Heroes Nonetheless

Hard to imagine, isn't it? Two severe hurricanes hitting within a month of each other. Striking within miles of each other. People we know, people we've never met--their lives are changed forever. Their stories have touched us and made us cry. They've made us want to do something! And even if you've given until your budget is stretched thin, offered to house or adopt animals, sent supplies, and prayed, you still feel like it's not enough. It wasn't until after reading an article by Rebecca Gimenez, PhD, and Janice Baker, DVM, on "Disaster Response--Top 10 Ways to Make a Real Impact" (see www.TheHorse.com/emag.aspx?ID=6214) that it was brought home that there are still jobs left to do, right here at home. My house used to have an emergency kit, complete with flashlight, extra batteries, weather radio, water, food, and a first-aid kit. My barn's first aid kit used to be fully stocked, and halters used to be strategically hung for quick access. It's not like we didn't have a tornado sit down almost on top of our farm last year. Or lived through an ice storm that shut off our electricity for a week and froze our pipes. Or have a wind storm that took out power (and a few trees). But what did those lessons teach me? Apparently not enough.

Gimenez and Baker covered the following 10 points in their article to teach us--veterinarians and horse owners--to make a better personal impact in the future on disaster response:

  1. Understand the big picture.
  2. Prepare and educate yourself first.
  3. Don't add to the problem.
  4. Rethink the term "hero."
  5. Be a good leader, be a great follower.
  6. Soul search your motives.
  7. Build on your skills and interests.
  8. Plug yourself into the existing plan.
  9. Understand your limitations.
  10. Start with your own community.

It's #2 that should be emphasized by each of us on our farms and in our own homes. Do we have our own plan in case of emergency?

Heroes At Work

There were many heroes in the tragedy that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They don't want the title, or any reward. Some are destined to remain nameless. Some have been featured on television and in newspapers and magazines.

Lucian Mitchell and Darnell Stewart spent a week stranded in downtown New Orleans with 22 Charbonnet Mid-City Carriage Company horses and mules they rescued. Twenty-seven of the animals had been evacuated, but the waters rose so quickly that the remaining animals were trapped in the barns in chest-high water before Mitchell and Stewart managed to lead them to safety. They cared for them for a week before being rescued (see www.TheHorse.com/emag.aspx?ID=6114).

Louis Pomes lost all 26 of his horses, but after rescuing friends and strangers in St. Bernard Parish, he became the water and food angel of many horses and other animals. He hauled water from the Mississippi River in five-gallon jugs to fill whatever was handy so animals could drink (see www.TheHorse.com/emag.aspx?ID=6215).

On Labor Day, Dawn Garner of our programming department heeded the call from rescue workers and veterinarians on the front lines and developed a database for people to list stranded animals (see page 35 for one result of those efforts).

Drs. Rustin Moore and Denny French of Louisiana State University, and all of their co-workers, students, and volunteers, manned phones and coordinated not only rescue efforts, but daily care of more than 1,000 rescued animals.

There are too many to name, and to thank.

As Gimenez and Baker stated in a prologue to their feature: This article is dedicated to the thousands of hard-working animal response organizations and their volunteers who slept on the concrete, ate MREs, endured the horror of dragging drowned or killed animal carcasses out of buildings, trees, and mud after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and occasionally proclaimed joyfully, "This one's ALIVE!" The horse industry greatly appreciates you all.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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