October 22nd, 2008
Submitted by EARS volunteer Jennifer Muller of Houston (pictured below), about her recent deployment to help animals affected by Hurricane Ike, Beaumont, Texas
I intended to write this much sooner — it is amazing how quickly your day-to-day life takes over the moment you return home from a deployment!
The morning after Hurricane Ike swept across our region, I realized that EARS would likely be called in to help. Once the flood waters began to subside, I walked through the neighborhood with my parents to survey the damage. What a mess. Huge trees were uprooted, some of which had unfortunately landed directly on homes. Several trees were now blocking major streets in our area and there wasn’t a functioning street light to be found. People began to appear outside of their homes to clean up the debris that Ike left behind. Most of us were now without power and/or water.
The night before Ike made landfall, I packed up my pets, left my home and drove to my parents’ house, which is also in Houston. The media had indicated that evacuation wasn’t necessary for our area, so we decided to wait out the storm together…pets and all!
Two days after Ike’s arrival, my blackberry began to receive e-mails again, one of which was from United Animal Nations (UAN) asking if I would be able to deploy with the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) to Beaumont, Texas in an effort to help Ike evacuees and their pets. I spent two weekends in Beaumont and traveled home to Houston during the work week to keep up with my job responsibilites as an intellectual property paralegal.
I’ll never forget my first day at the shelter. I remember so vividly hearing and seeing so many dogs and cats (and two swans??? I must admit that I never expected to see swans at this deployment!) waiting as patiently as possible for their turn to be cared for. I immediately felt overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, but luckly, EARS Regional Director Karla Schulte was there to greet me and help me to understand the process that was already underway. After a brief discussion with Karla, I was ready to get to work cleaning cages, walking dogs, etc. The animals were clearly appreciative of their time with the volunteers. It really was an amazing feeling to realize how much of a difference the volunteers were making in the daily lives of these animals.
My advice for new volunteers going on their first deployment? No matter how prepared you may be for your trip, know that the unexpected can and likely will happen! Pack some ear plugs in case you are in a room working with a lot of barking dogs. Oh, and bring an eye mask to help you sleep … just in case you happen to be sleeping on the floor of a church gymnasium with its lights still on one evening!
I met and worked with some amazing people and animals in Beaumont. I can honestly say that volunteering with EARS was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and while I will never hope for another disaster such as Ike, I sincerely hope that I am invited to volunteer should disaster strike again.
Photos this post courtesy Jennifer Muller.