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Into the Disaster Zone: Day 5

Lending a hand to pets and people after Hurricane Irene pounds North Carolina

All Animals magazine

  • Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Wednesday, Aug. 31

Twenty-nine years before Irene pounded Nelson Lee’s property, the Goose Creek Island resident walked outside to feed his family’s new horse. No one, not even the man who’d sold her, had realized she was pregnant—so one can imagine Lee’s shock when he entered his barn to find a foal standing alongside her. Fittingly, the colt was named Surprise.

Last August, Surprise stood in that same barn, ready to live up to his name once again. As 54 inches of water swelled around the horse, Lee stood helpless in his house, fearing the worst. “I told my wife, ‘I’ve got to get out there. I know he’s drowning. I just know he’s drowning.’ ”

At 6 p.m. that Saturday, he finally got to his friend. “He wasn’t [panicking] or nothing,” Lee says, adding with a laugh: “He was ready for me to feed him.”

On Wednesday, with the area under a boil-water advisory, team members backed down Lee’s driveway and unloaded six-pack after six-pack of canned drinking water for Surprise. The delivery came amid continued outreach across the county, responders knocking on doors and distributing bags of dog and cat food donated by PetSmart Charities.

They also dropped off fliers about the temporary shelter, where nearly 75 animals would eventually pass through. All would receive veterinary examinations and, when needed, free vaccinations, heartworm tests, and parasite treatment.

The Ross family arrived Thursday to visit Tiny the rabbit, Milo and Flower the cats, and Sweet Pea the pug. They had handed the animals off to responders two days earlier as they prepared to camp out for the night, their home ruined. “They came in in tears,” says volunteer Amy Bogart. “[The wife] left saying, ‘I feel good now. I can tell you guys are taking great care of our animals. I was really worried; now I’m not worried.’ ”

The team spent another week in Pamlico County before wrapping up operations. As the emergency shelter wound down in early October, The HSUS had joined other agencies in helping more than 2,000 animals in disaster situations over the course of 2011.

For Shaw, the most memorable of those rescues had occurred three months earlier and halfway across the country, as he fought to save cats stranded between water and sky.

Into the Disaster Zone: Flashback »

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