A Paws For Pets — Stories of animals returned to families after tornadoes

By LaMoine Roth, York Adopt A Pet

With the recent tornadoes and their devastation in eastern Nebraska, there are many stories of rescued pets found and returned to their families.

There is the story of the dog who was carried four blocks from his home in his kennel. It broke open when landing on the ground, but he was uninjured and was found patiently laying on a mattress.

There is the story of the small Pomeranian found uninjured under a couch.

And the story of two family cats and their dog who were found hours later, uninjured.

I would like to share the story that I wrote in August of 2011 about the tornado that destroyed the town of Joplin, Missouri.

I found a request on the internet from the Joplin Humane Society, as they needed cash for the many injuries being cared for at the shelter.  They had more than enough food, blankets and supplies but they needed money for the enormous medical vet care.  I sent a donation through PayPal directly to the shelter.  I was so touched by her story that I called and visited with Executive Director Karen Aquino and received her permission to share this with you. Hopefully we will never experience the tragedy Joplin, Missouri experienced. I am assured that if we do, others will reach out from all over the country to help the animals and the compassionate people who work non-stop helping these innocent and helpless victims of such disasters.

This is the experience from the tornado that destroyed Joplin, by Karen:

“It has been a long two months since the tornado decimated our town. Here at the Joplin Humane Society (JHS), we have been exhausted and exhilarated as well as overcome with sadness or bursting with joy. Most of all, we have been totally in awe of all of the wonderful people who came forward to help those who cannot help themselves….our four-legged friends.

“The first few days/weeks were intense. As soon as we realized the extent of the devastation, emergency response teams were requested and we started setting up the emergency animal shelter. Enlisting the help of nearby humane societies, we emptied Joplin Humane Society (JHS) of adoptable animals turning the JHS shelter into a hospital ward for incoming animals.

“Each day, more than 100 animals came to our shelters; many with devastating injuries. About 12 volunteer veterinarians along with veterinary technicians, from near and far, staffed the triage unit around the clock. Animals were brought in on stretchers, in people’s arms and even on doors, used as makeshift stretchers.

“And it wasn’t just dogs and cats! We received chickens, pot-bellied pigs, snakes, hermit crabs, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and even goldfish! I think the goldfish story is one of my favorites. Prior to demolishing an apartment building, search teams were sent in one more time to look for survivors. One of the workers spotted the goldfish in the tank, went into the kitchen and retrieved a pot with a lid, scooped up the goldfish and brought them to us. Here’s the really cool part: the owners came here and retrieved the fish!  I truly feel this exemplifies the compassion shown by all during this event.

“Over all, we received 1,306 animals which were directly impacted by the tornado. Best of all, more than 500 were reunited with their families. Although many people found their pets, they had no place to keep them. We boarded, for free, more than 100 animals until their owners could find a new place to live.

“After five weeks of searching for the remaining pets’ owners, we held a super adoption event and adopted out every single remaining animal over a two day period! 745 to be exact…isn’t that amazing? More than 5,000 people showed up and waited hours in the heat to open their hearts and their homes. We counted license tags from 24 states in our parking lot that day.

“Although we have hundreds of stories to share, here is just one of many:

Hi, everyone! My name is George. I am the devastatingly handsome redheaded canine pictured with my mommy, Shannon. I have a pretty amazing tale if you have a second to read it.

You see, my hometown is Joplin, Missouri. On one horrific day my world was shattered. On the fateful afternoon of May 22 dark clouds rolled in and released an F5 tornado that leveled my town. Unfortunately, a large beam fell across my back and pinned me beneath the rubble with both of my knees rotated back and crushed. It was excruciating! When I awoke it was very dark and scary, I had no idea what was happening; only that I really, really hurt.

There were some people walking around injured like me, but not many. I was trapped in the worst area possible and the human rescuers could not reach me. I spent the next three days trapped and scared. Finally, someone came for me! Two volunteers from the animal shelter heard my cries and pulled me from the debris. As you can imagine, I wasn’t looking so hot. They rushed me to the Joplin Humane Society where an emergency shelter and pet hospital was established.

This is where I met my other new mommy, Dr. Jen Barber. She was serving as the Emergency Medical Director at JHS and she immediately realized how just how critical I was. Everyone on duty (myself included) felt I had suffered enough and my outlook didn’t look too good. One of the local vets had a visiting orthopedic specialist, so JHS took me there for x-rays and probable euthanasia. I was so very tired.

The next two days were a blur but I can tell you that the specialist would not give up on me. He stayed up all night to fix both of my knees for FREE!  You can imagine the joy on all the faces at JHS when I returned alive three days later!

They gave me a really comfy bed to recover in and several volunteers took good care of me. One week later I took my first steps! No one told me it would hurt so bad! I began to slip back into despair and I stopped eating and drinking. I had given up…but they wouldn’t let me.

That’s where Mommy Shannon comes in….she is a human nurse down in Arkansas, so a little out of her league with dogs, but Shannon and Dr. Barber made a plan. I took more frequent walks (whether I wanted to or not) and you know what? Each day the pain was less. They bribed me with chicken fried steak and lunch meat….how can a dog refuse that? Mommy Shannon said she couldn’t find a hotel room so she slept on the floor in the supply room. I think it was really so she could be close to me!

I wouldn’t be telling you this story if it didn’t have a good ending. I now live with Mommy Shannon. I still have my good days and bad days but I love Mommy Shannon and she loves me … life is good!

Whether you donated your time, sent money or donated supplies, please know your gift made a huge difference to these hundreds of animals. You can certainly see the impact your gift made on their well-being. As an animal shelter, we know we have a long road ahead of us and we thank you deeply for your continued support and compassion for our four-legged friends.

Today is the large York Adopt A Pet garage sale. It is huge with something for everyone. Prices are low and excitement is high.  It starts at 9 a.m. this morning until 5:30 p.m., today. Saturday it will be held from 9 a.m. until noon. Bag sale on Saturday – fill a bag for $5. Items that will not fit in a bag half price.  It will be held inside the shelter if the weather is bad. See you today and hopefully again on Saturday.

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