unread note remained on the gate, and I continued to replenish food and water, although I saw no signs of the cat. Finally I received a phonecall from the neighbors who had just returned back into town. She excitedly shared 'Spook’s' story: The man (owner of the house) who had moved away prior to Ike and had left Spook, had indeed returned to assess the house. It ends up that Spook had been named Spook because he had been a neighborhood stray who had already been there when this man had initially moved into the house. He had fed Spook outside, but Spook had been a feral cat who allowed noone near him, and avidly hunched his back and hissed visciously if anyone tried. Hence the name Spook, as everything seemed to ‘spook’ him. When the man moved away, he felt that since Spook was feral that he would be happiest staying, and the neighbors had agreed to continue feeding him, and they had. But when trouble blew in, this kitty was on noone's list to 'pack-in-the car'. However, when the man returned to the house after Ike, Spook suddenly no longer lived up to his namesake, and instead had rubbed on the man’s legs and allowed himself to be loved…just as he had with me when I first saw him 48 hrs. after Ike. The man took Spook back with him to Dallas, where he instantly became an indoor cat and bonded deeply with the man’s other and much older housecat. It seems that although Spook may have had good reason to feel spooked by humans for many years, he was so much more spooked by Hurr. Ike, that he decided to give humans a chance. How terrified he must have felt, living through the fear and trauma of a hurricane all alone (well, obviously, there were some guardian Angels around). And perhaps the man’s heart was also more open from his compassion to know what Spook had lived through…and somehow they met each other halfway to one another’s hearts. What an incredible happy-ending story and what a new life that Hurr. Ike brought to Spook, and to this man. An absolutely wondrous hurricane story that I so needed, but not as much as Spook needed it. I hope the man changed Spook’s name, though!
MORE STORIES AND JOURNALS FROM THESE 'BLURRY DAYS OF RESCUE' OF THE FIRST WEEKS POST-IKE AS WELL AS CURRENT EVOLVING RESCUE EFFORTS ARE COMING SOON, SO FOLLOW ALONG TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE LIVES OF ANIMALS POST-HURRICANE IKE...AND ALSO TO STAY TUNED TO HOW YOU CAN HELP.
9/16/08: 'BLURRY DAYS OF CONTINUED RESCUE'
As the days rolled by and began to blur into each other, I found it hard to organize myself, my priorities, and my activities. My heart wanted to spend all day looking for animals, it was my soul’s true calling. It was heartening to find many areas in my neighborhood in which people were aware of homeless animals that non-returned neighbors had usually fed, and they were filling the gap. But hidden in between these scenarios were animals who were falling through. And close in my heart were the animals that might be closed up in houses where evacuees were not returning (their explanations would be because of lack of power) - animals who were not free to find food and water and ventilated air flow. From my katrina experience as well as reading the journals of the hands-on rescuers in Louisiana post-Gustav (information that was never carried by the media), large numbers of animals, especially in the small coastal towns were left inside boarded up houses for sev. weeks without food or water. I knew that there were cases of that here even in my area…but how to find them? All of my previous disaster rescue work had prepared me for what to look for now that there was this event in my own community. But it was not like being off on assignment, with my own home and animals miles away in another area, unaffected and taken care of, and all I had to do was focus on the block after block of debrid houses and the many unique animal scenarios that were hidden amidst them. Instead, my own damaged house and all the time-consuming activities of even beginning to approach that, caring for my own special needs animals and numerous other personal business and life needs without electricity, and no income coming in…I felt literally pulled in polarized directions. Everyone around me was taking care of their life’s business at hand, and here I was on a very different mission. My heart ached that I had not already been able to move out of this direct coastal area, so that living further away, I could now be a viable resource for more animals after this situation. Ordinarily, one might expect that a normal Cat. 2 hurricane would mainly impact the actual coastal towns, and that the animal advocates and rescuers in the city of Houston could come down and be a powerful resource. But in this unique case, all of the huge city of Houston was deeply impacted, with damage to homes and businesses of those rescuers, and also without power. The grassroots animal community could not even communicate, and even when they could, there were then many abandoned and lost Ike animals in Houston itself to deal with. The national animal organizations who sent teams of rescuers were focusing on Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula which indeed were the areas with the highest number of severely impacted animals and areas where residents were not being allowed to return to care for animals who might have been left behind.
When I was doing something regarding my own situation which just could no longer be put off, I felt off-track. And when I was rescuing animals, I was well-aware of the delay that was incurring in my own recovery, and hard that I tried, I could always feel it tugging on me. I tried to set up routines and schedules, but everything in life was so unpredictable now that almost each and everytime the schedules were drastically non-adhered to, and especially when a situation presented itself to directly help an animal. And though I was not aware at the time, I can feel now how the visuals of clutter, debri and disorganization (both in and outside my own house, and in the outside world where I scouted) was a challenge in organizing my thoughts and intentions.
One of my saving graces during all of this was several animal advocate friends who having experienced less damage and lesser time without electricity, and who were unable to help out in the field or to foster, but brought heart-felt care packages to me and the animals…ranging from incense (which I was out of) that brought grounding, comfort, and beauty into my environment, to organic apple juice, organic fruits and vegetables, much needed gatorade, calming essential oil, wonderfully scented body lotion (important with my scant bathings!), vit. E beauty oil, wheatgrass powder that lifted my body and spirits, cat food, cat litter, crank flashlight, batteries, papertowels, and other wonderful and deeply helpful items for my situation. I had not had time to cry yet for the deceased animals I had seen, for the living who needed me were always just steps away. So my first tears after Ike flowed as I unveiled each item, many of which I had requested and some that I hadn’t thought of ….each hand-selected with loving care and that made such a difference in my reality. Thanks Karen, Melanie, and Danielle! And deep thanks to others who have contributed or supported in the early weeks in different ways and who will be acknowledged soon on this site.
At hand was finding balance between my commitment to my own animal family, my own survival, and the driving commitment that I also felt on other realms to the many beings out there with whom I was inextricably connected and already bonded in heart and soul. I could only hold the energy that somehow the universe would support compassion and my heeding of my soul’s bidding and the calls of the animals. And I tried as best as I could, most of the time on lack of enough sleep, to ‘feel’ where there were animals in need, and to allow myself to be guided to them.
URGENT UPDATE ON THESE SURVIVORS: The owner of one of the two houses has now informed me that Noah (in the picture to the right), is a neutered male who was there when she bought the house 5 yrs. ago. Abandoned by the previous owners of the house, when she moved in he ran into the house and immediately jump on the couch and lied down. However, she then did not allow him into the house in general, but fed him for these years outside. Her family will no longer be living in that home and she is unable to adopt him, and wishes for me to find a forever home for him where he can have all that he deserves. He is a very large and most handsome guy who appears very stoutly healthy, although he needs to be tested. He is very affectionate and a profuse leg and hand rubber. A sweet and noble soul. He seems to often
know when I am coming (although I go at different times), and is sitting in the drive waiting when I arrive. He chats adamantly to me, telling me all about his day...he then runs ahead of me into the back yard and he always washes up before dinner (he scratches his front claws on a downed tree limb, then still has time to run around the back of the storage shed as I walk around the front and greets me at the food station. Lately, I tell him to stay more out of sight from people and to stay more hidden and to stay safe until I can lift him out of that situation. So, now he is always hiding out under the shed when I arrive and greets me with a sweet, tender calling before he comes out. This beautiful soul needs to be out of this moldy ground zero environment and off of the streets with Halloween coming up. I don't want to leave him there every time I have to drive away, but I literally have nowhere to put him at my full house and the Houston animal rescue community is inundated with Ike animals. This sweet boy was abandoned by his first family, and has survived for so long outdoors when he had been accustomed to being part of a family years ago, and now he was on noone's priority list to safe-keep from Hurr. Ike, but he survived the magnitude of Ike in one of the most impacted neighborhoods and then watched his companions suffer, then lived side by side his dead friends' bodies for days. If you agree that he's been through enough, and his time has come for a happy-dappy ending....Please sponsor this boy's vetting, so that his adoption may begin. Or apply to be considered to adopt this incredible and wise being who has many years left to commune with you. He is a deep well of love, simply put, with personality galore, and would be the best and truest friend anyone could ever imagine having.