December 19, 2011
Into the Disaster Zone: Days 3 and 4
Lending a hand to pets and people after Hurricane Irene pounds North Carolina
Monday and Tuesday,
Aug. 29 and 30
In their meticulous search for pets and owners in need, it is not uncommon for responders to uncover cases of cruelty and neglect as well. North Carolina was no exception: Two days after Irene hit, the team helped Hill rescue 11 emaciated and dehydrated hounds from a backyard pen where they’d been left to survive the flooding.
“I’m in shock and awe at some of the stuff that we have found,” Hill later lamented. “Some of it makes me very angry and sick to my stomach when I see it.”
The next morning began in a parking lot behind the courthouse, responders standing over a map of coastal Carolina unfolded across the hood of a truck. The Animal Rescue Team, whose presence had grown to five members, joined Hill in breaking down the day’s priorities.
It didn’t take long to check the first item off the list: tracking down a pair of exuberant husky mixes, loose since the storm. One dog happily ran up to rescuers in the parking lot of a nearby school. Quickly but gently, senior field responder Rowdy Shaw lobbed a slip lead around the other, more elusive dog, who promptly rolled onto his back and extended his legs into the air, as if raising a white flag.
From there, the group traveled to a vacated home at the end of a dirt road; the owners had called to say they’d left their pets behind. Outside, responders poured food and fresh water for two black Lab mixes hanging close to the front porch. Inside, they tracked down the family parrot, caged in a bathroom. Reever used a towel to bundle him up and lift him into a travel cage. In one bedroom, Shaw discovered a turtle in an aquarium; if he’d been left with food and water, it was now gone.
All four animals were loaded onto Hill’s truck, bound for the temporary shelter, the parrot riding shotgun. “Every time I stopped somewhere, he would go, ‘Leaving?’ ” Hill says. “And every time I’d come back to the truck, he would say, ‘Hello.’ … We carried on conversations all the way.”