Members of the Vajrayana Buddhist organization presented a firsthand account of the pet rescue work that is being done as a result of Hurricane Katrina at a recent PAWS meeting. The group received 130 dogs at their facility last week and is struggling to provide food, shelter, medical care and attention to the needy victims of the horrible disaster.
Kunzang talked about how their serene lifestyle on 160 acres in the Tonto National Forest has been transformed to a nonstop program of feeding, caring for special needs and cleaning up after the animals. The Buddhist mission is to engage in a compassionate activity. This activity is providing both a challenge and endless rewards.
Residents of the Buddhist Sanctuary worked diligently preparing pens, shelter and kennels for the dogs. They also needed to bring in food, dishes and bedding. Imagine receiving 130 dogs at one time. Some are sick. All are weak and suffering from malnutrition.
Cian Fleming was one of those volunteers who walked through waist-high water in New Orleans rescuing pets. Many animals, alive, dying and dead, were seen along the way. They knocked on doors and if they heard a sound, they would enter, hoping to rescue a pet. Some of the doors had large Xs, meaning that a dead person was inside. Fleming recalls vividly a rescue that brought them to the top part of a flooded home. A dog greeted them, but would not come near. The dog kept backing up, trying to get them to follow. There, tightly wedged and unable to move, was another dog, that was badly hurt. After freeing that dog, they placed him on a piece of plywood and brought him to safety, where he soon received needed medical attention. Once the injured dog was rescued, the first dog followed willingly.
As of last week, 100 pets a day were still being taken out of New Orleans.
Many who were forced to leave their pets behind left a large quantity of food and water for them, but in the weeks following the hurricane, the food was consumed. Dogs were out in the flooded streets drinking contaminated water and searching for anything they could eat.
Rescue workers save the pets they can and leave food and water for those they cannot reach.
"It changed my life," Fleming said. "It was so hard to see all these poor souls and not be able to help them all."
The goal is to help the dogs become healthy and then make every attempt to reunite them with their owners. In the meantime, foster homes are being sought. The Buddhist community sees themselves as part of the process. "The pets will move on to foster homes and then new homes if their owners are not found," said Kunzang.
As some are moved out, more are being brought in. Best Friends Pet Sanctuary of Utah arranged air transportation for all the dogs. They microchipped each dog, took a photo and recorded all known information. Each dog has a case history. An anonymous donor made all this possible.
Alice Louise spoke of an evening when they were in the common area of their building. She looked up to see a dog standing outside the door. The dog had gotten out of his pen, but rather than running away, the dog came to where there were people. She let him in and he shared her bed. "You just can tell that most of these dogs are used to being in the house and close to their people," Alice Louise said. "The emotional strain on the dogs is evident."
The sanctuary is in need of volunteers, supplies, treats and doghouses. Blankets and other bedding are most welcome as winter approaches. The dogs are from a much warmer climate. Bones, chew toys, leashes, collars, dishes and treats are also needed. Due to poor health, each dog is being given a hard-boiled egg each day. If you can help, call or e-mail Donna Rokoff at email@example.com or call (928) 474-1542.
This disastrous situation emphasizes the need for proper identification for our pets. At Dog Day in the Park Oct. 22, you will be able to get your dog microchipped and obtain dog tags and licenses.
Also, you can see if your dog is a Canine Good Citizen. The test will be given from noon to 3 p.m., according to demand.
In order to become a Canine Good Citizen, the dog must pass a 10-step test. The test includes: accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, appearance and grooming, walking on a loose leash, walking through a crowd, sit and down on command (staying in place), coming when called, reaction to another dog, reaction to distractions and supervised separation. If you think your dog is a good citizen, let him try the test. Stop by the Canine Good Citizen booth at the pet fair.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.