An unprecedented wave of hurricanes swept through the United States and the Caribbean this fall, leaving in their wake flooded neighborhoods, flattened buildings, and thousands of people and pets in need of help. OHS responders travelled to Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida to assist with emergency operations (story here). OHS continues to work in cooperation with other animal welfare groups on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, which was devastated by hurricane force winds.
By the end of December, ten OHS responders will have each spent two weeks on the island, providing life-saving care to animals. The responders, which include volunteers and employees, are FEMA certified and trained in emergency shelter operations. Their work is supported entirely by donations.
Operating out of makeshift shelter that is frequently without running water or electricity, OHS responders feed and care for hundreds of animals that have nowhere else to go.
Responders Kayte Wolf, Sherry Adams and Melanie Anderson were deployed in November. Here are their accounts:
“I was lucky enough to be assigned to the maternity pod to administer ENS (early neurological stimulation) to puppies who were still with their moms. I worked with one puppy at a time, rubbing their hands and feet, as well as their heads. If they tolerated it, I also put them on their backs in my hands. Most were good about it, but a few. . . I also mixed up formula for three 4-week-old puppies who are motherless and let them eat the formula out of my hands, since they really don’t know what a food bowl is.
Each day, on the ride to and from the shelter, I see different signs of the destruction caused by the storm. There is so much destruction that you can miss the collapsed roof at one house while looking at the downed power lines near another house. Or, while staring in awe at the huge tree roots of a downed tree, you miss something else. What I have seen since the first day, is much more activity; more people out and about, kids going to school, and even families in a park.”
“Today (Monday) I was back in puppy land! This is definitely a cure for anyone thinking about getting a puppy—this will change your mind in a heartbeat. I just can’t believe how much poop comes out of these puppies! I have to say though, spending all of this time with these pups has gotten me a little attached to a few.
A huge chunk of the puppy population has suspected ringworm so we have to follow strict protocol in order to keep it contained in one certain area. I had a little help today but was mostly on my own caring for 40+ puppies who have to eat three times a day, get cleaned up, kennels scrubbed out (and scraped-ew!) then spot cleaning in the afternoon. Of course as soon as you put a puppy back into a nice clean kennel what is the first thing they do? Yep you guessed it- they take a big poop!
It may be a thankless job but I love seeing these pups playing, happy and well cared for. When we walk into the shelter in the morning the puppy pod is the first thing you see and boy are they are so happy to see us. I know I am going to cry when I have to leave them but I also know that they will soon be on their way to a new life and the loving home they deserve. Being such a small sliver of their lives is enough for me.”
“Today we got to work on distributing all of the animal feed on hand to the residents of St. Croix. From morning till about afternoon, we were handing out large bags of animal feed for horses, hogs, dogs, cats, chickens as well as other items such as leashes, buckets, etc. Cars were lined up as far as the eye could see with people waiting to receive food for their pets. We helped as many as we could but eventually had to start turning people away once we ran out of dog food … The dogs here at the shelter continue to capture my heart. They have been through so much, covered in scars, emaciated, or many times both. It’s hard work but at the end of the day, it’s incredibly rewarding to know you are taking care of these animals.”
OHS does not receive tax dollars and relies on private donations to support its disaster relief efforts. You can give online here.