Monday, September 24, 2012

A man and his piglet

Honey, a two-month-old piglet, was found alone on a levee surrounded by Hurricane Isaac's floodwater in Plaquemines Parish. Lori Wilson, in conjunction with the local animal control, brought him back to Rescue Ranch, her equine sanctuary and rescue group, where RedRover Responders volunteers were stationed to help care for equines affected by flooding.

RedRover Responders volunteer Howard feeds Honey the piglet, and  so begins a special relationship.
Howard Edelstein, a RedRover Responders volunteer who was part of the team helping Rescue Ranch, took an immediate liking to Honey. "He's a cute guy," said Howard. "He was there in a cage, so little and cute. I enjoyed the opportunity to give him more attention."

Once, when Howard was holding Honey, he grew so relaxed in his arms that he fell asleep...and then pooped.
Howard and a deeply relaxed Honey, just before he pooped on Howard.
Lori's plans were to try to find Honey a new home, but there weren't any true pig sanctuaries nearby. So Howard and his girlfriend back home coordinated with Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland. Howard has been volunteering with Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary for some time, and knew that the pigs have a large area at the sanctuary with a stream and pond, and get wonderful care. He was delighted when he learned that they would take Honey.

As much as Howard didn't relish the idea of renting a car and driving 18 hours with Honey, it didn't take him long to decide that a permanent home for Honey was worth it. He started driving at 2:30 in the morning so he could get as much of the drive done as possible while it was dark and quiet out. Honey snuggled in his carrier with his bedding, and every couple hours Howard would pull over and give him refreshments, clean out his carrier and let him stretch.
Honey stayed comfortable and happy on his 18 hour trek to his new, permanent home.
All along the way, Howard and his amenable swine companion entertained themselves with comedy, Broadway show tunes and 60's and 70's classic rock from the Sirius radio, and Howard talked to Honey about all sorts of topics. Once in a while, Honey would even grunt back. It took two Red Bulls, a Mountain Dew and a Gatorade to make it all the way.

Since arriving at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Honey has since been renamed Isaac. He has also taken yet another road trip – this time, it was a six-hour round trip to and from a veterinary hospital to get neutered, a procedure from which he has recovered quickly.

Isaac, the piglet formerly known as Honey, enjoys his plush new digs at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary.
Photo credit: Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Howard went to visit him last Thursday, and was glad to share that Isaac is already getting bigger, but he's still looking really cute.

"Now he's going to have a fabulous life," says Howard. "The hurricane was so awful for so many animals. While volunteering at Rescue Ranch, we saw horses with chemical burns from flood water and other sad sights. But for Isaac, the hurricane meant that he will get to live his life as one of the luckiest pigs around."

Howard went above and beyond in his service to RedRover and to Isaac the piglet, and for that, we all give some grateful grunts.

Another victim of the storm, a special dog named JJ, is undergoing extensive care after suffering serious burn wounds.

Learn more about JJ >>

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lachute, Québec dog rescue: one year anniversary

By Jennifer Johnston, RedRover Responders volunteer Guest contributor and volunteer Communications Assistant

September 17th, 2011. It was one of the first chilly Autumn nights in Western Québec. Despite being far from city lights and seeing a bright, gorgeous moon rise, it was pitch black at 2 a.m. The only real light we had came from inside the open garage doors of the main emergency shelter building and a few headlamps some well-prepared staff and volunteers were wearing.

We were a group of many colours: lead agency MAPAQ (Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec) staff in cyan blue vests, law enforcement in somber shades of brown and black, Humane Society International (HSI) staff in forest green shirts, medical staff and volunteers in baby blue paper sterile gowns, and RedRover Responders volunteers from Canada and the U.S. in our trademark red shirts.

Volunteer briefing led by Connie Brooks.

What brought us together was soon to become a precedent-setting case in Québec, a part of Canada called “the best province [in which] to be an animal abuser” by the Animal Legal Defence Fund in 2011. Coordinated by MAPAQ, local law enforcement, and HSI, over 600 dogs and puppies were about to be rescued from a life of neglect at the Paws R Us breeding facility west of Montréal.

After days of non-stop construction – kennels for breeds of all sizes, a nursery for newborns, whelping rooms for moms about to deliver, isolation areas for the sick, and a clinic space for medical treatmentwe waited in the dark between the two temporary shelter buildings for the first truck to arrive. We were told to expect about 150 dogs and puppies in the first wave.

RedRover Responders volunteers prepare crates for the dogs' arrival.

From the moment the truck door opened the group became a focused hive of activity. As dogs were offloaded they were catalogued and deployed to various parts of the shelter depending on their size, age, medical condition, and if they had pups. Looking into the crates as we gingerly carried or carted each one, what we saw was heart-breaking; scared, anxious, tired dogs with a host of medical conditions.

The anxious, tired dogs suffered from a host of medical conditions.

"This was not only the largest dog rescue in Canadian history, but it also involved some of the most inhumane conditions that our Animal Rescue Team has ever encountered,” said Lauren Scott, from HSI.

We worked all night and into the morning to finish that first truck. Most of that night is a blur to me now. I recall the over-riding sense of urgency to get these dogs into their temporary homes – not only out of concern for them and wanting to get them into more comfortable conditions, but also because we knew there were more trucks to come and those trucks were going to be just as full. 

Shelter building #2: medium breed dogs.

Over the next couple of days we unloaded another two full 18-wheelers, with a dash of sleep and a quick bite in between each one. Day blurred into night and back to daylight again. Staff and volunteers seemed tireless as they managed the intake of an astonishing array of breeds; from tiny, delicate, shivering Maltese moms with pups so small they looked like baby gerbils, to huge St. Bernards with skeptical eyes and crates so large they needed a team to carry them, and seemingly every size and breed of dog in between.

Volunteers provided comfort and care for the scared dogs.

From the moment a dog was brought into the shelter the virtually-endless cycle of care started and everyone had a list of tasks to keep them busy. Cleaning crates, feeding, providing fresh water, getting dogs and puppies to the vet for assessments, and documenting every step for use in the pending cruelty case against the owners of the breeding facility. This work consumed us for days and often followed us into our dreams at night.

RedRover Responders volunteer Howard tending to some of the many puppies born before and after the dogs were seized.

As with all deployments, RedRover Responders volunteers came to Lachute, Québec ready to do whatever necessary to bring animals from crisis to care. One year later, we know we participated in a landmark animal cruelty case that will have a positive impact on generations of animals.

To learn more about the Paws R Seizure, check out these resources:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Somebody get me an appointment with a chiropractor!"

By Linda Bak, RedRover Development Manager

Holy cow, this is hard work. I knew it would be. This is my first deployment, and so far I've spent two incredibly long hard days taking care of animals, and two nights sleeping on a cot at the animal shelter in a room with a pet snake. Yes, a pet snake named Smiley. 

Home sweet home with Smiley the snake
RedRover Responders is here at the request of Rescue Ranch, an equine rescue group in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. They have taken in many equines and other animals from areas flooded by Hurricane Isaac. We are here to take care of their pre-storm population as well as some of the animals that have been brought in since the storm, so they can concentrate on the intense search and rescue efforts.

While here, I've learned some interesting back story about the history between Rescue Ranch and RedRover.

During Hurricane Katrina, Lori Wilson, the owner of Rescue Ranch, lost everything. While she was helping to rescue horses from flooded areas – 67 in all – she lost her home, her barn, all the fencing on her property and her dog. Through it all, she continued to go out on rescue missions when she was called on for help. She blew the engine in her truck and her trailer was destroyed. Seeing the incredible effort she was making to help the animals, the National Guard built a perimeter fence around her property to keep the horses she rescued safe.

After Hurricane Katrina, RedRover had the great privilege of being able to offer more than $250,000 in grants to deserving organizations to help them recover. On Christmas Eve, Lori was notified that she would be receiving a grant to enable her to get a new truck, trailer and tractor so she could continue her heroic rescue efforts.

Lori Wilson, Howard Edelstein, and Linda Bak at Rescue Ranch in Belle Chasse, Louisiana

Shortly after, Lori and four other volunteers from Rescue Ranch trained and joined the RedRover Responders volunteer corps. While teaching a summer camp for kids at the ranch, she taught them about the importance of having an evacuation plan for their family and their pets. She and others distributed RedRover's disaster preparedness brochures and talked to everyone they could about the importance of including animals in disaster plans. She was even given an award by the Sheriff's department for her outreach.

A few years later, Lori intersected with RedRover in a different way when a horse named Shooter came into her care. Shooter was apparently kicked in the head by a donkey and needed his eye removed. RedRover Relief provided a grant for Shooter's surgery, and a local veterinarian donated a prosthetic eye. Shooter is still living at Rescue Ranch, boarded there by his family.

Linda and Shooter, a horse that RedRover Relief helped to save many years ago.
Lori said that if she did not receive that grant to get a new truck, trailer and tractor, she would not be doing this today. RedRover helped give her and Rescue Ranch a second chance. She paid it forward by helping the people and animals in her community.

The way all these pieces tie in together is very inspirational to me, and is driving me to continue to work as hard as I can while I'm here, helping Rescue Ranch get through the difficulties that Hurricane Isaac has thrust upon them and their community.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hurricane Isaac: Photos

On September 1, five RedRover Responders volunteers traveled to Alexandria, Louisiana, to provide emergency sheltering for animal victims of Hurricane Isaac. Volunteers assisted evacuated pet owners with the daily care of their pets, and provided food, water and comfort for pets whose families were not located nearby until they could be reunited. Over the course of 3 days, our volunteers cared for nearly 150 animals.

Here are a few of our photos from the emergency shelter, taken by RedRover Responders volunteer Kevin Boyle.

Rusty, missing home.

RedRover Responders volunteers Dee and Paula with Zeus and Achilles.

A beautiful husky at the emergency shelter.

RedRover Responders volunteer Kevin spends time with Coco and Trixie.

Despite the storm, Buddy shows a smile.

RedRover Responders volunteer Bob takes Vanilla for a walk.

RedRover Responders volunteer Diane gives Trixie a belly rub.

Interested in becoming a RedRover Responders volunteer? Learn more >>

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A rescue within a rescue

By Linda Bak, RedRover Development Manager

There's a first time for everything. For me, this is my first deployment, my first time sleeping in an animal shelter, and my first time sleeping in a room with a snake.

Our gracious accommodations at the animal shelter for the first few nights of our deployment, with Smiley the snake.

Last night a water main burst in the animal shelter where we are staying. The RedRover Responders volunteer I'm here with, Howard, walked out of our room into puddles of water everywhere. In one of the rooms, water was coming down like a waterfall on the poor dogs that the animal control officer had brought in earlier.

Harold wasted no time to leap into action. He pulled the crates and dogs out of the water right away. Wow, that's one way to start your morning! Thankfully the dogs are fine.

The part of the shelter where we stayed was flooded and the water had to be turned off. As of right now, they are still working on fixing the water main and they have to ship in water for the animals. So, sadly, we said our goodbyes to our roommate Smiley the snake and headed over to Rescue Ranch for another day of grueling manual labor. (Another first: I never drank so many fluids in my life! On our first day, we both were soaked through with sweat within 10 minutes.)

Linda snuggles with a friendly miniature horse. Photo courtesy Rescue Ranch.

While Rescue Ranch is built to withstand Category 2 and lower hurricanes, the storm still blew water into the
stalls, so we have been stripping the stalls of all the wet shavings and dumping them in a far pasture
- not to mention the regular daily mucking, feeding and watering. It makes me thankful for my (low maintenance) little house, my dog and sweet kitty.

Linda and Lori walk horses at Rescue Ranch. Photo courtesy Rescue Ranch.

Thankfully we were able to get a hotel room to stay in tonight, and boy am I looking forward to a clean shower and a bed to sleep in!

RedRover at Rescue Ranch

Just as one team of RedRover Responders volunteers returned home from Louisiana after caring for animals displaced by Hurricane Isaac, another team has arrived in Belle Chasse to help equines rescued from the flooding.

Two RedRover Responders volunteers are at Rescue Ranch to help care for nearly 40 horses, miniature donkeys and ponies who are being fostered at the ranch or who were rescued during Hurricane Isaac. 

They will spend five days providing these animals with the special care and attention that RedRover Responders volunteers are known for.

Stay tuned for more photos and stories from Rescue Ranch.