Thursday, March 22, 2007

Make a Wish, Blow out the Candles

“It was ten years ago last night when I first decided how I would spend this day, March 21, 2007. It was after the initial free fall, but before the first bounce was completed when I decided that it was going to have to be something big, something even more crazy than that night. It was my 30th birthday and I wanted to do something to make me feel alive, so, along with 4 other friends, friends with names I can't recall, we marked the occasion with a birthday bungee jump...well, I jumped, they watched. And then we returned from Florida and I returned to my independent and solitary lifestyle. There were very few things I needed back then and people, well I needed even fewer of them. But that was then and what I didn't count on was a disaster which altered my 10-year and 20-year plans, and what I didn't count on was you people to complicate those plans.”

The excerpt above is from a letter I sent two nights ago, March 20, 2007, to my fellow volunteers with Animal Rescue New Orleans, or ARNO. My letter was one of gratitude that had to be expressed to them because within a few short hours I would be reaching yet another milestone in my life.....I would turn 40 the very next day, and it was because of them that I would face that monumental day very differently than I had originally planned, on a crazy night, ten years ago, a lifetime and just yesterday.

Although my animal rescue efforts began 18 months ago in order to help the animals impacted by Katrina, there is no doubt in my mind that my work, specifically my work with ARNO, has forever changed the way that I am and the person that others know. Because ARNO continues to focus on the animals which remain on the streets of this region, including feeding when needed, trapping, rehabilitation and adoption, my own work with the group as a feeder/trapper has literally forced me to become a people person and my perspective, my outlook on life are so different because of it. And two nights ago, when I thought of the birthday still to come, I couldn’t help but think about the turn my life had taken: ten years ago, I needed adrenalin and action to feel alive, now, I need only the friendships I have been honored with, friendships because my life itself had become action. So as I sent my words of appreciation and crawled into bed, it was with a sense of peaceful satisfaction that I realized that I wouldn’t have to jump out of that airplane after all because the only thing that surpasses the rush of a manufactured adventure, is a shared adventure with a new friend.



"Carver Louis"




A GIFT FOR MEREDITH

I first met Carver Louis on the afternoon of my 40th birthday, right where I knew I would find him, curled up in the parking lot next to a youth center in a very poor section of this city, New Orleans. I went to this parking lot to find Carver Louis, well, I went to this parking lot to find a skinny white cat with gray patches because he was special and because he was waiting for me.


My 40th was filled with friends and happiness. My law firm friends threw a birthday “funeral” for me and I was overwhelmed at the efforts they went to in order to make me feel special. As you might expect, I received gifts, but what took me by surprise was just how many of those had the word “Friend” somewhere on the gift......angel, a flower pot, a conglomeration, all declaring friendship. You see I’m certain that my work in the animal world, my work with ARNO, has carried over into my real-life world, you know the one where I am forced to spend time so that I can pay the bills....and the payoff? More friends. My life is no longer filled with co-workers, bosses, secretaries, my life is filled and fulfilled with friends. My animal rescue friends left me in tears as I read there precious words of how they feel about me and my 40th is one I will cherish because of who it was shared with and not because of what I did to mark the day. When I looked back at the day last night, I knew that I was blessed because finally, people fill my life and I felt even more blessed because I made a new friend on this birthday, although, she doesn’t know it yet. Her name is Meredith and when I blew out the candles at the end of the day, the thing I wished for, the ONLY thing I wished for was that I could find a way to get a very special gift to Meredith, I wished for some way, somehow, please let me find a way for me to get Carver Louis to Meredith.

It was through two other friends, one in London, one in California, that I first learned about Meredith and how she wanted desperately to help a cat in New Orleans. Meredith, as it turned out, lives in St. Louis but she had been here, to my city, at some point in the recent past and although I was not sure what it was that she actually did while she was here, I learned that she was here as a volunteer, one of hundreds, thousands, that have graced this city with their selflessness and their time and their efforts to help it, us, recover from Katrina, the disaster like no other. I learned that while Meredith was here, she fell completely in love with a skinny white cat with gray patches who lived in the parking lot of the youth center she stayed at. I learned that Meredith fed this cat and because he was friendly, and because the neighborhood children were cruel to the cat, I learned that she contacted the local humane society/animal control with a request for this cat to be taken to safety. And then, as she had to, as they all have to, she returned to her life, far from this city, but somewhere along her trip back to normalcy, I learned that she got the call that regretfully informed her that no, there was no room for another stray cat.
You don’t really need the detailed specifics to figure out that a woman who cared enough to befriend and care for this lonely cat, as well as, make efforts to have him removed from this situation, was now willing to do anything to give this cat a home herself.

After his third can of food, all wolfed down in record speed, after I pulled him out of my truck which he willingly jumped in, I placed the skinny white cat with gray patches into a carrier and talked to people in the neighborhood.....I had no intention of stealing a beloved pet, but after those conversations, some of which contained the phrase “damn cat” I was confident that this little guy was nobody’s friend....nobody’s friend except for Meredith. It was halfway during the drive to ARNO that I named him Carver Louis.....Carver for the name of the center at which he has spent his entire life curled up in its parking lot, and Louis because I knew right then that no matter what I had to do, no matter who I had to beg, I would find a way to get him to St. Louis.....Carver Louis, you’re going to be with your friend, Meredith, and nobody is going to throw rocks at you again, I promise.

I have already mentioned that Meredith is my new friend, and hopefully, when she reads this, she will consider me her friend as well. Meredith was my friend before I met Carver Louis, before I even knew he existed, but she was nameless, she was one of many who I feel compelled to express thanks, awe, wonder, emotions I am not entirely sure of, but they are there and I don’t often get to express them because these nameless volunteers, these people that amazingly continue to pass in and out of this city in which time has seemingly stood still, these are my city’s heroes, its guardian angels, its reason for those of us who call this place home to continue to keep their precious gift to us alive, their gift of Hope.

I will do whatever I have to do so that Carver Louis can join Meredith in a place I’ve never been. Animal Rescue New Orleans, ARNO, has already taken that first step to make my wish a reality and given Carver his very own condo. I will check on Carver Louis late tonight at its shelter, after trapping, to make sure he is safe and warm in his bed, or maybe resting in the hammock he seemed to love so much yesterday and although I didn’t know it when I scooped him up, I guess I did know that ARNO would not let Carver Louis down and so he will take a trip to the veterinarian, likely his first, to be neutered, vaccinated, the works. I knew that ARNO would help this boy out, that is what they do.

If you would like to help my 40th Birthday wish come true, and help send a very special gift to Meredith, please visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org or go to the link to the right and make a donation today to Animal Rescue New Orleans, through PayPal. Be sure to mark the donation for Carver Louis, or Meredith and I know that ARNO will use every penny to care for Carver and then to send him to his forever, and rightful home with Meredith after every possibility is checked and rechecked to make sure that he is not missed by another.

And for Meredith.... I, nor my city, will ever be able to repay you for your efforts here, so I “Hope” that once I find a way to send you this special gift wrapped in a purring ball of fur, you will accept my thanks, and, my friendship too......and thank you for my 40th.....spending the day trying to help friends in California and London in their efforts to help you and a skinny white cat with gray patches, that trumps an airplane jump....on any birthday.

UPDATE ON LOUIS THE CAT



An update on Louis the Cat, from his first rescuer, Meredith

Hello All,

I am so sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I am a busy student
and it is finals season, but my semester was turned around for the best
thanks to a wonderful new addition to my life.

Since he arrived in Saint Louis, Louis has had an amazing influence on all
those lucky enough to get to know him. He arrived on April 1st in a very
sickly state. He was skinny, smelly and sneezy. The smelly issue I cleared
up the next day by taking him to Groomingdales for a luxurious bath and
massage. I then brought him to the vet who diagnosed him with feline
herpes. He was put on an extreme round of medicine. I was told that he
would need to gain significant weight, get lots of sleep and tons of yummy
food in order to recover.

I changed my whole life and got literally no sleep for 2 weeks (thats why
I couldnt get back to you right away . . . forgive me, Carol). In between
classes, I kept rushing back to the apartment to care for Louis. I
discovered his love for gefilte fish and stonyfield yogurt. He got plenty
of steam showers, lots of attention and cuddly blankets to sleep in.
Right away he figured out which pillows were the most expensive and chose
those to sleep on. He has great taste.

After the first week, Louis was already in much better shape.
Unfortunately, my brother, who I currently reside with, was not. We
discovered that my brother is severely allergic to cats. Louis got a
hypo-allergenic bath and my brother got allergy medication, but his
allergy only got worse.

My boyfriend (who is slightly less allergic and is not allowed to have
pets in his apartment) took in Louis for a week while we figured out what
to do.

This is where the story gets good . . .

On April 13, my parents came to Saint Louis to visit me and my brother.
They always swore that they were not cat people. However, it was love at
first sight! The second my mom walked into my boyfriend's apartment, Louis
jumped into her arms and wouldn't let go. They became inseperable! My mom
thinks of Louis as her baby. My dad likes to play games with Louis and
spent an entire weekend on the floor chasing felt mice with my beautiful
cat.

To make a long story short . . . Louis is now living a life of luxury with
my parents in Westchester, New York. He has a giant house that he rules
over! He took total command over my 75 pound Collie dog, but they do take
naps together every afternoon.

Louis sleeps in between my parents in their bed every night and follows my
mom everywhere she goes. He especially likes being wrapped in warm towels
that come directly out of the dryer. He has two litter boxes (one on each
floor), tons of toys, a condo, a bed and a large window seat that he
perches on during the morning sunrise.

Louis is the best thing to have happened to my Mom! He gives her constant
company and in two weeks has brought her out of the slight depression she
was suffering. They especially love watching Jeopardy on the sofa at
night.

My dad rushes home from work every night to see Louis. This has brought my
parents much closer together. They spend their nights laughing at his
crazy antics together and their mornings trying to find him in his many
hiding spots.

Louis has gained 4 pounds, a loving home and confidence. I can't wait
until the semester is over so that I can go home and spend time with him.
He is such a dear!


Who would have thought that a wimpy, little stray cat in New Orleans could
have such a huge affect on so many people? Louis is a pleasure and a joy.
He is the best possible asset to my family!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!

I give my deepest gratitude to all of you wonderful souls who helped bring
Louis to my family. You have made such a difference in all of our lives.

I promise that Louis will forever have a happy home with all the love in
the world.

Love always,
Meredith

Friday, March 09, 2007

Would you Feed Her?


Cora's story takes time to tell, but as you start to start to lose focus and your mind wanders, try to imagine reading it over eighteen months....it has been a long journey for us both.

Photograph taken by Jackie Quick




It is early November, 2005, when you first spot her, or when you make that u-turn because you think you spotted something. It is now a full two months since Katrina transformed this place into a wasteland and search and rescue for humans is long over, but these guys, the ones you have been trying to help, they are a different story. You have know way of knowing it now, but in time you will realize that there may have been as many as 600,000 of others just like her.... some were pets, many were on the streets of this city when the storm hit and when the levees broke, you just know that even after a couple of months, there are still a whole bunch out there.

So you make that turn when you spot it because as a resident, a survivor, a person with no job, no home, no city, this is how you pass the days, rescuing animals. Lamar-Dixon has shut down and the HSUS officially ended the efforts by October 1, but that’s not a problem yet because others have stepped up and for you, there are still places to take them, food to give them, people to help them. True, you have recently started to hear the rumors that you may be arrested for feeding an animal but so far you haven’t heard of any arrests and realistically, would anyone really do that? So back you go and there he or she, a large black fluff of something......it looks to be a dog, too big to be anything else, but eye contact doesn’t happen often. Wait, there she goes, it is a she, and a dog, and either she is pregnant or nursing, you think nursing, but no sign of any pups anywhere... and then she’s gone from sight. Which direction? Damn! All you can do is put down some food and water and hope she comes back. Wouldn’t you leave food for her?

It is a week before you can get back because that is how many are still waiting, so many addresses to check, so many stations to fill, but you make it back and she is nowhere to be seen but someone else has been here, there is a water dish cut from a milk jug and you can make out what appears to be red food coloring stains on the cement right next to it.....Gravy Train, it has to be, it’s the only one that is so brightly colored that it leaves stains. If it’s Gravy Train, that means the person who left the food must be working with the same group you are getting your dog and cat food from. Plus, when you look around in all directions, nobody is around, the houses across the street are still empty, the building you feed behind was a restaurant but not anymore. But, things must be starting to get a little better if we are crossing paths now, right? You leave some food on top of the stains since she is eating it. Wouldn’t you put some more food out for her?

For the next two weeks you go there every day, mainly because you want to see who is feeding this dog, but after about a week you start to go for the dog. Some days the water bowl has just an inch of red slushy liquid and you know that means the feeder didn’t make it back the day before, or maybe for a couple days, so you now start to look out for this dog too. And in the past two or three days, she has been there, laying across the paved lot because she knows you can’t get to her, there is too many obstacles....downed wires, piles of brick building now just rubble and that oddly twisted iron fence. You don’t want to run her off anyway so you fill bowls and just let her watch, always from far away. One night, you get lucky and cross paths with the feeder, a woman named Christine...she also lives here and since she is about to start back to work at Tulane, you tell her it won’t be a problem to feed the dog. You both decide to split the week so all the others get help too. I’m sure you would help us make sure she is fed, right?

Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and you are still at this and you find it hard to believe all the bickering that is going on between this group and that group and you try not to pay attention, besides, that is a good reason for you to continue your efforts independently as you have been doing. It is nice to have those computer folks, the cyber-space people who try to match up the ones that we still take out of here because this past Thanksgiving was one of your better ones.....you found Luka, well you found a dog who looked like he was just waiting to die on the side of the street, the vacant street. You got lucky on that one because those computer folks sent you a photo of a possible match....how many Shar Pei dogs could possibly be out there? and you knew it the instant you got the email of the photo, it was Luka, there was no way the dog you had fed for two weeks wasn’t Luka. But maybe it wasn’t Luka, after all, his lost poster had April 2005 as his lost date and Katrina was at the end of August, could it really be Luka or did you just want it to be Luka so badly? It was Luka and when Troy, his person called you the day after Thanksgiving to tell you that he came back from California and he listened to the rescue group who was holding Luka and he didn’t show recognition first and it didn’t matter a bit because Luka went nuts when Troy had gone into the room. Luka knew in an instant the smell, the voice, the face of the person who he last saw more than six months ago. Luka was home again and Luka’s amazing second chance against the odds only makes you work harder and faster to find more......yes, there were more.

You start to wrap up your trapping jobs by calling in help to speed the slow ones along. You can’t go back to work at the law firm in January without getting as many of them out and there are three in particular that you worry about, the Miniature Pinscher, the Shepherd and the Chow-like dog. So you call in the experts with the large group that is still here, in fact you don’t call them, you spot them on a side street not far from the Pinscher’s location so you head over and that’s how your relationship with the organized effort began......they took a couple carriers from you for the puppies they were pulling out from under the ruined house, and in return, they followed you over to the building which used to be a Rent-All, but now is just a safe haven for the Pinscher. Safe and dry because she can run really fast up that pile of bricks which used to be the back wall, much faster than you can and so you have to get help on this one. Good call, they trap her within days and not a moment too soon, the wrecking ball takes what is left of that building within the week National business...must have gotten insurance payout with no problem. Oh well, people will start coming back soon and today is a great day because now you only have two that really concern you. So you head to Lakewood South, the area with the multi-million dollar shacks.....the 17th Street Canal broke right into their backyards, not many animals at all, only one in fact that you have been working, the Shepherd and now you are into week 8 with only days to get her. First, you decide to fill the Chow dog’s food pan, she’s on the way and you want out of that area by dark if possible, the activity that has recently and slowly begun doesn’t look all that legitimate. At any rate, wherever there are really young prostitutes walking the main but empty street, you don’t want to be.

It’s February now, six months since Katrina hit and you have started to get that hopeless feeling.
You got that shepherd out for the New Year, it only took eight weeks, and even though no match could ever be made, she found a wonderful family, or the family found her through her story. Your shepherd gets a family who came looking just for her because they read what you wrote about her....oh, that is your newest way to let some of this out, writing. Not just writing, but sharing it with anyone who wants to stay involved with this ongoing mission, because they’re still out there. You start to write and it is a good way to release all the sadness, and joy, at what this city has become, at what seems like a never-ending tragedy for so many, humans and animals, it is just sad. Writing helps, and this is strange, some people seem to like your stories, strange. Within weeks, you start to feel your spirits lift because this writing has caused some strange things.....people start connected with you and it can’t be helped, you with them. All these years, most of them, you never were a people person, and to think it was because of the animals you are helping that now you think you might actually like people and you start to see that by working with others, you can get more.....but you still can’t get her, the chow. It’s a chow, you are sure, and you search over and over again through every database of Katrina pets you can find, and nothing. So you still bring her food and you adjust as first one building is torn down, and then another, you just adjust and you move her food station as many times as you have to all in the same area so that she can find it, and she does, you see her almost daily now, never close, but not on the run like she was. You would watch out for her wouldn’t you? You would probably ask anyone you see, but they would tell you the same thing, she’s nobody’s dog, she just lives on the street. So you would give her food, right?

As the summer months pass, you try to bring her food and water during the day because it’s going to be getting darker sooner and now you see squatters in the rotten houses, workers who have come to the city to make money during the rebuilding effort. Only the rebuilding effort hasn’t seem to go anywhere and not many are coming back, are they ever going to be back?
The squatters are mostly Hispanic and so you can’t speak to them even if you want to, probably better that way, a woman, alone, in an area where only rotten buildings and squatters who sit and watch, every day, as you leave her food. Thankfully, she has taken to hanging out in a wide grassy lot on the corner and so for months you have been able to keep a neat and dry station by filling a recycling bin and turning it on its side. You know just how much she needs but some days you spot her at the bin, peering into an empty spot where food should be, and you start to wonder if there are other dogs in the area......she is always alone, but since she won’t let you near her, and since the old man down the street told you that nobody can get near her, you have to think she must have at least a dog buddy, she can’t be that alone, right? The day you spot her on the main street, head buried in an empty fast food bag, you decide to leave a bit more food.....after this long, it would really hurt to see her body in the street but since she roams with not many to stop her, you are sure that is how you will find her one day. So you circle back, take the trash out of the street to deter her and then you fill her station.....wouldn’t you fill her station? She obviously is hungry and that old man told you that the only one who used to feed her sometimes never came back after Katrina. He also told you that the animal control had come out two or three times before the storm but that she is too smart and can’t be trapped. You already knew that when you tried in the spring, she wouldn’t go in no matter what you enticed her with, she was a smart one.

Another Christmas gone and you end January with a heavy heart.....the chow is pregnant and you want this to stop for her. You have found one other person who came back and now you know that this litter will be one of several. You think back to when you first spotted her and how you never saw those puppies but you have been told that one or two run the streets with a pack......she probably was never a pack dog because of her breed, she does look full-blooded, you decide this by zooming in on the digital shots you took....she doesn’t get close, but she doesn’t stay at the far edge of the lot either. You fill her station, you see her daily, you know she eats, you take shot afer shot and compare them to photos online but you know in your heart that the two people who gave you all the information they had were right about one thing, she’s nobody’s dog. You decide that you will feed her until you find her dead, but you can’t face more dogs, there are too many now that you just can’t catch, can’t track, can’t help, you need to get her before she has this litter. You’ll bring the trap back next time, she stays in this area now and she used to roam so much more, maybe this year, you can get her, you have to try. The rescue group you work with gives you a high-protein food to give her, she will need it if she has those puppies.

She’s gone, you haven’t seen her in over a week and you think maybe she didn’t make it, which is sad but she never let you into her world so it feels numb too, just one more you couldn’t help, this is never going to end. You can’t help but think that this might be for the best since supporters are fewer and fewer.....so many think this city is back on track, so many think no more animals need help, and there are those who think the ones which are left are strays anyway. As you think about this, she suddenly appears and she is full of milk.....new plan, find the pups. Today, you leave food and fresh water, and start to think of a plan....but you leave the high protein stuff and extra, what else can you do, what else would you do?

No pups, under every house you crawl and nothing so you stop to talk to the older man sitting on a porch down the block. You listen intently as he tells you that when he was taken out of the neighborhood by boat, after the levees broke, the chow, she had three or four pups then but they died in the water. You are amazed that he is teary eyed as he talks about the dog because you can only imagine what he faced himself. You follow him as he points out all her old pup-hiding spots and he confirms that she has been out there for years and animal control couldn’t get her.
He shows you the route she likes to take through his rear yard on her way to the empty grassy lot and so you get an idea....the pups can’t be far, because now you see her every day and shouldn’t she be nursing? He tells you he can’t find them either and what is really strange, he can’t hear them either? Shouldn’t he hear those pups? You know you won’t find them, that they are already dead but you try anyway, and then before you leave empty-handed, you put some food out for her as she watches you.

She isn’t around this morning, but a man is approaching, and he is waving to get your attention. You are not sure that he is talking about the chow, your chow, the one you have been feeding for so long, but he tells you that she will allow a man who lives in the back of that house over there to get close to her, but you know that can’t be and as you listen he all of a sudden shouts out because the man, that man, appears in the rear yard of the house. Yes, it is true, he can touch her, yes, it is no problem, if you want her, you can have her, no it is not his dog, but yes, yes, you can have her, and he will wait for you tomorrow morning to help you. As you drive off, he whistles and she appears, from nowhere, and you stare in utter amazement as this dog runs to greet him, her tail wagging, yes, her tail can really wag, and before you drive off, he gives you a thumbs up sign with one hand and scratches her belly with the other hand. Before you pull off completely, you pull off to the building from where the first man emerged; he stops the demolition work as you pull to the curb and he grins as you thank him profusely, and he knows that he has done a good thing today.

He is carrying her, you can’t believe your eyes, but he is carrying her like a baby to your truck and after she is tucked into the carrier, he tells you her story. His accent is thick but you have tuned out every other sound in the universe so you can know her better. Yes, he lived there before Katrina but he came back only six months ago and he was happy to see you pull up to feed her every day and about two months after he returned he thought maybe she would recognize him or maybe she would like his dog, Gaysto, a pit who was also left behind but who was now his. Two month he says, that is how long before she would trust him, but then she plays with Gaysto and she lets him pet her, but no he can’t take care of her properly, he is poor, he has no regular work, and he wants her to be happy. Where did she come from? She had a man who fed her but he died six months before the storm and then the lady who lived there, she threw her out, so she became the dog who roamed the neighborhood and beyond. He tells you that she got scraps, she got by, but she never came close and when the storm came, the lady moved away and never came back and she never left, only roamed. Why didn’t he tell you? He was so happy that you fed her but he thought you might take her to the “pound” and she might die, and when he could afford it, he would buy an extra pre-cooked chicken and now you know why every couple of weeks you would see the black tray on the ground. You fed her, he fed her, wouldn’t you feed her too? But now he wants more for her, and now you want more for her too.

You know it will be a slow process, she seems so scared, so you leave her to rest, until tomorrow, but then the call comes late that night. On her first leash walk she got away and you start to feel everything close in around you as you cry out and half-expect the next line to be “I’m joking” but that never comes and so you beg them not to chase her, you know how she can run, but she is on the run and they have to go and then you hear a dial tone. As the miles whiz past your thoughts race and you are going to the only place you know you should, to find him, and you pray over and over and over that he is there tonight. Although it seems like forever, within minutes, you have two thumbs up as he tries to keep up with your speedy English but yes, yes, of course, he will come.

You will never be the same and you know that you will no longer be able to do this, you can’t, you took her away, she had a meal, she had a territory, but you changed that and now as the others, all six of them, search through the “Batcher” a heavily wooded and swampy area which lies above the levee top right along the Mississippi River’s edge, and it runs forever, as long as the River, and you know that you will never see her again and you hate what you have done.
And when the others refuse to let you sleep in this area, a coyote haven as of late, you feel numb from the cold, yes it is cold tonight and you hope she is okay, and you feel numb because of how this one is going to end, and you agree to wait and hope she hunkers down and you will all try again at daybreak. Wait, can you leave some food for her, one last time? Her friend, the young man from Honduras, the one that you know must be special, he tells you no, no food, and because he knows her best, you listen......wouldn’t you?

He only gives one thumb up this morning but since it is before daybreak, you will take it and you prepare for the ride over, you, him, your husband again, all in the front of the pick-up truck, but you know you had better calm Gaysto, the pit down if he is going along for the ride. You give him a bone, and because he is so well trained, he takes the bone but then looks at Melvin, the man who he adores, and he gets the all clear to eat the treat. You hope, you hope so very hard and he tells you not to worry, because if he sees her, he will get her. He tells your husband he will do anything for “this lady” Because his English is broken, he emphasizes everything with his hands so you will know he will get her. All you can do is hope, so you do and then you feel yourself losing it after almost two hours back in the “Batcher” It is long past daybreak and you think she is gone forever and you are almost too far down in the sand-pit to hear it, but it is faint and then you hear it again, they are yelling for you to move, now, to hurry up and you run faster than you have ever run and you don’t know why you are running, you just know that you are supposed to. Your lungs are on fire as you see them, only your husband is waiting with the truck and you see the others racing down the levee in the school-bus the shelter uses for transport, and you try not to hope as your husband tells you that she has been spotted, very near the shelter where she broke free the night before.

You see her, you see her and you break down in racking sobs because you know he will keep his promise, he will see her and he will get her. Through your tears of exhaustion and joy, you tell your husband to wait, just wait, no, do not open the door and jump out. All of you and her are on the main highway, a US highway, and she is running down the road but you know how this will end so you tell him to wait and then you watch it and it is magic. You watch as the school-bus makes the wide turn and the young man jumps out with his Gaysto, and then you can’t hear him, but you know he is instructing Gaysto in Spanish and the dog knows every word, and then finally, Gaysto is off his leash and you watch as he becomes the speed of light heading toward her, it is almost over now. She must feel him bearing down on her and she turns and then it is finally over. You watch as the two race toward each other for one final romp together and for one last time, you watch this young man who has befriended this dog as he carries her to the kennel in the back of the truck. You have her again and you have a new friend too.

You think about the past week and you remember every detail so clearly and you anticipate the end of the work-day because you can’t wait to visit her. You know, all of you know by now just who you are working with and she sports a harness for walks now and you know that she will need time and effort but you know that this will be a good ending because extra safeguards are in place and you now know that is to be expected because of the breed: she is a full-blooded chow and she is magnificent. You are amazed each night as she shows new progress and you are thrilled at each new face she accepts and you know who they are because days ago, she accepted you first, you fed her for a long time, and so she accepts you, and now as she watches you interact with each one, one at a time, she accepts them in turn and she can wag that tail like no other dog. She will be okay, you know it, and you know that she has an entire team of dedicated individuals at this shelter who will help you see to that. She will love and she will be loved, forever, and you and the others will find that match for her, she is counting on that.

As you think about this last phase of your journey with this dog, you know why it is that you felt compelled to name her that first morning when you had her, before you lost her. You couldn’t explain why at the time, but you felt sure her name should be Corazon, or Cora for short, and now you understand. Mia Corazon, my heart..... she is all “heart” and she is what you just know must be the mirror image of your own heart, you have worked longer with her than any other out there, and you have put your heart into her care, and the others’ too. And somewhere in the middle of this past amazing week, as you did the one thing she has expected you to do this entire time, feed her, you know that you would have continued to feed her no matter what, be it risk to your own safety, threat of arrest for violations of some code unearthed by whomever, no matter if there was donated food or not, you would have bought it yourself, and you would have fed her feral or friend, and now as you look down into two pools of cocoa colored liquid velvet, you give thanks for whatever it was that guided you to keep feeding a dog that you were certain was feral, you give thanks for Melvin and Gaysto who offered her a second chance to trust, you give thanks for a man who saw this and did something about it, you give thanks for Christine, a woman who you met long ago, you give thanks for six wonderfully unique individuals who were willing to search for the needle in the haystack in the cold and in the dark so that your heart wouldn't have to break, and for a brief second you wonder if feeding her helped her to stay close and you wonder if it might have helped a tiny bit for Melvin to work with her, but you know that you don’t really care, you would have fed her anyway. But now you know, you know that you will never know the uniqueness of each one, none of them can be defined with a status and maybe the next one is a stray, maybe lost, maybe born on the street, maybe pampered in some prior life, but as you look back into those eyes and for the first time, she licks your hand, you know that whatever each story was, what matters is now, and that you are the one who crossed the path they are on, and so it is you who can ultimately change the ending.

Would you have fed her? Would you have stopped two months after the storm when the authorities issued a press release to do so? Sixteen months later, would you bring her food if it all looked the same around her world, if the houses were still boarded up, or falling off the foundation, still spray-painted with the statistics of life and death on her street? Would you give a second or third thought to the one phone call you would be allowed if they catch you and enforce the law you might be breaking, or would you think more about the pups who may have lived from prior litters and how this is a hard thing to fix, especially when you have to do it one at a time. And if you fed her too, and finally, finally, you got her too, would you think about all of it when you spot a skinny one traveling with one who is swollen with milk? Will you feed them too?

Food for thought, isn’t it?




Note:
I wish to express my gratitude to an organization which has earned my dedication, respect and my time, Animal Rescue New Orleans.
Because the leaders of this organization know that there are still more Coras out there, I was able to feed this girl, with their complete support, until she could finally be given the opportunity to have more than just a meal. Charlotte and Robin, thank you for everything you are doing.
With love, Lise