Hurricane season hit early this year. In fact, we got our first call in mid-July, coincidentally the same day we had set a meeting to review our hurricane response protocol to ensure that it was up-to-date. Tropical Storm Barry was threatening to swamp Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana in just a couple of days and the south half of the parish was already under mandatory evacuation orders. Though it was not expected to be a big storm, or even make the ranks of hurricane, the threat of flooding was ominous.

Our first goal in a storm is simple. With enough advance notice, we can get into the area before the storm hits and pull out as many animals as possible. These are pets who have been held in local shelters long enough that if their family was coming to claim them, it would have happened by now.

If we don’t pull these animals out, they will be euthanized to make room for the newly displaced animals that will be streaming into shelters once the storm subsides. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is the harsh reality in the midst of a natural disaster. This strategy allows owners who have lost their pets in the storm to find them.

Once we received the call, everyone at Paws knew their roles and they went to work. The receiving room was set up and the truck was loaded with empty crates. It wasn’t long before we were coordinating with the Animal SOS Foundation in Columbus, one of our most valued partners, to orchestrate an extraction of as many cats as we could get into our vehicle before the roads closed.

It isn’t easy to get volunteer drivers to head into a potential hurricane at the last minute. In this case, Becky Carter, executive director of Animal SOS and me, executive director of Paws Humane Society, decided it was our turn to take a road trip. We are not young women, but we are strong and we are fierce and we are dedicated to saving lives.

At the end of a very long, and sometimes hilarious, seventeen hours we arrived back in Columbus with no less than 50 cats and kittens. In spite of the fact that it was 2:00 am on a Saturday morning, the team at Paws was bright-eyed and ready to go. It was a sight to behold as they skillfully drew out each cat, one at a time, to assess, name and vaccinate.

I am so proud of our team at Paws Humane Society. Summer is hard in animal sheltering when we are overwhelmed by the large numbers of incoming animals. When I told my co-workers about Plaquemines Parish request for help, there was no hesitation. Several staff members signed up to be on hand to receive the cats even though we knew it would be in the wee hours of the morning.

Fortunately, Plaquemines Parish came out of the storm better than feared. Still, there was flooding and there were displaced animals so we accomplished for them what was needed.

Our community is our most precious resource. You are the donors who finance our operations. You are the volunteers who help us care, day in and day out, for the more than 100 animals under our roof on any given day. You are foster parents for animals who just need a little extra. And you are the families who adopt our beautiful pets and give them a loving home. Thank you for your support. Without you we couldn’t do what we do.