Remembering Katrina

In remembrance of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, ARNO would like to post the stories and photos of those who contributed to the Hurricane Katrina animal rescue effort. Please email your stories to:

Jenny St.Hilaire
August 31, 2008

Our Cinderella Story

Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in the late summer of 2005. We all saw the devastation it caused as it took down homes and took many lives. As most of you I watched this on TV every day. I also saw the stories of the animals that were swimming in the polluted waters in New Orleans. The one's that were sitting on their porch steps, because their owners had left them. During the rescue, the coast guard would not allow animals to come along (this rule has changed since Katrina). I remember one story where 2 dogs were sitting in an open window. They both had their heads resting on the sill looking outside. Rescuers from HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) found them and these two were too weak to even greet them. The rescuers marked the house knowing they'd come back for them. When they returned not a half hour later, one had passed away. It was stories like this I continued to watch every day. I heard of people and dogs floating in the polluted waters. I saw the horror stories that the Mississippi coast had endured. I had an overwhelming feeling that I HAD TO GO HELP. I can't really explain the feeling in words, but I just knew I had to be there somehow to help. I have a degree in Animal Science and I knew HSUS was looking for volunteers with animal backgrounds. I contacted them and received a return phone call within a day. They desperately needed help at a staging area in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They fully paid for my flight into MS and I was given a week off at my job to help. I started packing and preparing myself for what I know we don't see here in NH.

The staging area was at The Forest County Complex in Hattiesburg, MS. It was usually used as a huge fair ground. Right now it was a makeshift animal shelter. There were 3 huge barns consisting of approx 300 horse stalls in each one. Not only were there dogs, there were horses, cats, pet mice, rats, and bunnies. These animals had either been found in abandoned homes or found wondering the streets. We had a lost and found and each day we had many people coming in to try and find their pets.

Upon my arrival I signed in and was given a name tag and an assigned tent. The entire complex was government ran. Nobody could get in or out without proper ID. FEMA had provided us meals and the military had provided us with HUGE air conditioned tents with cots. Our days were long, lights came on at 5am to wake us up. We headed to the mess hall and then up to the dogs. The days sometimes didn't?t end until midnight.?Once I was unpacked and had my little spot in this tent looking like a makeshift apartment, I headed back up to the main barns. I was assigned a row in Barn D. I walked up and down this row looking at these little faces. They at one point all had homes, all had owners. Where were they now? Some were lost in the hurricane, including when the ravage tornadoes passed through. By the way, I saw this on my way to the complex from the airport. Houses that were pulled off their foundations. Houses still in the middle of the streets, trees split in half and thrown into windows and roofs of homes. What had these animals seen that I could only imagine seeing in the aftermath?

Walking up the other side of the row I came across what was considered the first stall in that row. I peeked in as I did all the other stalls. There he was a dirty, emaciated red and white English setter. He was sleeping in a ball on an old bed provided by HSUS. I opened up the stall and entered, as I had done with many of the others. I did this to offer "a warm embrace" to give them a few moments of a gentle touch and a loving gesture. BUT this dog was different.

He was terrified of me. It was evident he had not been taken care of long before the hurricane came. His food had not been touched and looking at his paperwork he had been at the complex for a few days. It said he was found wondering in Perkinston, MS shortly after the Hurricane. Perkinston is approx 50 miles North of the Mississippi coastline. The devastation in this state made its way well into Jackson, MS, well up North. They approximated his age at 3 or 4. I went in and just sat down a few feet from him. I said to him "Oh Wow, who are you baby?. I said you look like a "Bailey" (and so was the name ). After a few times of going in and talking to him he finally came over to me. He had an ear infection and I found some meds and cared for that. As the days went by him and I grew so close. I'd be busy and would just peek into his stall and say "Hi YOU" and he'd jump up all excited to see me. He'd be the first one I went to every morning and the last one at night. I'd take him for walks around the complex and at night when things were winding down, well that?s when we'd sit. I'd hold him and one night I took liberty in cutting all the?filthy mats he had all over him. Evidence he was in water at some point. He had evidence of a broken leg from the past. I could see it because he had a bump on his leg that showed me the bone never healed right. He had a scar under his right eye that had healed as well. Every morning we all had a meeting at 8am. I always brought Bailey with me to this. Everyone knew our love at this point. Oh, and the volunteers I worked beside, let me tell you about them. These are people from all over the country with the same reasons for being here. Within a few hours these people become family. We bonded as such and nothing hurt worse than the day we had to say goodbye, we shared this horrible tragedy TOGETHER. It bonds you in a way you can never relate too unless you've been in an experience such as this.

I worked lost and found for a few days also. Let me tell you about this. HORROR! People coming in to look for their animals. Many of which we didn't have. They filled out a form and then looked through a book of dogs we had. Many a time we didn't have the dog, but they were still walked around the facility so they could see this for themselves. One lady came running up to me saying I have lost everything, I HAVE NOTHING, please help me find my dog. Don't tell me that doesn't change you. She was looking for a Pekinese......that I knew we didn't have. I led her around the barns and then offered her a few more options. There was a shelter down the road that she may have luck with and she could also search

See all these animals had to leave at some point. They were all given an ID number and placed on This gives them a chance to be found by their owners. Shelters from all over the country came to take as many dogs as they could fit into vans and trucks. At this point I knew Bailey and I belonged together. I also knew he could be found by his owners. I also knew one day he'd be on the departure list to leave with a shelter. Where would he end up? Would I ever see him again? I went in to the office of the director of HSUS at the complex. She knew how close we became, as she saw us together all the time. She saw my devotion to him and she saw he had not bonded with any other volunteer there. I take it he had lost trust in all people, if he ever even had it. With me however, it was different.

Well the day came. I was working in another barn. I had checked on him all the time in previous days to insure he hadn't been taken away without me knowing. On this day it was time. A friend of mine came running up to me. She said a guy is in Bailey's cage right now, there packing his stuff up and putting him on a leash. He's being taken away!. I remember both of us running full force back up to the other barn. My heart wasn't even beating or so I thought. I saw this young guy trying to get Baileys leash on. Bailey was terrified (remember he bonded with nobody else and was especially scared to death of men!) I grabbed the leash out of the kids hand and told him to go AND I'LL DO IT MYSELF!!. I took a moment to tell Bailey what was happening. I was crying so hard I couldn't breathe. As I walked him outside to the truck I noticed something. EVERY single volunteer was following us to that truck. You see that was the family bond. Each one of us had our favorites and each one of us had to let them go. I placed Bailey into his cage in the truck, with tears rolling. The director approached me and hugged me. She introduced me to the shelter director of Sarasota County, Florida. They assured me if his owners did not come for him while he was on a 30 day hold I could adopt him. Yes that helped, but I had to say goodbye to him now and that was killing me. The other volunteers all hugged me and told me to be strong for him. I stayed with Bailey until the truck was full of animals. I promised him I would come for him, that I would find him one way or another. It was so hot and humid and he looked at me panting with a trust in his eyes. There was No doubt that dog knew what I meant. I watched that truck until it drove out of site. Wondering how I'd conclude my stay not having him there in my daily routine.

The next day I was on my cell phone with the Sarasota shelter. I was told they were trying to find him a foster home until the 30 day hold was up. I said "WHAT? Why can't I foster him??" They agreed, but let me know if the owners come forward I had to give him up. (Let me tell you about that. This dog wasn't cared for before the hurricane, once he's with me that is it) I scheduled with a company to have Bailey fly from FL into Boston the following week. Until then I continued my work until all the animals were gone. There was such a silence once the dogs were out. A haunting silence that to this day haunts me. It was so busy and now no animals (there were as many as a thousand in all) and most of the volunteers (hundreds) had gone back to their lives. I had trouble with that. As I still do! How do you go back to your life after doing this? I know much how a soldier in battle feels coming home for the first time. IT'S BITTERSWEET!

Once home I talked to a vet in Sarasota who told me Bailey was heartworm positive (stage 5 the worst) If nobody wanted him they would euthanize him (See the shelters will not pay the money(nor have it)to treat heartworm, therefore nobody's going to adopt a heartworm positive dog, are they?). Seems to me Bailey and I were meant to be. The vet for the shelter told me Bailey could not fly, because the trip would probably kill him. I asked if I could drive to FL for him and drive him back. He said yes as long as I stayed in hotels, in other words, take it easy on the trip, don't stress him. So I quit my job. I was managing a gym, and they wouldn't let me take anymore time off. I got into Sarasota around midnight. I found a hotel and went over to the shelter early the next morning. I filled out all the paperwork for fostering. They brought him out and when he saw me his whole face LIT up. The shelter workers said he had not done that with anybody since his arrival. They said even after 2 weeks he still remembered me. We went on our way and headed back to NH.

He immediately started his heartworm treatment. I almost lost him during one of the treatments, but he's a fighter!!! Once he was heartworm negative he had an MRI. He had no heart damage, but had kidney disease. We still battle this every day. I almost lost him a few weeks ago. It acted up and he spent 5 days in the hospital. I prayed to God please don't take him yet. I was a worried wreck. I prayed and said not after all he and I have been through, please give us more time. I'm happy to say with daily fluids under the skin and meds he's hanging in there. His kidney levels are critically high right now. The vet says any other dog would not be here, but because his disease progressed slowly his body had time to adapt to the toxins. Another miracle? I like to think so. I know my days are numbered and I'm sure I'm on borrowed time.

Well, I've spent thousands on this pup and much of my time caring for him. It's all worth it though. Like a child, I would do anything for him. Oh and no the owners ever came forward and on the 30th day I faxed the adoption papers to FL first thing that morning!!!. HE WAS FINALLY MINE AND I HIS... I do think about his owners though. See, Bailey was housetrained. Somebody must have taken the time with him. Maybe they didn't give him a heartworm pill or get him the right medical attention, but maybe they didn't know any better. That's me trying to find the good in people I guess. I just want them to know he's very loved and well cared for. I think too maybe they didn't just forget him maybe they themselves didn't survive? Whatever the case, I'm sure if Bailey could talk he'd tell me an amazing story. I always say to him "I bet you could tell me a storryyy...:)" There's a song by Garth Brooks that is "OUR" song. It's called "to make you feel my love". Part of the song goes like this...

"When the winds blowin' in your face, and the whole world is on your case, I would offer you a warm embrace, TO MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE.."

So I hope you enjoyed this story. My time spent their haunts me in a good and bad way. What's strange is yes I'm happy all the dogs are safe and out, but oh how I miss that time in Mississippi. That time where I believe higher intervention was involved. God sent me there for that dog!!. That I firmly believe!!. He has brought me such joy every single day. To see him running and playing with such a happy face, see that's my little piece of heaven on this earth. The dog that beat the odds and 2 and half years later is still beating them.

This is "OUR" story....................OUR CINDERELLA STORY..........



SAndra Denisuk

Mrs. Sandra Denisuk
Kat5 and Stealth Volunteer
Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada
August 26, 2008

I am not very good at writing but the group I belonged to Kat 5 (we didn't have a name when we started) helped with the rescue efforts.

I live in Canada and had never been to Louisiana but when I saw what was happening in 2005 [as a result of Katrina] I wanted to help.

Five of us got together and  searched the Internet for owners who had not had their pets rescued yet. One person contacted rescuers in Louisiana who where very happy to have addresses to rescue from instead of going door to door not knowing if an animal was inside.

Jane Garrison, Dr. White, Marilyn McGee,  Alley Cat Allies and many others used our lists from which to rescue. We updated every day and the list got longer and longer.

I then contacted the owners and conference called with the rescuers.

Someone else from Canada mapquested the areas so the list would be in order. None of the 5 of us had ever been to Louisiana. One was from New York, and another from California. For weeks none of us slept much.

I attached the copy of the newspaper story done on me. Also the web site of Kat 5 which is still going strong.

I also joined Stealth Volunteers because our lists contained a lot of info on owners which was valuable to them because of  contact numbers and what animals where missing from the which addresses.

I still try to help owners find pets now and find websites listing Katrina animals to send to the two flickr sites still available for finding lost pets. The flickr sites contain thousands of pictures and info on found Katrina animals. It is a shame these sites did not have more coverage earlier so owners could have used them sooner.

The two women who run these sites need to be commended on the wonderful job they have done and are still doing. Any owners still missing pets could check these websites. But info on many of the  animals and where they were kept or seen may be dated at this point.

Mrs. Sandra Denisuk
Harrison Hot Springs  BC Canada

Finding them 1attime

Jackie Quick

Jackie Quick
ARNO Volunteer
Seattle, Washington
August 24, 2008

My name is Jackie Quick.

The day was Dec. 7, 2005. I knew my life would never be the same from that date forward. I'd just gotten off a red eye from Seattle, it was a gloomy rainy day and knew I was in for the long haul, after all that was my plan.  When I arrived at Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO) the air was filled with a human passion like nothing I have ever experienced in my life, surrounded by people with a loving and driving force to take action and get involved, it was then I knew I was in the right place...I then dropped my survival gear/tent and was greeted with a smile and hug and a thanks. If I could sum it up, the nearly two years I volunteered with ARNO, with the first eight months living in my tent as many volunteers did, and the rest of the time living at the shelter...I can just say, if I were to die tomorrow I now know life is complete after crossing paths with the human spirit at its best.

Just when I thought I was here to rescue you, it was you who rescued me....I'll always be your daddy.

Pay it forward....

Lucy Juneau
St. Bernard Parish
Aug. 22, 2008

All creatures great and small, the Lord God loves them all.

I just read your website about the Katrina animals... As you know, many people had very hard decisions to make in the couple of days we had to evacuate St.Bernard Parish.

My daughter and her family were going to Dallas to the home of a friend... and could not bring Baron with them. They had adopted Baron when he was just a month old, and loved him dearly. My husband and I decided to 'ride out' the storm, so we agreed to keep Baron with us. This was on the 27th of August. It was a beautiful day and we were not worried at all, since Katrina was not predicted to hit here until later that evening. We were 'concerned' but not worrying. I had a lot of food for us, (Me, Dennis, my husband, and Haleigh, our 13 yr. old grand-daughter who lives with us, and plenty of food for Baron, and our 2 daschunds).

At about 5:00 a.m.(August 28), my husband woke me up and said, "you have to leave, and you have to leave NOW. He said he was going to stay because he worked at the school board and they were using the schools a temp. evacuation sites. I left with my grand-daughter and my daughter and our 2 daschunds, which I rescued years earlier. I thank God everyday that I took them with us..I could not take Baron because of his size and felt horrible to leave him behind. My husband said he would take good care of him, which he did.....

Later that afternoon, he decided to go to our church (he is a deacon of our church), He took Baron with him, and they stayed in one of the smaller buildings...That night, Katrina devastated St.Bernard parish. He saw the roof of our sanctuary fly away. Suddenly around 8 a.m.(August 29), he saw water coming down the highway. He took Baron and they went to another building that had 2 floors, and that is where they stayed. By this time, there was at least 10 ft. of water. He had brought fresh water and food for himself and Baron.

Later that week, the Parish told anyone who was in the parish that they had to leave. My husband did not know what to do with Baron, because they said 'no animals.' Luckly, by this time, the officials had set up an area for pets who had been left behind, and someone was coming to take them away to safety. He gave Baron to them(with his name tags on his collar) and they told him with the information he gave them, he could find Baron after he got settled somewhere.

My daughter searched and searched for Baron for MANY weeks, only to find out that Baron was in a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona. She called the caretakers there and they said yes, he had been there, but he was adopted by someone, and would not tell her who adopted him. This was ONLY a few weeks after Katrina. How could they place a Katrina animal up for adoption without waiting  a while until people could locate their pets and pick them up?

Finally, after months and months, in 2007, she found out who had Baron. She refuses to this day to give him back, and she has made several efforts to bring him home. I hope and pray that people will be more accommodating and help people in our situations. We all love Baron, and miss him so. He was around 8 yrs old.

My grief.

Lucy Juneau

<< Back to top