Saturday, August 28, 2010

Katrina, 5 Years Later.

5 years today a horrible tragedy happened in America.    It is called "Katrina."

The scars and damage are still evident today: On the people who returned to their towns to rebuild and for the people who can never return.   Many animals and people lost their lives.    Thousands upon thousands of emergency responders got sick while rescuing people and animals.  A deployment of days easily turned into weeks and months for many.
I was one of them.  One of an army of disaster animal responders climbing through mountains of debris, high water, into attics and over cars, boats and floating refrigerators to rescue the traumatized animals holding onto life by a thread.    Many times we found their owners, dead, in attics or other bodies under the houses as we searched for any life in the Lower 9th Ward, Biloxie or Gulfport.

Just as the Katrina waters were receding, Hurricanes Rita and Wilma arrived and the water level went up again and again causing more havoc and many more injuries and drownings.  Now the BP oil spill is again affecting the same areas.

The physical and emotional scars remain on the land, the people, the animals and the responders.

Today while you go amongst your work, please light a candle for the uncountable animals and people who perished and the others who remain homeless, traumatized and lost.

Here are a few of my photos from those 6 months of deployments.

Loading a plane with 90 rescued dogs from the flood waters of New Orleans in 120 degree heat at the Baton Rouge airport.           Destination: California
Plane #4 donated, courtesy of Madeline and T.Boone Pickens ( Thank you, thank you, thank you )
Rescuers, Sheltering, Volunteers and Transport courtesy of St Francis Sanctuary, Tylertown, MS and Best Friends,Utah.  ( Thank you, thank you, thank you! )

This Rescued skinny Rottweiler had 9 puppies in the back of my van while being transported.  All survived. All were taken to a foster home in Florida ( where they rode out Hurricane Rita! ).  All, including the mom, found new homes.

Animal Rescuers ( from all over the USA and Canada ) getting their morning briefing and assignments in New Orleans at the ARNO staging area.

That morning we located several dogs under this house and called for some assistance.

Feeding stations to keep the thousands of homeless cats and dogs alive until rescuers could set up more emergency shelters, more transports to out of state shelters and get more trained animal volunteers to capture and transport them out of the danger zones.

Dogs wandering around what use to be a very busy mobile home park.   40 of the homes floated away.

Disaster graffiti.  We eventually captured the dog that was under this house.

Water Lines on houses were very clear.    Other houses in this neighborhood had all their roofs UNDER the water.    Many dead animals and people were found in attics.

One of those houses that was totally submerged in the flood waters.  Dead dogs and dead deer on roof.

My van, equipment, hot gatoraid, blankets, first aid kit, CLEAN water, traps, crates, poles, nets, grain, dog and cat food.
This was my home for deployments. I slept here, wrote my reports here, ate here (when there was food) and cried here.

The water was so high in this area that there were Winnebago's on roofs.

One morning 20 fresh new volunteers with 20 clean vehicles showed up at the staging area to help us exhausted volunteers.
How we loved VANS. Pull those extra seats out, put all the gear in and GO!

At our early morning briefings teams of volunteers were assigned initially to set up feeding stations around the city to feed the thousands of hungry pets that had escaped the flood waters and try to capture the friendly dogs first. 

I am a certified Animal Control Officer and Humane Trapper so I was assigned to capture the hard to catch dogs that had been sighted by other volunteers. This particular day I was teamed up with Shirley in area "30."
However, I was quickly reassigned to the Lower 9th Ward since there were so many loose dogs down there that were interfering with the Military cadaver dogs that were doing body recovery.

We were the only non-military personnel allowed in the Lower 9th for a month.

My new trapping partner, Wendy from Massachusetts, setting up one of the traps to capture several beagles seen in the area.  We loved this overturned U Haul truck. It protected the trap by covering it with shade.  We usually hid traps in debris or inside collapsed houses.   Each day we set out 20-50 large box traps and we would check them every 6-8 hours and transport all pets to Lamar Dixon or to ARNO.
We lived on 2-3 hours of sleep, hot gatoraid and granola bars for weeks.

Yep, we caught a beagle that morning and usually caught a dog, cat or.... wildlife every day for weeks, right at this spot.   What was really nice was that there was a military guard posted 50 yards away and they would call us on our cell phones when a dog went inside the trap!  Excellent.

Resetting a trap under an overturned trailer in the Lower 9th Ward

This was our view from the overturned trailer.    We could clearly see the giant barge that had broken through the levee and smashed most of the houses in the Lower 9th Ward.  We set many traps in the shade of the bridge..until we saw the giant snakes....

The military guard posted across the street from our U Haul traps.
That particular morning a Lower 9th resident returned to the area and took photos of his collapsed home.
He was not allowed to go back to his neighbor hood as bodies were still being recovered and the toxicness of the dirt and buildings was dangerous.
( but they let us animal rescuers in! )
It was heartbreaking listening to him tell us how his family was all split up, some still missing, and had been evacuated to 5 other states during the flooding.

 Wendy and I were ordered to go "get vaccinated" since we were working in a highly toxic area.
We drove over to the Wal Mart supply area and got shot up with all kinds of nasty stuff.   Grabbed some more hot gatoraid and continued on our way checking our traps and reporting any bodies that we found in our process of climbing under houses, around canals and looking in attics.

When I have nightmares, this is one of the things they are about:
Trapped dogs in houses trying to get out any way that they can.    This dog tried to shove himself out beside the air conditioner....but got stuck and hung there and died.

Wendy and I drove up and down this street for weeks trapping dogs and never saw this dog hanging out the window until we walked down the sidewalk.
I ofter wonder if he was still alive when we first got assigned to that area.   It still eats away at me. 

Some of the lucky dogs we captured and reunited back to their owners:

The dogs trapped in a 4 hour time span by animal rescue teams.
Most were starving, covered with mange and flea infested.
All were exhausted and had a good sleep after they were fed and watered. Here they are waiting for the big air conditioned tractor trailer truck to come pick them up to take them to the Lamar Dixon Fairgrounds, in Baton Rouge, which was made into the largest animal emergency shelter IN THE WORLD for 2 months.

We trapped a cat that needed immediate medical attention (his eye was falling out) so we drove like the wind to the only veterinarians office that didn't get damaged in Katrina

So many evacuees gave us their house keys and begged us to go to their homes and rescue their animals.
There were not enough of us to do this huge tasks.  Here it is the end of September, 4 weeks after the flooding.   A dog was found still alive in a house AND the owner was located who had been evacuated to Texas.
The local TV station filmed the reunion.    I cried.

Military helping us unload 2 tons of dog food for feeding stations and to feed the pets we capture.

Saw some strange things, of course while I was on the streets of NOLA. Deer and trophy heads were high up in trees, in the water, hanging out of boats and cars.     Here are a bunch that rescuers found on one street and lined them up.

Hats on the dashboard to represent the rescuers in this vehicle for the day. I am the Odd one, of course....

Wendy and I transporting 17 cats to safety for another organization (MuttShak).

Since I have cattle I was also assigned to livestock search and rescue.
I was sent to a farm to do a health check on all the live horses and this is what I found:  the owner had put all 7 of his foals in one stall to keep them safe.   Unfortunately the water rose to 10 feet and all drowned.  We found a total of 20 horses dead and one very large alligator eating the carcasses.

Along with the toxic ground, the mold in the houses, metal, debris, no food or water for days and hidden dangers that we faced every minute while we were responding to the devastation...there were other dangers that caused us more problems than most would even think of.

From September 2005 thru January 2006:
Poisonous snakes were every where.  Twice we found snakes in our traps eating our dog food.
Rabid wild life.   We had 4 rabid raccoons and one fox, in our traps within an 8 day time period.
Rabid cats.  Many.   In our traps.
Aggressive dogs.  I can not count the number of times I was chased by packs of dogs and had to run for my life.
Or the amount of times members of my team were scratched or seriously bitten by the animals they were rescuing. ( several had to be sent home so they could get medical attention )

Alligators.   In places you would not suspect them of being.  Found 2 in a house.  One in a garage behind a car.  I was setting a trap and heard a noise and exited quickly.  The gator came out after me.  He was at least 8 feet long and hungry!

The gator featured below, presently on the other side of the puddle, destroyed a large trap of ours trying to get the dog food inside.
We moved the trap.

One of the highlights of the month...getting our laundry done!
Thank you FEMA

Putting loose cows back into any enclosure I could find and try to fix fences and call for some hay, grain and clean water. This group was lucky, a farmer dropped 5 rolled bales of hay the next day after we made a few phone calls.

Sadly, most livestock did not survive the flood waters, the starvation, the toxic water or all the poisonous snakes. This cow drowned and floated out of the field.

This was the scene in Vermillion as the waters rose.  These 2 photos were taken by Shannon Moore.
She lost her horses, dogs, home, barns, vehicles and job. She helped us rescue animals for months and was instrumental in helping get the Pet Act passed, so animals must be evacuated with their owners as well as sheltered during a disaster.
Sadly, she committed suicide before the critical document was signed by President George Bush.

Cow stuck in the mud in Vermillion

Taking an aggressive dog out of a trap and walking it back to the van.  Wendy and I were too exhausted to carry the trap with the dog in it like we usually did, all the way back to the van.  It was an obstacle course of debris, vehicles and tilted houses to get back to the van.

Training volunteers from Washington State how to assemble the traps, use them, bait them, hide them and remove the animals from them.  Wendy and I needed help as we were seeing more and more pregnant dogs and more dogs with puppies.  A post disaster population explosion.

More cows to move off the road, as gas pipelines continue to explode and burn. (smoke in the back ground)

One of our most productive places to trap dogs.  They would run up and down this canal.
Some rescuers reported that many of the dogs jumped right into the van, they were so lonely and hungry.
Others had to be trapped.   We tried so hard to trap all the pregnant dogs before they had puppies.

I think these photos give you just a little idea of conditions in the New Orleans area right after Katrina.

I will add photos of deployments to Biloxie, Gulfport and back to New Orleans, in the future.

 Different locations with different tasks but with the same mission :  Rescue as many animals as possible and help the people that remain in those areas.

Remember to light that candle.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Herefords in the Mist

I am in the process of finding a new place to move my herd to.

Being a "landless" farmer is very difficult.

After 10 years at the same farm, working beside my favorite 80+ year old farmer, his health has deterriorated to the point where he has passed the farm to his kids and grandchildren.

They do not want to have to manage a herd of cattle, so all cows will eventually be leaving the farm.

I have been looking for a proper place to bring my beloved cattle, and have met dozens of wonderful farms, farmers and cows.   Next week all my cows and their calves will go for a long ride to a temporary place for about 6 weeks.  Hopefully I will be able to find a more permanent place for the winter months.

I will be moving closer to the location my cows eventually end up at.  Its all in process, and takes up large chunks of time trying to balance all these moves, plus work and other critical parts of life.

Sleep is hard to achieve as my brain refuses to shut off.

With the cooler, wet weather we had the past 4 days the cows are happier, the pink eye has minimized, the flys have been reduced in population and the grass is growing.  All good things.

Here is a photo of one of the farms I went to look at to board my herd on a very rainy morning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cattle Crossing

The things I see...... You just would not believe.

I found a special road, near the river, where the cows have their own flashing light, crossing guard and a beach area to "tan."

Fancy light:

All laying down chewing their cud.

Lots of soft sand to lay in after walking in the river.

Mostly Jersey cows with a few "token" Holsteins, whom are also "tanning" themselves.

Always nice to see a nice, calm, comfortable herd taking advantage of the cooler Vermont weather.

This must be the queen cow as she is on the top of the sand mound.
At 4 pm the lights start to blink and flash, the cows get up and line up to go across the highway and their private crossing guard comes to direct traffic so the girls can get to their farm to be milked.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

RAIN !!!!!!!!

I heard that wonderful "noise" at 5 am and woke right up.


For an hour it downpoured and the dry earth soaked it right up.

I heard the flowers moan with pleasure.

The birds landed on the half full birdbath and drank, bathed and rested.

The dirt rolled off my old truck and the cat came running into the barn.

Flys dissapeared or were killed by the short deluge.

Its just sprinkling a little now, but it will last most of the day.  Probably only a teaspoon of relief for a drought ridden area, but at least its a start.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Barns & Silos

Saw many barns on hairpin turns on a few roads last weekend.  Hard to get photos, but I did not give up.
This is a giant barn that the highway separated from its adjacent house.

The barn in the back collapsed and the one in the front won't be around for much longer.

This is a magnificent barn.  Great view, fresh paint and well taken care of.

Silos dot the landscape of Vermont. All kinds of silos built from all different kinds of materials.

Another barn collpase, yet the ancient silo continues to stand as sentry.

Many silos and high corn. Pray that the milk prices increase so the dairymen can stay in business.
We still need rain too.

I noticed these unusual silos and had to investigate.   Want to guess where these silos are ?

They are at the BEST ice cream factory in the world.

Great Vermont cows make fabulous ice cream! And fabulous ice cream is at Ben & Jerry's