Friday, June 20, 2008

An EARS volunteer to the rescue

Submitted by first-time EARS responder Dawn Frary, now back home in Iowa City.

When I went to Cedar Rapids this week I was fortunate enough to be deployed with Heather Sanderson (pictured), who is one of my best friends in the world. It's hard for "outsiders" to fully understand the impact of a deployment, so being there with her and knowing that we would share the experience made the deployment easier to cope with. Likewise, having the opportunity to talk to her afterward and knowing that she understands what I went through has made returning home a much easier transition. Sharing this experience with Heather has only made our friendship stronger.

Heather had a unique opportunity to travel into the field with the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) field rescue team, which I am told is a rare occurrence for an EARS volunteer. (As did EARS volunteer Janet Hoover of Wisconsin, pictured here). Heather was part of an incredible rescue operation involving two cats whose lives were saved by the combined efforts of EARS volunteers and the HSUS crew. She shared her story with me below.


One of my assignments volunteering for EARS was traveling into the flooded areas of downtown Cedar Rapids and working with the HSUS field rescue team. The HSUS team, along with Cedar Rapids Fire and Rescue, would go out into the field on calls for animals that needed to be rescued. Once the animals were rescued, HSUS would bring them back to the command center where my fellow EARS volunteers and I would complete the intake process. The animals were then placed in the impressive air conditioned shelter on site. Once we had enough animals, volunteers from Kirkwood Comunity College would come to the command center to pick up the animals to be taken to be assessed by the veterinarians.

If the animals were in serious condition, then they were transported to Kirkwood right away either by HSUS or the EARS volunteers. I was completely amazed by the work of the HSUS field rescue team. They often put their lives in danger to save animals and I have complete respect for that.

EARS regional director Diann Wellman recommended that I go out in the field with the HSUS rescue team. At first, I had thought that they needed someone to do intake which was my job the previous day, but I soon found out that I would be participating in actual actual rescues. I was thrilled! As we were driving to the first rescue, I chatted with the team -- Scotlund, Alan (pictured with me) and Chris -- about their experiences as field rescuers.

On the first rescue we managed to capture two cats that were in generally good condition in spite of the experience that they must have gone though. Scotlund and Chris captured the cats and I transported them down to the vehicle. We then went to another house that had a call in but did not find any animals. The last house we arrived at, I noticed a paper with an "X" on the door, I remembered seeing those on houses after the Katrina disaster. Alan explained to me that the "X" is used after an inspection to tell the date that it was inspected and how many people were found inside along with other information. As we approached the house I noticed that the paper stated "0" lives were found inside but that there were two cats. Are cats not living beings also? I also wondered why the inspectors did not notify someone sooner that there were two cats inside.

HSUS had a call-in sheet that stated there was one cat inside. We entered the house and I could not believe the destruction. The floors and walls were still wet and muddy from the receding water and the smell was unbelievable. Scotlund and Chris headed up the stairs with me following and Alan waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Scotlund discovered a cat who was in poor shape as he had been left without food or water for at least a week. He placed the cat in a carrier, which I quickly transported to the vehicle. My adrenaline was pumping. As I set the cat in the vehicle, Alan yelled out that they found a second cat. I grabbed another carrier out of the truck and ran it up to the house as fast as I could. After the second cat was in the truck, the race was on back to Kirkwood to get these cats urgent care.

As we sped through town, Chris called ahead to notify the vets of the situation so they could prepare for our arrival. When we arrived at Kirkwood we rushed the cats to the clinic where we were met by the veterinary staff. The vet assessed the animals while I did the intakes. The two brave cats -- who had been on the verge of death -- survived. In a small way, I had assisted the HSUS field rescue team in saving a total of four cats' lives. That's a huge honor for me and I have nothing but the highest respect for the HSUS field rescue team and the work that they do. I'm glad I got to be a part of that for a day, it's an experience that I'll never forget.

Photos courtesy Dawn Frary, Stephen Malley and Scotlund Haisley/HSUS.

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