Thursday, March 18, 2010

Final days at the emergency shelter

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

I’m writing this on Tuesday, March 16. I actually arrived home last night, but I still had my notes of interviews with four more volunteers and UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, which I’ll write up, so I’ll have two more blog posts to come . . . this one and tomorrow. At the moment, I’m steeped in the changing realities in reverse: One moment I was sitting on wood chips singing softly to Sweetie Girl and hugging her, and moments later I was at an airport with engines roaring all around.

I’ll report on my interviews with three volunteers today, Shari Emory and Connie Walker from Monroe, Louisiana, and Sharon Covington from California.

Shari Emory and Connie Walker arrived at this deployment together from Monroe, Louisiana, and since they are such good friends back home – volunteering together with LSART (Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team) and both working for telephone companies (although they work for competing companies!) – the three of us decided that I should interview them together.

For Connie, this has been the third deployment for EARS; for Shari, it’s the sixth. They’ve both deployed with LSART and Shari also deploys with PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Wagon, which sends animal equipment and supplies to emergency responses in an 18-wheeler and leaves them behind for the local communities to use even after the disaster.

Shari (right) has always been with animals. When Shari was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, her sister, who was expecting a German shepherd, was so upset that their parents bought a German shepherd as the family’s first animal companion. Beginning at age four or five, Shari began saving birds who fell out of trees.

How did Shari and Connie find out about UAN? For Shari it was during Hurricane Katrina. She was volunteering with LSART, which set up a shelter for the animals of self-evacuated people in Monroe. After a week, they realized they needed a national organization to manage the shelter, and UAN was called in. Shari hadn’t heard of them before, but UAN was thorough and had great safety rules and documentation, and LSART learned how to do it from UAN. Also, UAN leaves at the local site any supplies bought or donated for the response, so UAN left crates, kennels, cleaning supplies, etc. when the EARS team left Monroe.

Connie (right) also heard of UAN because of Hurricane Katrina and knew they were in Monroe. After Katrina, Connie took an EARS Volunteer Training Workshop, then started to deploy.

I asked Shari and Connie how they feel about this deployment. By the time they deployed, about 125 dogs had been transported to other shelters, and fewer than 25 dogs remained. As a result, Shari and Connie both have found this deployment laid back, and they are spending a lot more time with the dogs, getting to know them and working with them. They both consider this to be awesome. On the day I interviewed them, which was Sunday, they had put extra tarps up in the back, and as they walked around, every dog was watching them with a “come be with me” look in their eyes.

Both Connie and Shari found this to be a really good team of volunteers. The team members are from all over and there’s no bickering. This is consistent with their experiences on other UAN deployments. Even though everyone is different, all the volunteers have one thing in common – passion for the animals – and you can work through anything because the priority is the animals. They say UAN is great because good procedures are in place, and everyone follows them. Everyone knows what he or she should be doing, and everyone is good about leaving attitudes at door.

This is Sharon Covington’s (right) first deployment with UAN. She became involved in animal rescue work when a local golden retriever rescue group rescued her Dad’s dog from a puppy mill, so she started volunteering with them. Then she started volunteering with Homeward Bound, and then joined Emergency Services in the Governor’s Office. This background in animal services and emergency services converged and, when combined with her desire to work with dogs who haven’t been treated well, pointed her in the direction of UAN.

One question I’ve asked all the volunteers in my interviews is why UAN? In Sharon’s case, it’s because she lives in Sacramento, where UAN is based, so if she can’t deploy, she can still volunteer in the office. She trained with UAN two years ago. Sharon has been wanting to go into the field, and this Mississippi hoarding case is the first one that’s worked out for her in scheduling.

Sharon has been loving this deployment. She says that it’s great to work with neat people who have great teamwork to help dogs move onto a better place where they’re well fed and receive veterinary care, and the volunteers can deal with their emotional wounds. Sharon has been having a great time working one-on-one with the dogs.

Sharon is a high-energy person with large measures of enthusiasm, creativity and initiative. When she sees a need, she goes to address it. I can attest to Sharon’s enthusiasm. In almost every photo I’ve taken of her, she’s had a big grin showing the delight she takes in being with the dogs. Some of those photos appear on this page.

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