Last week, he wrote to us and shared a touching story about a series of events that occurred exactly ten years ago today. We thought the story, a tale about the rescue of a dog during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was best told in the commissioner’s own words.
I found these items among my souvenirs — keepsakes of a story that happened ten years ago this week. It’s a story how three people from DC somehow joined together to save the life of a dog in New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina had destroyed parts of the Gulf Coast more than a week earlier, and much of New Orleans was still under water.
I was at work at ABC News on DeSales Street when I got a call from my good friend Emmett Woolfrey, who had moved from D.C. to New Orleans several years earlier. Emmett had safely evacuated to Baton Rouge. He called to ask if there was any way to help his friend, a fellow hospital technician names James Coates. James had been forced to leave his dog Chanelle behind, with a maybe a week’s worth of food and some bowls full of water. James was terrified that the water was running out, and Chanelle would die of dehydration.
I had seen a story about animal rescues (this was twelve days after the storm hit), and tried to contact the group that was coordinating those efforts. I was unable to reach the woman in charge by phone, so I sent her an e-mail. It was, in retrospect, a bit melodramatic, but I wanted to get her attention.
I never did hear from Ellen, but the results were even better. The next day, I got a phone call from a neighbor. It was Scotlund Haisley, from Georgetown, whom I knew both from Montrose Park and from the Washington Animal Rescue League. He said he was calling from New Orleans, from a boat, headed down a flooded street, and on his way to try to find Chanelle. He was asking for specific instructions on how to find James’ apartment. Fortunately, I had met James at Mardi Gras 2002, and had stopped by his apartment before one of the parades, so I could describe the house and the path back to James’ apartment. The directions were all that Scotlund needed. He said he’d get back to me after he found Chanelle.
An hour later, he called back, and said he had found her and she was in bad shape. She was near death from dehydration, and was unconscious and barely breathing. He said he was taking her to a hospital unit to get an IV into her. Later, he had her taken up to LSU in Baton Rouge, where veterinary doctors stabilized her, and put her on the road to recovery. Scotlund, meanwhile, went back to searching abandoned and ruined homes for animals to be rescued.
Scotlund called me about a week later, and told me Chanelle was well enough to be reunited with James. Eventually, James and Chanelle returned to New Orleans, and he sent me this picture, which speaks for itself.
Chanelle lived to be 14 years old, and was James’ best friend and faithful companion. Her tongue was always too big for her mouth, and it always stuck out, especially when she was happy. Sadly, James died last year. Emmett now lives in Florida. And Scotund, who left the Animal Rescue League to work with the Humane Society, now works with the Animal Rescue Corps, a group that rescues animals after natural disasters and from abusive situations.
Very few good things came out of Katrina, but one was a change in the way animals are treated in disaster evacuations. We are no longer forced to choose either to stay behind with our pets or to evacuate and leave our animal companions behind. Our dogs and cats are members of our families. They can come with us, and their love and loyalty can help see us through whatever storms we must endure.
It’s a lesson I learned ten years ago this week, a lesson with a happy ending.
Photos courtesy of Mike Silverstein and ANC 2B