It’s been ten years now since Hurricane Katrina displaced so many from their homes – including pets. While there’s been much in the news about the victims of that awful time, there were also many unsung heroes who truly made a difference to those in need. Almost Home Foundation, a pet rescue in Schaumburg, Illinois, came to the aid of lost, abandoned, and homeless pets of that disaster.
In August of 2005, the fledgling nonprofit organization and AHF volunteers couldn’t ignore the devastation they were seeing in the news. And knowing there were many pets left behind as families scrambled to safety, unable to take them along, made this situation a high priority.
A thousand miles away
A thousand miles away from the devastation, volunteers organized, packed up, and headed toward the unknown, only being certain of the determination they felt to help any way they could. Almost Home Foundation backed their efforts, enlisted the use of two large vans for the trip, and prepared for whatever pets they might be able to rescue.
Four volunteers – Jeannie, Doreen, Guy, and Jim – transported badly needed supplies to the hard-hit area of Tylertown, Mississippi, stayed to assist in Pet Search and Rescue, then brought back 19 dogs. (The cats were too ill to be transported.) They were true heroes.
The dogs came here starving, traumatized, and many were in need of medical treatment. One dog had a partially-healed broken leg, causing arthritis, and would need surgery. Many had mange and other skin issues. Many also had heartworm, requiring extensive, intensive, and expensive treatment. And all were in need of neutering. The fledgling rescue organization faced huge medical bills for these vulnerable dogs, but again they were determined to do whatever they could.
The happy news? Sprinkles, as it happened, was pregnant – and gave birth to beautiful babies (who all found their forever homes.)
One dog, Ginger, was lucky enough to be reunited with her family. Cynthia Schleich, Ginger’s foster mom, was determined to find Ginger’s family. While her humans had to leave her behind in order to be airlifted to safety and transported westward, they never forgot her and hoped someone had rescued her. Cynthia called the number on Ginger’s tag – and after realizing she’d been calling the wrong number, eventually got in touch with the family. It made the news here when Ginger was reunited with her family. They’d all been through so much! (Cynthia has since left us for the Bridge, where she undoubtedly was greeted by many a grateful animal.)
And that is a shining example of one more way people stepped up and went the distance for the Katrina dogs – the fosters, who opened their hearts and homes to these needy pets, gave of their time, energy, and love.
A continuing need
The organization and its volunteers did not make just one token rescue of Katrina pets. Not only did volunteers from AHF head on down south to personally and physically offer their assistance, but in the months that followed the rescue organization had transports that drove southward to rescue more homeless pets from that area. All those dogs found forever homes. You can see the timeline and photos posted on the website back then.
In addition to numerous Facebook pages devoted to pets missing or rescued from the hurricane-hit areas, two women (Carolyn Wallace and Emily Marcus) actually established a website dedicated to listing all the shelters that were housing Katrina pets. That website is still in existence; it seems there are still Katrina pets lost/missing, or in need of homes.
The need was great after Hurricane Katrina exacted her damage on the southwestern U.S. The heartfelt concern and generous help that followed in its aftermath was great as well. We salute those who stepped up, went the extra mile, and gave so much to help those in need. We salute Almost Home Foundation and all the volunteers who helped make life better for the Katrina animals.