Why Is There An Old Man In My Gmail Icon Hurricane Katrina: Animal Rescuer’s First Trip to the Gulf

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Hurricane Katrina: Animal Rescuer’s First Trip to the Gulf

Part 1

Like many Americans, I saw the destruction of Katrina on TV. I work from home and turn on the TV in my office. The haunting images of Katrina’s wrath, flashed through my mind. Before long,

before I started watching animals on television. They were everywhere, on the roof, looking out the window, swimming to save their lives and

carried away in the flood in the hands of the owner. I kept thinking… someone has to do something about these animals. I remember feeling powerless and scared. “Why isn’t someone doing something??”

One morning, about a week after the storm, as I sat at my desk watching the animals struggling to survive on television… I heard a voice… a loud voice… “You have to go!” It just felt like it was coming from my shoulder, though

I was alone in the house. I never once doubted what I heard, it was so powerful! At the same time, I started sending emails to all the big animal groups that were going to

community, to provide assistance. Humane Society of United States, ASPCA and many others. I kept getting email replies saying: “we’ll get back to you”, and I started receiving them

very impatient. I felt that my 20s are strange birds, they can be used… somewhere in the community. I waited impatiently to hear from someone, for two days. Finally I said “to hell with this!!” and I picked up my car and got out, not knowing where I was going, or what I was going to do. I heard about an equestrian center, the Lamar Dixon Equestrian Center in Gonzales Louisiana, where they take in all kinds of animals that were being rescued. I thought I would start there.

What made me think that I had something to contribute to the situation, I don’t know?

I am not a very brave person and my only qualification was, I love animals a lot. All, not just parrots.

I have my little Volkswagen, Cabrio, full of mirrors, and a rented tent, sleeping bag, boxes of granola bars, canned peanuts, crackers, 6 cases of bottled water, 15 gallons of gasoline in the gas, Gatorade, for a few weeks of jeans and t-shirts, shoes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and baby wipes. I jumped on I-10 west and headed for Louisiana. I didn’t know, that the man that went out that day…wouldn’t be the man that came back.

With Map Quest directions, I spent the next 16 hours on the trip, which Map Quest said would take 8-9 hours. I-10 was filled with all kinds of relief workers, power company trucks, church teams, heavy equipment trucks and semis. Their licenses were from all over the east coast. I would see about 20 groups of electric companies, riding together, with the Electric Company Logo matching it on the sides of their cars. There were endless trailers from various phone companies, police departments and fire departments and trucks, loaded with chain saws, bottled water and workers, all heading west. Everyone that day was rushing to help. The feeling of being on that highway, that day, was terrifying and electrifying at the same time.

The traffic slowed until I reached the Mississippi border. Cars became a slow moving parking lot. This is where I started

seeing signs of Katrina’s wrath. The first thing I noticed was the large billboards on the highway, they were damaged. The +3 ft steel beams that held them up, were bent like pretzels. With every mile, the damage increased, and

in the end there were no signs anywhere. No traffic signs, no exits…no signs PERIOD. I started to see mattresses lying on the main road and clothes hanging from the trees on the side of the road. The houses I could see had roof damage and most of them were sporting new blue shingles to replace the old shingles.

When I reached the I-10 Pascagoula Bridge, all traffic had to be turned west. A boat took most of the east side of the double bridge during the storm. I remember thinking, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” At that time, I did not know how deep the words would be. At this point I had only glimpsed what was in front of me.

At one point the cars were moving slowly, a few feet at a time. This went on for hours. There was a guy on a Harley right in front of me, whose bike was full of bags. Then I pulled up my car next to him, so we could talk. He was traveling to Biloxi, from Tampa Florida. She was a wounded nurse and she was going to volunteer for a week, to help at the hospital. I wish I had talked to more people on I-10 that day. They all had a story, about where they were coming from…where they were going and what they were going to do. Seeing this outpouring of love touched my heart.

As I drove away, the destruction continued. It’s a strange feeling walking down the highway and not knowing where you are. The lack of signs worried me so much that I finally had to leave the street, to find someone to ask “Where am I?”, to get some bras. I pulled into an insurance office that had some damage, where I saw two men, trying to retrieve some of the damaged items. They asked me where I was going, and I told them I was going to Gonzales, Louisiana. They wanted to know why I was going there and I told them that I wanted to help the animals. One man’s face lit up, and he began to tell me all about his Jack Russell. He took out his bag again and showed me his little picture of “Jack”. It was obvious, how just thinking about his animal, the smile on his face. When I left, the man said, “Thank you for coming to help us.” I had a hard time hearing this, and I let out the words “You’re welcome”. I found I was somewhere outside of Gulfport, Mississippi and continued on.

What was dangerous during the day, became even more dangerous at night. However, the darkness prevented me from seeing the devastation in the center of the district. I knew there was…

and my thoughts began to go into two periods. I would later realize, that my thoughts were not even close to the ugly truth.

I was so ready to go somewhere that I could get out of my car. There was no rest area on the highway, they were all closed, because most of them were not there and their entrance was blocked. Needless to say, the toilet was reduced to a paper cup I found in my car. My Map Quest directions were useless, as the main roads were said to be unopened. Everyone had to go through Baton Rouge and back.

I finally arrived in Gonzales, Louisiana at 11:00 pm, and found the Lamar Dixon Equestrian Center. There was a checkpoint manned by the National Guard. After the whole trip, they didn’t want to let me in. YIKES!! Luckily for me, I have the ability to talk when I’m in or out of situations. My mouth started running and it felt like I knew what I was doing. After a lot of my BS, they let me in! Sometimes I wonder what I would have done if he hadn’t made the decision to let me in that night. Who knows, but I’m sure I would have come up with something.

The first thing I saw were tents everywhere and I could hear dogs barking in the distance.

I went straight to where the dogs were. Lamar Dixon is the center of a great show. “Barn” 6 has about 960 stalls. Then I found myself in Barn 6 wandering around; trying to find someone who knows what’s going on. Dogs were EVERYWHERE…hundreds of them. There were only a few people, cleaning wire boxes and walking dogs. I found out that the people “in charge” were asleep. Someone saw me standing there and asked me to walk the dog. I was given a leash that contained a very thin white Pit Bull. He looked at me with scared sad eyes and we started walking. The first things that struck me was how noisy it was with all the dogs barking, the heat and how big the place was. When I returned the dog to the kennel, a girl asked me where I was sleeping. I shrugged my shoulders and he told me to pitch my tent next to him. I followed him to the back corner of the yard. It was dark and I had never pitched a tent. So he and another guy who was in a tent in the area helped me.

Although I was tired from the trip, I couldn’t sleep. It was very hot and humid and there was not even a breeze. Then I took off all my clothes and slept with only a cloth. It’s hard to sleep when you’re sweating from every pore on your body. After that, I was exhausted, and I fell asleep. The morning came quickly…

to be continued…

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