Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Arriving in Gonzales

Toni and Kate made it to Gonzales, LA today and reported to the Lamar-Dixon staging area. Lamar-Dixon is a huge place--2 miles long, 500 yards wide-- these fairgrounds are usually used for horse shows. Right now, it's holding a little bit of everything; the amount of animals housed there is staggering--thousands of dogs, cats, horses, exotics--unbelievable.

From Toni's journal: "The Lamar Dixon fairground is surrounded by parked semis, vans, RVs, and military vehicles. Tent cities, where round-the-clock volunteers are living, dot the outer areas. Stepping out of our air-condition van, we know we are in hell. The temperature is 99 F but it feels more like 120 degrees. The heat is oppressive, the smell of manure permeates the air and the sounds of incessant barking and plantive howling fill our ears....We unload donated items at the "supply depot," an unofficial mound of cages, boxes, palettes, towels, medical supplies and everything else. There are other vans like ours unloading, as well as semi-trailers with palettes of food and water. No one is sorting these items--there isn't time, I guess. Volunteers just come and grab what they need as they need it. Sometimes grocery carts are filled with cleaning supplies and then pushed to certain areas.

"Vets and vet techs are dressed in scrubs or VMAT t-shirts. The U.S. Army is dressed in full fatigues with MP armbands. And USDA agents are, curiously, dressed as ordinary civilians -- you can tell who they are, though, by their clipboards and walkie-talkies.

"At the end of the fairgrounds, there are public showers set up and policed by the Army. Washers and dryers are available for volunteers to clean their clothes and to wash the bedding for the animals. There is a cooling tent and a Red Cross first aid tent."

More from Toni and Kate's observations--
Lamar Dixon is divided into five pavillions:
#1--contains cats. It's located at the furthest end from the dogs. Each horse stall is covered with camouflage netting to create a quieter environment for the cats. There are 4 to 6 cages in each stall, along with a box fan. There appear to be around 300 cats there.
#2--is the triage center for the veterinarians, techs and animals needing intensive care. Toni and Kate dropped off Red Door's donated medical supplies there.
#3 & 4--is filled with horses and ponies. Horses are getting hay, farrier care and a walk in the show ring behind the pavillions.
#5--houses all the dogs who are not critically injured. Aggressive dogs are kept to one side, and only authorized volunteers are allowed in to deal with them. Other dogs are housed randomly in crates, 3 to 6 per stall.

Kate and Toni asked to work with exotic animals, but they were told there are none at Lamar Dixon. Instead, they got their assignment from the lead volunteer corridinator of pavillion #5. They spent many hours working as a pair with the dogs--one would walk dogs while the other would clean cages, then they would alternate. Walks were considered a luxury for the dogs, done only if there are volunteers interested in doing so. Also, there are few fans in the dog pavillion, so many of the dogs--who are panting non-stop--have vomited in their cages from the heat and stress. So there was a lot of necessary and messy cleaning up to do. Since there were a number of empty, larger cages in the dog pavilion, Toni and Kate "upgraded" as many dogs as they could into larger crates. They also spent time visiting with some of the cats.

From Toni's journal: "We try to give as much attention to the dogs as we could. They are grateful for a treat and every pet on the head....There is a scared senior citizen Chihuahua cramped into a pet carrier. We find him a bigger space and a soft blanket for a bed. Also there are two Yorkies housed together in one cage, begging for our attention. One has a huge wound on his forehead. We take them for a walk and volunteers stop to admire them. It's a bit comforting in all the chaos for volunteers to see these 2 cuties. Even though they have each other for support, I start crying when I have to put them back in their cage. And once I start crying, I can't stop."

No comments: