BEAUMONT, TX (September 29, 2008) – Most couples who take time off from work go on romantic cruises or relaxing beachfront vacations, but not Julie and Phil Castaneda of Topeka, Kansas. The co-owners of Dog Day Afternoon Doggie Dude Ranch are spending almost two weeks in Beaumont, Texas, caring for animals rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
Volunteers Phil and Julie Castaneda at UAN’s Hurricane Ike response in Beaumont, Texas
The Castanedas deployed to Beaumont with United Animal Nations’ Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) on Sunday, September 21 to help operate a temporary shelter for Ike’s animal victims at the Humane Society of Southeast Texas. The husband and wife have been using their expertise in animal behavior and kennel management to comfort dozens of stressed dogs who have been separated from their families for almost two weeks.
“I feel like I really make a difference when I come to these responses,” Ms. Castaneda said after a 13-hour day at the temporary shelter. “At the end of the day I am wiped out, but knowing that the dogs are happy means I have done my job. They are the victims and I am here to help them.”
EARS volunteers in Beaumont are walking dogs, feeding and watering animals, and cleaning cages. The Castanedas streamlined this process for the dogs, reducing a six-hour job to a two-hour job. Many of the large dogs rescued from Hurricane Ike’s aftermath were hard to handle because they were stressed or frightened by their circumstances; the Castanedas have worked with the dogs to make them easier for other volunteers to handle.
“The animals are so often misunderstood when their stress levels are so high,” Ms. Castaneda said. “I can be a voice for them and help others understand how to deal with them a little better.”
The Castanedas are also co-coordinators of the new Shawnee County Animal Response Team (CART), intended to bring volunteers in the Topeka area together to help animals during disasters and raise awareness of the need to include animals in disaster planning.
“We want to educate people to make emergency plans so that they don’t have to rely on emergency sheltering,” she said. “It starts in your living room or around the dining room table – planning what to do in emergencies and including your pets in that plan.”
In Beaumont, the Castanedas are sleeping in tents outside the shelter and grabbing a shower at a local church or Salvation Army when they can — hardly a romantic getaway for a couple married for 19 years with nine children.
But the couple is clearly where they want to be. “We have been a team for a really long time and it shows,” Ms. Castaneda said.
Founded in 1987, United Animal Nations is North America’s leading provider of emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services and a key advocate for the critical needs of animals.