Early Saturday morning, Toni and Kate arrived back at Red Door with the Louisiana animals:
*Gumbo, aka "Tootie," an orange tabby cat who was found in a junkyard in New Orleans; he comes complete with his discharge papers from the LA SPCA/Hurricane shelter at Lamar Dixon in Gonzales; *Chickory and Beignet, two female cockatiels, one pearl-faced and the other pied; *Dixie, a carmel and white female rex rabbit; and *Louis, a black and white Dutch who appears to be about 5 months old.
All the animals are currently at Animal 911 and Chicago Exotics [http://www.exoticpetvet.com] in Skokie, getting checked out. When last seen, Toni and Kate were heading to their homes for some well-deserved rest.
At 8 pm Friday night, Toni, Kate and the animals had traveled from Baton Rouge to southern Illinois. We think they're anxious to get home!
They finally stopped for the night in Salem; first, they tried to check into a Comfort Inn, but the animals weren't allowed in the room! However, a Super 8 motel welcomed everyone, including all the animals--1 cat, 2 rabbits, 2 cockatiels. Toni and Kate sounded tired, but the cockatiels were twittering in the background.
Their expected Chicago arrivaldate: late Saturday morning. All the animals are going directly to Animal 911 in Skokie, where Dr. Gia Gallegos, Red Door's volunteer medical director, and the staff will check them out. Dr. Susan Horton, of Chicago Exotics, will examine the birds.
We're hoping that at least two of the animals will be able to accept an invitation to appear early Monday morning--around 6 a.m.--on Steve Dale's segment on WGN-TV, Channel 9.
Friday Morning--Toni & Kate hit the road, heading back to Chicago. Accompanying them in the air-conditioned van are several animals rescued from Louisiana, including two cockatiels, rabbits and 1 cat. They'll be stopping somewhere along the way--maybe Blytheville, Arkansas or some place in Missouri? We'll get an update from them tonight.
This morning Toni and Kate traveled to Lousiana State University's staging area in Baton Rouge to help out and to look for any surrendered animals that they can bring back to Chicago. There is a veterinary school there, so medical care was plentiful. Still, with hundreds of animals--some abandoned, some rescued, some temporarily surrendered--to care for, the need for volunteers was great.
Quickly, however, they learned that no animals would be released from LSU, either. Because of animal theft, no one--not even the owner of a pet--was allowed to remove any animal from L.S.U.'s care. Dogs were in cages inside the sports coliseum, lined up according to breed; cats were in cages that lined the hallways of the vet school. There was no air conditioning in the coliseum, but box fans were being used. Both here and at the Lamar-Dixon staging area they report that the police and military presence is a little scary. Still, these groups are doing the best they can.
From Toni's journal: "The difference between Lamar-Dixon and L.S.U. is night and day. Everything here is very organized. You sign up to work a specific shift, have a group orientation, and then are escorted to your assigned duty....We spoke to an exotics veterinarian about the conditions at Lamar Dixon and our concern for the exotics animals there. This vet said that a team of doctors were going to Lamar Dixon that night to help with medical exams. She promised us that they would check on the exotics and try to get them transferred to L.S.U."
Later today they traveled west of Baton Rouge to Lafayette, where they met up with some animal rescue groups, including Zoo-Zoom Exotic Animal Rescue. Because the hurricane evacuation route from New Orleans runs west through Lafayette and on to Houston, many evacuees gave up their pets at the Lafayette Humane Society, which had a staging area in Blackham Arena. Any surrendered exotic animal was transferred to Zoo-Zoom, an exotic animal rescue farm run by Brett and Lori Matte.
Zoo-Zoom has hundreds of animals: rabbits, ferrets, chickens, wallabies, deer, goats, potbelly pigs, ducks and sugar gliders. Kate and Toni happily took two rabbits and two cockatiels who had been surrendered by their owners. Three box turtles almost joined the Red Door crowd, but at the last moment the turtles were determined to be too little to make the trip. The birds and rabbits will be joined by two cats rescued by Cat Haven, and all will begin the journey back to Chicago tomorrow.
Late Wed. evening---The temperature dropped slightly, but it's still hot and humid. Toni and Kate spent some time exploring the other pavilions at Lamar-Dixon. They found over 400 horses are stabled there, along with some of the French Quarter mules. Although they had repeatedly asked various volunteers where the exotic animals, like rabbits, were being held, no one knew. Most volunteers told them that no exotics were being held at Gonzales. One woman said she had been there two weeks and never seen a bird or a rabbit.
Still, they discovered the exotics pavillion, tucked into a corner of pavillion #1, where the cats are housed. From Toni's journal: "There are dozens of doves, several parrots, a few chicken and ducks--and a stall full of rabbits, hamster, rats, ferrets, turtles and guinea pigs. 11 rabbits are housed here, including one who is going to give birth any day now. All of them are living in un-air-conditioned quarters in this heat, with just a roof over their heads. Several box fans are blowing on them....Someone has been smart enough to freeze water bottles and put them in the cages with the rabbits, to try to cut down on heat stroke.
"We're concerned for these animals, but due to bureaucratic red tape, NO animal is allowed to be released to any rescue group. A vet rushes by us, calling out for Critical Care. She is carrying a sickly guinea pig. We give her our only jar from the van. She thanks us and heads for the medical pavillion. "
Back at the main desk, a man arrived carrying a tortoise he had found. The person manning the desk said that no turtles or tortoises were at Gonzales, but Kate told them that actually all the exotics were housed in pavillion #1.
According to Louisiana state law, none of these animals--dogs, cats, rabbits, birds--will be allowed to leave Gonzales for at least another 14 days, in case their human companions come looking for them.
Finally, the two were back on the road to Baton Rouge, a 20 minute drive, where they will be staying the night at the house of Cathy Wells of Cat Haven. In two days, Toni and Kate have traveled over 900 miles and ended up in a completely different universe.
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."
This morning, after receiving updated tetnus and hepatitus vaccines, Red Door volunteers Toni and Kate headed south on a mission to help the animals left stranded by Hurricane Katrina. Red Door is the only Chicago shelter sending workers and supplies directly to the front lines!Our daring duo drove many hours through southern Illinois, took brief sidesteps through Missouri and Arkansas, had a quick nod at Memphis and settled in for the evening at a hotel in the tiny town of Batesville, Mississippi. I just spoke with them and while exhausted from over 10 hours of driving, they are very excited to make the rest of the trip in the morning.
Tomorrow they'll go about another 330 miles to Gonzales, Louisiana--the site of the Lamar-Dixon staging area where thousands of homeless animals are being housed and cared for. We've worked with volunteers on the ground in Gonzales for the last week to determine what their needs are and to bring as many supplies as we can.
I'll bring you more news tomorrow when Kate and Toni phone me with an update.
Here’s a list of the items we have collected so far to assist with the Hurricane Katrina animal rescue effort. We worked closely with individuals on the ground in Mississippi and Louisiana to determine exactly what is needed. Some of these items have already been shipped to Mississippi; some are in the van going to Gonzales, LA with our volunteer rescue team. We have more items to ship and are in need of additional donations to assist with postage! Checks sent to Red Door should be designated "Hurricane Katrina" in the memo line.
Thanks so much to everyone who gave items!
Cages & Crates 30-35 Cat Carriers 15 Small Dog Crates 7 Large Dog Crates 10 Cages/Crates 7 Collapsible large Dog Crates 2 Hamster Habitats 2 Bird Cages 2 Large Pens
Food & Litter 10 25 pound bags of clay cat litter 5 25 pound tubs of scoopable litter 4 25 pound bags of Yesterday’s News 5 bags of varied sizes of other litter 2 bags of Oxbow rabbit Pellets 2 bags of bird seed 25 30 pound bags of varied dry cat food 15 10 pound bags of varied dry cat food 75-100 cans of varied cat food 20 30 pound bags of varied dry dog food 50 cans of varied dog food
Other Pet Supplies 35 water and food bowls varied sizes 30 small cage litter boxes 20 large litter boxes 20 disposable litterboxes 10 litter scoops 6 water bottles 2000 paper plates 10 dog and cat beds 100 towels/sheets 200 toys/chews 150 leashes/collars varied sizes
Cleaning and General Supplies 15 boxes of 50 pairs of latex gloves 5 bottles hand sanitizer 75 garbage bags 100 ziplock bags 2 pairs industrial work gloves 4 fans 5 flashlights 5 batteries 5 extension cords Case of bottled water Non perishable snacks for rescue workers
Medical Supplies 20 Cotton/Gauze pads 15 bottles of Dog/Cat Shampoo 5 bottles ear cleaning wash 2 bottles eye wash 20 boxes of SQ Fluids (10-15 bags of fluids in each box) 100 Needles/Syringes
Office and Packing Supplies 20 note pads 20 post-it note pads 30 rolls of packing tape 40 packing boxes
Thanks so much to all the volunteers who have been bringing donations to the shelter--both cash and goods--for the Hurricane Katrina animal rescue effort. Today a number of Red Door volunteers plus members of the Best Friends Brigade came and helped to sort and package items. Seventeen boxes were immediately shipped to the Best Friends Rescue Site in Mississippi. The rest of the items will be driven to the Lamar-Dixon animal rescue staging area in Gonzales, LA.
Two Red Door volunteers, Toni Greetis and Kate Walpole, will be making the journey to Gonzales on Tuesday. We'll keep you updated on their trip and their efforts!
CeeCee was abandoned on the south side of Chicago and came to live at Red Door in 2003. He is a great cat – an affectionate, lap cat. Unfortunately, he is not the most mannerly of felines--he has a nasty habit of nipping people, which turned most adopters off. We wondered if this fickle fellow would be living out the rest of his days in the shelter.
Today, CeeCee was finally adopted. Hooray! The woman who adopted him is an experienced cat person. He nipped her, too, but she didn’t seem to mind.
I guess there really is someone for everyone. We'll miss you, CeeCee, but we're glad that finally you are home.