The News for the November 2005
Getting new kittens should never be a minor bit of news. However, the last few weeks have been full of events, both good and bad. Flower (on the top) and Katrina (on the bottom) are very cute kittens that have joined the "hospital staff" recently. They were only about 12 - 15 days old when we got them and have been a lot of fun. By now they are starting to be given hospital roaming time and will get their first experience with the dangers of being a clinic cat all too soon.
Much of "The News" is prompted by the aftermath of the Gulf Coast storms. Mary and I have both spent time recently there with the animal recovery effort and we both feel personally impacted by our experiences there. In addition to that, Tami Swickheimer, who left here to join the 82nd Airborne spent considerable time in New Orleans after the 82nd was deployed there. She sent a few pictures and promised that she would have more to send . . . and commentary after the rest of her group return. I didn't get much commentary on what the pictures are about.
Tami didn't say where this picture was taken of debris left on the streets after the water went down. However, it sure LOOKS like the I-10 Overpass as it approaches Lake Pontchartrain near where I stayed there. I guess they all look quite a bit alike.
Flooded apartments. The water was apparently up to the level of the second floor.
Another picture of flooded apartments that Tami sent. Tami didn't send much explanation of what she was doing during her stay there but she sounded exhausted after her time there. My first guess is that I would have liked my job better than her job. By all accounts that I have heard the 82nd did a great job there.
Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI)
Both Mary and I spent a little over a week in Louisiana working on trying to help the plight of the thousands and thousands of pets that were caught up in the disaster of the two hurricanes. Both of us were deployed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). I'll let Mary tell her own story if she chooses to but I was originally deployed to the Dixon Correctional Institute to help in the care of animals that were being housed there under a program that would enlist the help of inmates in the care of animals displaced by the storms. I think the program is a wonderful idea that was set up by Dr. Eric Davis (HSUS/Rural Area Veterinary Services). The inmates that were participating in the program were VERY caring about the animal and the program. I hope that others write to the LA department of corrections and express their support for the program. It was a good responsibility for the inmates and wonderful for the animals.
Everyone that worked at DCI had a favorite or two among the 400 dogs, about 30 cats and assorted ducks, geese and chickens housed there when I got there. This technician from New Mexico thought this Aussie was top dog.
The kennels were set up in the very large barns on the facility. There were animals kept in relatively small cages as well as these spacious kennels but all dogs were walked 3 times a day. I'll tell you for sure that it takes a lot of walking to walk 400 dogs 3 times a day. Many of these dogs had never experienced walking on a leash.
The actual veterinary care of the dogs housed here was by a local veterinarian that visited daily.
As compared to my experiences later in New Orleans this campsite was the lap of peace and luxury. With 400 dogs in the building I expected to have a terrible time sleeping. However, when I pulled into camp at about 1 in the morning there was not a SINGLE dog barking. Considering the circumstances these dogs were content with their situation. This speaks to the work of Dr. Davis AND the efforts of the inmates.
Just another shot of the prison farm.When we walked the dogs we could take them just about as far as you can see in this picture. The farm is located nearly 100 miles from the coast and the damage here from the two hurricanes was minimal. There were trees down but not that much otherwise. The buildings seemed intact except for a few pieces of trim missing.
A typical arrangement of dogs at DCI. Small groups of dogs that could get along were kept together. The enclosures were a new arrangement but made it very nice. Straw and dog bedding was around in each cage. The straw was changed by the inmates at least once a day.
Some of the dogs were kept outside but lots of "blue tarp" was used to protect them from direct wind, sun and rain. There were dog houses of some sort in each enclosure.
A fairly typical arrangement inside the barn. This was a more typical dog . . . a Pit Bull which is way over represented in the dogs that I saw at DCI and in New Orleans. The dogs were fed and watered by the inmates. The inmates walked dogs some while we were there but they were assigned to have lots of direct contact time petting and playing with the dogs in their enclosures hoping to allow the dogs to bond with the inmates and the inmates to bond with the dogs.
I was told by one of my clients (who owns several black and white Pit Bull) that there are so many black and white Pits because of a famous blood line bred by a man named Boudreau in Louisiana. I couldn't find much about it by "google-ing" the name I had but my first guess is that neither my client nor Mr. Boudreau had web pages.
The cat ward at DCI. There were two "Cat Ladies" that kept this place ship shape all the time that we were there. Many of the cats were shipped with the last shipment before we left. I'm not sure which inmates were to become the new "Cat Ladies".
Not all of the dogs had runs to exercise in. This was another typical arrangement. The inmates kept the cages very clean at all times. A dog cramped up like this for long time really needed the walking time. It may seem like overkill to have a veterinarian drive 700 miles (others flew much further than that) and back to walk dogs but there IS a reason for it. It's not my veterinary medical skills that were needed. What was needed was people that knew how to handle a wide variety of animals in a way that was good for the animals and safe for the "walker". I did get the "honor" of being selected to walk the dogs in the "bite" wards which were those dogs that had distinguished themselves by either biting someone or giving the impression that they wanted to. There were a few that were a challenge but, in general, they must have filled up on their first victims and my hands and legs are bite free. However, I walked dogs until both my feet AND my hands had blisters. I didn't think that that could happen considering the fact that I walk many dogs every day in the course of my work at home. Those 5 marathons may have helped but you get soft when you go to a new sport.
This was a fairly typical dog housed at DCI. As I had mentioned, many were Pit Bull Terriers. Many arrived with aggressive tendencies but the inmates worked very hard to calm them and get them to enjoy human contact. In general, I think Pit Bulls are a breed most veterinarians like working with. Most are good with people but you do have to be aware of their tendency to be aggressive towards other animals AND their power. I do worry how many of the "Pits" we worked with can be placed in homes if their owners cannot be located. I found it interesting that they started locking the gates to the prison farm just prior to my arrival. It was not to limit the inmates or to protect us, it was because they were afraid of people stealing Pit Bulls.
The 3 AM dog shipment. I'm not sure how many dogs went on this shipment but both trailers were completely full. Lots of coffee consumed at this party.
These dogs were being shipped to Arizona (I think) to a long term but temporary "no-kill" shelter. Several of the inmates were seen crying as some of their favorite dogs were shipped out. I am not exaggerating about that. There was a rumor that night that the program was going to be ended shortly. These inmates are not Saints but the were doing a very good job with these difficult animals and were feeling a sense of worth. In the end it is my impression that the rumor was just a rumor. We did get a chance to talk things over with the Warden and I think they see the good that has happened with this program. However, if anybody would take the time to contact the prison system and tell them what a good idea this is I would encourage you to do so. These guys were kinder to the dogs than I am.
I know you can't see much in this picture but the guy in the white tee shirt is Dr. Eric Davis. He was, as I understand, the idea man for this project. Dr. Davis is the head of the Rural Area Veterinary Service which is "is a non-profit program bringing free veterinary services to under served rural communities around the globe, whether in La Paz, Bolivia or Bell County, Kentucky. Volunteer veterinary students work with experienced veterinary professionals to provide essential animal health services such as sterilizations and vaccinations, as well as educational programs on a variety of topics including disease prevention and humane animal care."
Dr. Davis is board certified in surgery and in internal medicine
but his normal species to work with is the horse. I didn't get
to walk any horses.
Update January, 2011 - I'm very pleased to say that I just found out that, with the help of a big grant from HSUS, there IS a program running at Dixon for sheltering for local animals, spay and neuter and using the facilties in the future for disaster. The prisoners are involved. I'll post the article as soon as it goes online.
After the shipment there was a great reduction in the number of dogs there. I'd guess there was still 150-200. Dr. Davis suggested that those of us that were interested in doing so should look to the other animal relief projects going on in the Gulf area. He suggested that the project at Winn Dixie parking lot was one that was in great need of veterinary assistance. At the time we left for New Orleans Winn Dixie was processing about 100-150 animals per day with no veterinarians. We arrived with 4 veterinarians. We were given a lecture from one of the Corrections Officers about the nature of people in New Orleans. It was not a positive picture. His last experience there had been with the prisoners that had been trapped on the I-10 bridge. I know I had some concerns after his description and half expected some of my compatriots to back out. The 100 mile trip took almost 5 hours with parking lot status on I-10 varying to trying to keep up with the other (veterinarian's) truck going 85 MPH (my '88 Toyota doesn't do that).
Winn Dixie Parking Lot
For me, this was were the impact of the hurricane actually hit. The Winn Dixie site is one of several site operated by a variety of organizations striving to address the plight of the animals affected by the storm. Many of the big organizations are involved with very worthy efforts. One thing that I noticed is that the plan seemed to change on an almost daily basis. First you would be deployed one place and then by the time arrangements were being finalized that place would be "demobilizing". In a way this worked out to my advantage. However, it was certainly NOT to the advantage of dog trapped in houses and on roof tops or cats hiding from packs of roving pit bull terriers.
The shot above is a panorama of the parking lot. The Winn Dixie is boarded up. The parking lot is wide open and covered with tents, dog kennels and campers. The admission / distribution areas are the blue and white tents on the left. The cat area is under the right side of the Winn Dixie. The only place to walk dogs was along the sidewalks about the parking lot and in the flooded areas adjacent to the parking lot. The area was patrolled regularly by police, sheriff deputies and and National Guard patrols. From dawn to about 10 PM there was a constant stream of animals coming in, going out, being walked, people coming in seeking their missing pets and people coming in with sick animals who's veterinarians facilities had been destroyed. This was the closest thing to total chaos that I have ever seen. There was no formal structure to the way things are done. In general nobody was formally in charge. Several of the people that I THINK are in charge wore guns. There was a general feeling that things were secure with respect to our safety but I don't think you would want to walk off of the parking lot without a friend and not at all after dark.
The admissions area. Now remember that it is hot and there are about 30 strange dogs in this tent and about 30 in the next tent and about 30 in the next tent and another 75 on the parking lot and 30 cats and various reptiles. Only the reptiles were quiet. There are fans all over the place and (since there is no electricity) generators running from about 6:30 AM to 10 PM. In other words it was noisy all the time everywhere including after the generators were turned off. These dogs were NOT used to their current situation. There were no dividers between cages, no sound absorbing tiles, no real rules as to walking around making noise that kept the dogs awake. Those of you that know me will be surprised to hear me say that I got used to it . . . sorta'.
This was where "power" seemed to come from. If you wanted to get something, change something or see what to do you asked someone at this desk. There was very little here except for sheets of paper, cardboard, plastic bags, pens, magic markers and duct tape here. My favorites were duct tape and magic markers for issuing my medical instructions. I liked the WIDE magic markers and the WIDE duct tape. Many of the dogs (mostly boxers and pit bulls) cages were locked. Again the concern that the dogs would be stolen. Locked cages were the only way to make SURE that a special set of instructions was followed (most of the time). Only one person had the key (CERTAINLY not me). All of this said I did not meet one person there that was not trying to help the animals. This place was full of caring people, crazy people, young people, old people, big people, small people, bankers, vagrants . . . every kind of people but every person I met here was trying to help the animals.
Every animal that came in was supposed to (and MOST did) come past this point and were given a number and a card and an admission form, photographed for "Petfinder" and then most came looking for us (the veterinarians) for admission. We tried to examine each animal, microchip them, check for heartworm disease (90% had it) and then each was assigned a cage.
A view from the other side of the animal area. You can see the cages and fans. I expected overheating in animals to be rampant but the shade, the fans, plenty of water (100% bottled water) seemed to be effective. The only problem I saw with heat stress was in the dogs that had just arrived or that were feeling too good and were overactive. Low levels of tranquilizers solved that problem in all cases I saw.
This was a picture taken off of the web site of the folks that organized this party (Disaster Response Animal Rescue) . This was the typical arrival of a new pet other than the ones that owners coming in during the day that they were surrendering because they could no longer take care of them. These dogs were trapped after wandering for the last 7 weeks. They were scared, weak and cornered. Some were glad to be there, many were just scared, weak and cornered. The cats were worse. They were scared, weak and cornered after having been hiding from packs of roving pit bulls for 7 weeks. I found it best to get them into a cage, give them some food and water and wait about 12 hours before pushing them with an exam. The people bringing these dogs in, the animal rescue folks, looked scared weak and cornered too. Many had been at this since early September.
Some of the veterinarians wanted to go on animal rescue missions. I guess I would have like to if for no other reason then to see what it was like. However, I didn't leave the parking lot during the time I was there. There was always more to do then there was time, there was always a line of people waiting to ask you about something or with an animal with a problem. One veterinarian that did go out was bitten and spent 2-3 hours each day for the next 3 days trying to get either a rabies shot or a titer drawn . . . without success. Mary can tell you about animal rescue if she wants. One thing I WILL tell you is that New Orleans if full of animals that are either running loose or still trapped in their homes. Many are still alive as you will see later. Every day animals came in that had been trapped since the storm. 52 days on the day I left. They still need our help though it is getting increasingly too late. Many people had not been ALLOWED back to their homes until shortly before I left.
I had a "uniform" that I wore (vest with gear, "fanny pack" with gear, scrubs, etc.). When I needed to eat I would take them off and sneak out the back way.
This nondescript dog was probably my favorite . . . I'm not sure exactly why. He was just a quiet Labrador. Like most dogs that came in he developed diarrhea shortly after arrival. As slow as you would try to introduce food it was inevitable that it would overwhelm their digestive tract. It was hard to control the amount of food that the hundreds of volunteers would give (and a case of pig ears could give a hundred dogs diarrhea).
He got over the diarrhea soon enough and was still there when I left. I don't think we had a specific home address for him (he was trapped) and I thought of bringing him back with me. I'm sure he will be an adoptable dog if he can get out of there OK.
As I said there were all kinds of people at Winn Dixie. This dog illustrates thing a little. The dog in the picture had a vaginal prolapse or vaginal hyperplasia meaning that she had vaginal tissue protruding from the vaginal opening and she traumatized it and was bleeding all over the place. I sedated her, placed sutures to protect her from self trauma, gave her antibiotics and put her back in the cage to recover. This 65 year old woman felt that it was important for someone to be with her during the recovery so she spent the next 8 hours in this position. At Foothills Animal Hospital this dog would have simply been walked at lunch time and checked on about once every 30 minutes. During the day I was yelled at by at least 2 people because I didn't go ahead and take her to a local clinic and "spay" her. While it is true that that would be great to do, in general, if this happened to a patient at Foothills Animal Hospital the "spay" would be scheduled in the next few weeks since it is not an emergency. It would, of course, taken most of a day to get across town to spay her, do the surgery, recover her and get back with her. Remember, it took 2-3 hours for my fellow vet to drive across town each day and not get her rabies vaccination. The other side, both the older lady and the people yelling at me THOUGHT they were doing what needed to be done to help the animal. I had to get used to not being able to just tell them to just "shut up"!
Dawn. Winn Dixie parking lot. The empty gas cans from running generators. The generators were starting to fall apart when I got there. They were leaking oil like crazy. Finally one failed. The next day somebody shows up with 4 brand new generators. That's the way it was.
Our work area. "The clinic" was located under the overhang of the front of the store. Obviously sanitation was a problem. As you can see there were a lot of supplies. We had no real refrigeration though we did have coolers. The veterinarian on the left was from Wisconsin (I think), the technician on the right was from Germany (I think). One major problem was the turnover of personnel in the veterinary group. I wasn't aware of any veterinarian that was there for more than a week. I can understand why the place wasn't under the supervision of a veterinarian. I'm sure each veterinarian arrived, saw the chaos and said there has to be a better way. I'm sure there is. However, with the revolving door of veterinary personnel, and a core of non-veterinarians that had been there since the first part of September, the place had lots of potential leaders. I felt that it was best to suggest ways that things could be made better but I don't think making demands worked. I tried to organize a single treatment list and tried to pass that protocol on to the group that was taking over after I left. I think that we need to sit down after this is all over and find a way to organize this for the next Katrina and Rita. However, the fact that you see probably $15,000 worth of drugs and supplies sitting in view that came out of nowhere that were given to me (and my co-workers) and we were simply told "do what you do" is remarkable.
I don't know where things came from. People came around and asked what we needed. The things we asked for in medical supplies took longer than other types of things. One tech came in and spent most of a day going through what we had and found lots of things that I needed but didn't know I had. I don't know what her name was. I just called her the iPod lady. However, in general we had most of what we needed.
There was one major exception to this. We had no vaccine. I'm not sure why this was. It may have been because of the lack of refrigeration. It scares me that we had all of these animals coming in, staying for 3 days and being shipped out around the country. That's too soon to see who was going to break with contagious disease. I hope we weren't shipping animals that were incubating canine parvovirus around the country. That said, we had NO dogs break with what I was sure was parvovirus. The dogs that had been diagnosed with parvovirus that were in isolation had NOT been tested positive and did well.
In the entire time that I was at Winn Dixie I saw NO animal die. I do not understand how this could be. We shipped out one cat to it's regular veterinarian that I don't have a good feeling about. I don't even know what you would do with an animal that died since none did. I've gotta' tell you that there would normally be at least one fatality in my own clinic during this time period. I consider my client pet population to be living in a protected environment with good preventive health.
Richard Crook and Mark Martin. As I understand it these two were responsible for starting the effort at Winn Dixie along with Shannon Martin. Disaster Response Animal Rescue seems to come from nowhere. I'm not sure where they are headed. However, if you needed anything you could go to these guys and whatever it was would usually show up . . . quickly. I think that one of these guys owned a pet supply company in New Orleans.
Our "Cat Ladies" from DCI preceded us in the exodus to Winn Dixie. However, they were only at Winn Dixie for a day. This was the next head Cat Lady. There were about 6 or 7 people working in Cat Land. Since all of the cages were under the overhang of the store they were protected from the weather (except for hurricane Rita) but there was NO protection from escape if a cat got out of your grip. You can imagine what working with a cat that was soaked in New Orleans ooze, hunted by pit bulls for 7 weeks and then trapped in a live trap was like. However, in general the people in Cat Land had them workable in a day or two. There was an enclosure around a Camper on the parking lot where feral cats were being tamed (?) and kept that was a little secure. In most cases we just let the Cat People calm them with minimal stress for a day before we worked with them. There was one extremely scared cat that came in suffering from toxin exposure that could not be handled safely without escape. The best plan I thought was to wait until it got sick enough that it couldn't resist much so we could get hands on it. With the aid of (very low dose) drugs I could then bath it and give it fluids to help flush the toxins out of her body. We were lucky enough that she seemed to respond very well and the Cat Land people were petting her and she was eating before I left.
One other thing about the previous picture and the one on the right is what looks like piles of junk laying around everywhere. These were the stacks of donated supplies. For most things if you needed something you just had to ask which pile to look in. There were piles of every sort of dog food including almost all of the big name "premium quality" foods. There were piles of disinfectants, there were piles of food bowls. There were piles of collars. There were piles of water and gatorade and toothpaste and toothbrushes and meals-ready-to-eat and hand wash and there were piles jugs of gasoline for the generators and piles of band aides. On unique pile was out by the Porta-lavoratories. There were piles of every size of men's and women's underwear and socks. There was a food tent with a zipper door where there was food available around the clock. The morning and lunch stuff was what you might expect . . mostly MRI's and nonperishable snacks. However, every evening somebody delivered a hot meal that really wasn't bad. It was a problem that I am a vegetarian but I admit I broke that pledge during the week. If you were healthy and had a tent you could basically live on what was available for free at the Winn Dixie parking lot. You couldn't take a shower but neither could anybody else! I did wash off with a garden hose each morning as best you could out in the open on a Winn Dixie parking lot at 6 AM.
The Yellow and blue tent was mine. This was very convenient for grabbing something out of the tent or truck but it would probably been better for sleeping if it was a little further away from the noise. They shut off the generators well before I was done for the day and I (mostly) got used to the barking dogs. The Porta-Lavs were right behind me in taking this picture but mostly people were so tired there wasn't much traffic after I went to bed or before I was up.
This is Sugar. She came in at noon the last day I was in New Orleans. Her owner had just been able to go to her home on October 17th. She had been left in her house with 3 bowls of food on August 28th. The house was had 3 feet of water inside so I assume that the bowls of food didn't make it past August 29. How she survived I don't know. However, every day there were several dogs or cats that came in that had been trapped for 7 or more weeks. The point of writing all of this is that they still need help. There are several groups of active animal rescuers still out there and they will be there until it there are none left to be helped. That I'm sure about. They are now being resisted by government officials just as they were early (the decision not to let pets in shelters). I'm sure that there is two sides to every story but Sugar is an example that proves that there is still work to be done. If you can spare the time grab your tent and head to one of the sites to help. If you can't spare your time but can spare the money try to provide what you can to those organizations that are staying with the effort. If you can't spare time or money then send your prayers, or better yet your letters and e-mails to government official supporting the rescue effort. Send a letter supporting the DCI program providing long term sheltering in Louisiana. Sugar's mom is living on a cruise ship in New Orleans harbor. She has called almost every day to see how Sugar is doing. She definitely wants Sugar back as soon as she can get her home back.
Disaster Response Animal Rescue
Best Friends Animal Rescue
HSUS (Humane Society of the United States)