Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast almost two months ago. Sandy has long been off the front pages and for the most part out of our minds and thoughts.
Unfortunately, for the areas effected, Sandy is a daily thought and reality. For the people of Sandy, the reality has been much different. The reality hit me square in the face the 10 days leading up to Christmas as I deployed to New York City to work in an emergency boarding facility with the ASPCA.
Prior to this deployment, the South Shore Disaster Animal Rescue Team collected donations of blankets, food, kitty litter, dog toys and other animal-related supplies and delivered them to the affected areas.
The much-needed supplies were used and various agencies continued to supply the facility with supplies. Thanks to the continued financial support of private citizens, and local companies like Canton Fence, Windsor Tire, Ace Hardware, Bob's Ski-Doo, Great Scott Kennels and Lloyd's Animal Hospital, we are able to continue to provide local and national animal rescue support.
I saw first hand how much these supplies were needed and how quickly
they were used when I arrived in New York City for my first day of deployment. The emergency boarding facility housed animals that had owners who, because of Sandy, either did not have a place to live or were living in a place that the pets
could not accompany them.
Owners were allowed to visit the animals, and the animals were housed, fed, socialized and they even had a full medical staff on hand, all free of charge to the owners. Yes, free of charge!!
The number of animals in the shelter were in the hundreds, and the work that needed to be accomplished each day was staggering.
The morning started at 5 a.m. with a morning briefing, then off to feed the animals. We would return to where we were staying each night around 7:30 p.m. Each day, more than a dozen volunteers would work 10 to 12 hour shifts to care for these animals. That is a minimum of 150 man hours per day!!
My job at the ASPCA emergency boarding facility was to work with the individual animals by keeping them happy and relaxed. This meant special treats that would keep the animals busy, other days it meant rawhides!
I would go kennel to kennel and socialize each animal by interacting with them and training them to sit or give a paw. At the same time, I would asses each animal and make sure they were stress-free and generally happy. Each animal would get a special sign on their enclosure that said things like “Ask me to sit so I can get a treat” or “Rub my Belly.” This was to allow volunteers to interact with each animal and make them happy and comfortable as possible.
On several occasions, pet owners would come and visit. I would talk to the pet owners about their animal so I could learn more about them, their likes and dislikes, so I could make the animal as happy as possible. I also heard some very touching and heart-wrenching stories. Each story was a story of great sadness and triumph at the same time. People who lost everything and trying, dayby
day, to start over and rebuild their lives.
One night as we were all getting ready to leave, a man walked into the shelter with a picture of his dog. His dog has been missing since the storm. This man had not stopped looking for his dog in two months. His dog was with us. The only
information we had for him was a home number that went to a house that was
destroyed. He was contacted by a team of people tracking people down to reunite
them with their pets. He walked over to his dog and the man dropped to his
knees sobbing uncontrollably. The dog was bursting with excitement, his tail
whipping back and forth as he bounded on his owner licking him feverishly!
There was not a dry eye in the facility.
As the man was finishing the paperwork to take his dog, he explained
that though he had nothing left from Sandy, he now had everything.
An army of more than 600 volunteers from 20 states took their vacation time to spend a minimum of seven days to work long days, doing hard work, to help the animals affected by Sandy.
I was just one person out of many who have and continue to work at this ASPCA emergency boarding facility to help with Sandy relief efforts. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the community, the South Shore Disaster Animal Rescue Team has been able todeploy three times and deliver much-needed supplies to animal victims of Superstorm Sandy. Thank you for your continued support.