Friday, August 07, 2009
My First Feral Friend
We are approaching the 4 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and how my life has changed! As Feral K9 Coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO) I often think how drastically my life has changed since the storm and without a doubt, the most obvious change involves my work with dogs....from a person who didn’t own a dog to one who eats, breathes and sleeps DOG, specifically, the feral ones, the ones who are controlled by fear, the ones who need patience, patience and more patience. Until them, I never understood what true patience is.
And, while considering anything I do or achieve with feral dogs, I have to consider my foundation....Hope. Hope, now Bella, was my introduction to this work and the funniest thing to me now is that back then, I thought two months was a lifetime. Little did I really know!
"Hope Springs Eternal"Originally posted January, 2006
"Hope" as she was named by her rescuer, is a very special dog. When her local "guardian angel" found her it had been two months since Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast Region. When she was found one November morning, "Hope" appeared to be the only living creature amongst the ruins of Lakewood South, one of the more decimated areas of New Orleans. The desolate wasteland that used to be a thriving community neighborhood, abutted the 17th Street Canal at the Metairie/New Orleans line........the area, still without electricity, had taken a direct hit when the levee was breached and subsequently, very few, if any animals were rescued from the subdivision. We are hopeful that most of the residents were able to evacuate, with their pets, prior to Katrina.
The occasional construction/clean-up worker would attempt to befriend her during the first two months following the flooding, all to no avail. And so, over the period of time, she would receive pizza handouts from the workers......they always looked out for her, no matter that she was unapproachable. When a local feeder/rescuer came upon her in early November, 2005, it was clear that this dog was not only starved for nourishment, she was starved for human attention and whatever trauma she suffered before, during and after the storm, was preventing her from reforming a bond with any human. With that in mind, the local set up a proper food/water station and began what would become an eight-week journey......a journey full of setbacks and breakthroughs, full of tears of both joy and frustration, full of lessons taught and lessons learned......all stepping stones and road-blocks along the journey which ended with a very special friendship between dog and girl.
It took two very long months of daily visits and chats (some, ignored on the dog’s part) and coaxing and sometimes just sitting and watching and letting "Hope" do the watching too. Over time, that milk-bone didn’t look quite so ominous, as long as it was offered to the ground first; then, the hand attached to the milk-bone looked like it might be okay to take a treat from.......and finally, on Christmas Day of all days, that hand looked like it might be nice if it scratched behind those tired, but ever-alert ears.......Aahh! yes, and wow, that felt so good, a belly rub might be in order!!
"Hope" was leashed by her rescuer, without a struggle, on December 30, 2005, in the very same spot in which the two had met eight weeks earlier. The differences that time had brought were visible and audible.......birds were chirping on this sunny day and Joe, the neighborhood security patrol, watched with his jaw open wide and a lone house worker grinned with delight because finally, she would be safe. The rescuer’s only regret was that the kindly gentleman who gladly shared his water-logged, sun-dried remnants of his front and side yard of 5636 Cherlyn Drive, was not there that day to see his timid tenant finally take that walk like all carefree dogs do. I know that during her four months in exile, "Hope" did take some comfort in his daily comings and goings and this rescuer believes that the hospitality he showed to her, instead of attempts to catch or run her off, made all the difference in the world in her progression back to Trust.
As her rescuer, feeder, guardian, and most of all, friend, I named this girl Hope because even with no trust in her eyes, it was clear to see that she never gave up hope. I came to realize that she stayed put for so long because she was ever-hopeful that her family would find her....eventually that hope changed direction, it was never lost, but she somehow managed to redirect that hope and let other humans in and hope for more than she had been. She is a delight to be around......she loves and is loved and she so thoroughly experiences joy as I visit her now, at her temporary home at Celebration Station, Metairie, LA.
So, now, at what is surely the end of our journey together, it is I, her rescuer, that is "hopeful"I hope she finds her family, but, if not her former, than one who will love her just as much......I hope she never again has to find her way back to the loving, exuberant, and playful creature she truly is. Selfishly, I hope she never completely forgets me, but, because I love her, I hope she forgets me as much as she needs to in order to find her forever family and happiness with them.
I’ll never forget, Hope........