My mission to help Louisiana animals started when I saw the first pictures streaming across the television screen. Knowing that there were people laboring tirelessly to rescue and care for animals made me sad and eager to help, so that’s what I decided to do.
Leaving town on short notice isn’t an easy thing to do when you have a business and pets of your own, but luckily my support team came through. At a moment’s notice they can pick up the slack and cover pet sitting jobs if I’m unavailable.
Making Plans To Leave Indiana
Once the schedule was in place for my pets and our clients, I put the word out about my Louisiana trip and asked for donations of pet supplies, pet food and monetary donations; and my clients and friends came through amazingly. I took pet food, leashes, pet supplies, baby diapers and baby wash, insect repellant, rubber gloves and monetary donations.
Important Advice From My Dad
While on the 15 hour drive I could imagine my dad saying, “Remember Kelley, never let your gas go below ½ tank just in case you run into construction or something”. His advice helped me make the trip more enjoyable because I’d stop right before that half-way point and top off the gas, then park off to the side and go stretch my legs, take a brisk run and do push-ups or dips on my car or nearby table (gotta fit in exercise where you can, you know!). And FYI, I credit this routine with allowing me to drive straight through without napping. Try it the next time you have a long drive!
Once arriving in Louisiana I went to Lamar Dixon Expo Center where Cara’s House and LSART (Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team) had their rescue areas set up; the noise was deafening. Animal sounds of every kind bombarded my ears. The sadness was overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see these animals but I couldn’t help but think about the ones who didn’t make it; that might be treading water right now, waiting on someone to help them.
What A Day Looks Like
My work day started at 7am where I began to feel how massive an undertaking it is to help Louisiana animals (and people) after a natural disaster. Staying organized is crucial. Having hands able to work – and that are willing to get dirty, is just as crucial. You must keep records of the animals’ potty habits, changes in behavior and any medical issues that need addressed; this is paramount in these settings. You must be able to do all of this while people and volunteers are coming and going, calling your name and asking you to help them is exhausting (and exciting if you’re a Type A person). You have to be ‘on’ all the time. There’s no room for slacking; being a weak link isn’t an option.
From 7am to about 6pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday I never once went to the restroom. At different times when I’d have a moment to breathe my bladder would remind me that she was there but then she’d quiet down just as quickly when I’d guzzle down another Gatorade or water (donations brought in by the public – thank you!) and start sweating and working again.
My clothes were drenched pretty much those 11 hours each day. The only thing that saved my phone from drowning was the low-profile bike/runner’s bag I grabbed as I was walking out my door – thank goodness! My arms had smears of dog paw prints mixed with sweat, dog hair and bug spray. My glasses steamed up from combination of humidity and sweat dripping down my face.
Luckily I’d get reprieve for a moment when I’d into a stall to get a dog to take for a walk and catch a breeze from a fan. But the relief was a tease; fans only blow what air is available. When the air is hot, humid and sticky, it doesn’t provide much of anything.
Despite these conditions, I never once complained.
How could I complain when there were animals surrounding me who are enduring far worse conditions?
I’d look into the face of a dog, cat, pig, horse or sheep and realize all they’ve known might be gone. The comfort the dogs once felt when sleeping on the couch with their person is just a memory. They might not ever be reunited with their owner; or get a chance to have another one for that matter (read about this in my Press Release).
The kitties that once had a favorite window or chair to sit on now sit in small wire crates. Their homes are gone, their people are gone, they’re alone in a strange place. My heart broke for those animals and I wish I was there helping right now.
So you might wonder what else a volunteer can do in this type of rescue situation so here’s a brief list of things I did while working with Cara’s House and LSART:
- Walked (and ran) with dogs
- Gave dogs time to go potty outside
- Sat down and spent time talking and loving on the dogs
- Trimmed dog nails
- Filled baby pool and let dogs cool off in the water
- Gave dog baths
- Did minor grooming on dogs
- Inspected their bodies for injuries, parasites, tattoos or identifiable markings
- Updated daily log sheet for each dog (noted times for walking, feeding, medicating)
- Cleaned dog crates
- Fed and watered dogs
- Set up new dog crates for dogs brought in
- Cleaned cat litter boxes
- Brushed cats
- Inspected the cats for injuries
- Updated daily log sheet for each kitty
- Reconfigured crates in the stall areas for maximum air circulation
- Used zip ties to mount fans on stall bars for better air circulation
- Scooped poop – lots of poop
- Helped collect donations of pet food, supplies and other items when people would donate
- Helped people navigate through the kennel areas and try to find their pets
- Assisted good Samaritan’s when they brought pets in
How You Can Help Louisiana Animals
Each rescue situation is different and I was very hands-on. If you don’t want (or can’t) handle doing that much physical labor, there are plenty of other tasks available.
If you really want to help, here are some suggestions…
- Collect donations to help Louisiana animals. Have a bake sale. Have a rummage sale. Send the proceeds to Cara’s House. They have a Facebook page and you’ll find recent updates and postings about things they need.
- Like their Facebook page and share their posts.
- Share the picture of the pets in their care. (Many will be euthanized before they can move back into their shelter unless rescue or foster homes step up and help, again, read about that in my Press Release that will be published soon.)
If you CAN volunteer your time, please do. Even a few hours over a weekend will help give other volunteers a break. Many of the regulars have day jobs and 8am-5pm is usually short-staffed. Also, they have to have volunteers there 24/7 so if you’re a night owl and wouldn’t mind keeping watch over the animals there, visit their Facebook page; send them a message or call.
Tips For Volunteers
If you plan on going to Louisiana or other location impacted by natural disasters, here are some tips you’d benefit from, especially if you’re going to Lamar Dixon to help with Cara’s House or LSART:
- Wear rain boots or tennis shoes you can wash easily.
- LSART volunteers need to wear pants but at Cara’s House area, shorts are ok! I recommend you wear the lightest clothes possible because it’s hot and humid most of the time.
- Make sure to either have shorts with pockets or bring a fanny pack or pouch you can stash rubber gloves, poop sacks, pens and zip ties in.
- Wear rubber gloves when you’re handling the animals.
- Wear a hat or bandana to help collect the sweat.
- Tie a bandana around your wrist you can use to wipe sweat from your face or stick one in your pocket.
- Keep your phone battery charged.
- Bring water in case they don’t have any donated.
- Come with your thinking brains on. You might be in a situation where a problem needs solved.
- Bring your best A game and look for ways to help. You might not be asked to do anything but if you show iniative you’ll be more productive.
- Love the animals, even the dirty and stinky ones. Give them your time and show them compassion. The time they spend with you might be some of the last great moments on this earth.
- Wash your hands and face immediately after working with the animals.
- Bring a couple towels you can place on your car seat to protect the upholstery in case your slimy, dirty and sweaty.
- Bring a change of shoes so you can switch before you get in your car.
The articles and links below will be published soon, check back for updates!!
Pictures, who wants to see more pictures of my trip?
Here’s a YouTube video with many of the pictures from my volunteer time at Cara’s House and LSART.
Read these 7 stories from survivors I met while volunteering and see some of the volunteers I worked with…
2 – 14 Year Old Cat Swims 100 Yards To Save Her Life
3 – 5 Swimming Cats
4 – Floating Horses
6 – Saved From Hurricane Katrina, Now Jack Is Saved Again
7 – 11 Feet Isn’t High Enough
8 – Volunteers Make It Happen
Doing my part to help Louisiana animals,
Kelley Stewart, CEO|Pet Sitter
sit-stay-play In-home pet sitting & more.LLC
P.S. Thank you to Cindy and Jeff Turner, Linda and Mark Darrall, Eindy Ramsey, Dorica Young-Watson and Leah Borders for donating to this trip. Your gifts were appreciated and made people very happy!