Jun 26, 2012

One Year after the Tornado Adoption Event

It's hard to believe that it's already been a full year since we were wrapping up the last of the home and owner-less pets from the Joplin tornado.  The adoption event was on June 25 and 26, 2011 and I still get overcome when I think about how many people turned out to help them.  We had over 1,300 tornado animals come in immediately following the storm.  Some families were lucky enough to find their pets. 

This family's dog had been thrown into a drainage ditch and had broken all of his fingernails trying to climb out of the 8 feet of concrete and water that he was trapped in.  A volunteer who had come to do some search and rescue found him and didn't hesitate before jumping into that murky water to fish him out.  If I remember right, the vet staff took turns taking him home until his family was found.

This lady wasn't found for 8 days.  I've forgotten her owner's name at this point but he told me that he was walking around his house with his insurance guy and heard his cat make a noise in the ruins.  All sense of decorum was thrown out the window when he started digging through his home with his bare hands to find his friend.  He brought her into the shelter for a quick check up and to get some medicine for his cat's eye.  He told me that I was looking at the next two millionaires because no one else is this lucky.

Not everyone found the end to the story that they were looking for.  A dog was spooked and took off running in the heart of the tornado area minutes before the storm.  His owner took off chasing him trying desperately to get him inside before the weather got worse.  The storm hit and they both were listed among the missing.  Her sister came in every day and asked me about the border collie.  She was sure that her sister would turn up and be furious that no one had looked for her dog.  It got to the point where I would do a walk through of every animal within a half hour of when she would arrive to ask.  After over two or three weeks of this, she came in for the last time.  They found her sister and she had caught up to her terrified dog that day. They were pinned under a collapsed wall and she died with her dog in her arms.  We cried together and I still am not able to say any part of this story out loud without crying.  My husband hasn't heard it.  It's not even the only story that I've kept to myself.

Back at the shelter, not every pet was lucky enough to have their owner come for them.  Many people were not able to find housing or were not able to have pets there.  We ended up being asked to adopt their pet into a new home.  Once the date was set for the adoption event, the staff would ask each other.  What happens if they're not all adopted?  We can't operate out of the shelter and three warehouses full of animal with just our little staff once the ASPCA leaves.  We had no idea of the scope of the whole thing.  

I probably got to work around 8:00am or so.  There were already people in line and I was thrilled.  My job for the event was to take photos for the shelter.  As I walked slowly down the edge of Main Street to get photos of the whole scale of the event, some police officers arrived to direct traffic.  Seemingly everyone on the road then came into our parking area.  Roughly three thousand people were waiting to get into the event by the time we even opened the gates.

Once the area by the gate got too crowded, the line reached all the way past the permanent shelter that is around 1000 feet away.  People didn't mind waiting in the sun for hours to help these pets out.

Once the adoptions started rolling, I tried to catch as many as I could with their new families.  Some made me smile.

 Others made me tear up.

We may not have been building houses or digging in the rubble but I feel like we helped bring people peace and a fresh start in a nightmarish time.  I feel very strongly that I was exactly where I needed to be throughout this whole ordeal.  When you quit fighting it and take a step back, you can handle anything one at a time.  Six days after this, I got married.  Things like this really put your priorities in order and you can accomplish everything.

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