Meteorologists in our little corner of the world were
doing their level best not to alarm anyone as a "climatological event"
known as Frances was making its way in our general direction. But it was
very difficult in those few days preceding the landfall of Hurricane
Frances to think of much else and I was near hysterics, I am not ashamed
to say. Having lived through Hurricane Andrew and witnessing the near
total devastation of our neighbors to the west in Punta Gorda at the hands
of Hurricane Charley a mere week or so before, I was not one to be
complacent about hurricanes.
How can you be when you have animals depending on you for
their safety and well being and you know that, if the order to evacuate is
given, you can't bring them to shelters with you ?
There are many, many issues to consider when a hurricane
threatens and certainly those of us with animals have additional worries
at a time when most of those around us are concerning themselves with
plywood, shutters and securing property. The experts tell us to fashion a
survival kit and include a gallon of water for each person for seven days.
If you have animals, certainly they, too, will need at least that much so
you figure that into the equation. In the sub tropical heat of South
Florida, air conditioning is essential. When the power goes out, a gallon
of water per person per day hardly seems enough.
They tell you to be sure to go into your safe room, be it
a closet or bathroom but they don't tell you how to explain to your
furkids why you are suddenly acting like the village idiot and herding
them all into the closet in near total darkness because the power has
already failed. Incredibly, they warn us not to tie the dog outside and
leave him there. (I mean, do we really need to be told that?) During
Hurricane Charley, people had done so with disastrous results when the
flooding began. It's hard to believe that there are some people who
actually have to be told not to tie their dog outside during a hurricane
but sure enough, a story emerged of a call that came into the police
station complaining that a German Shepherd dog had been tied up outside a
home, and the people had evacuated. The dog was picked up just an hour or
so before Frances made landfall and animal cruelty charges are pending.
There were lessons learned from Andrew back in August of
1992 that helped shape some of the hurricane survival tips that were
making the rounds in the days before Frances. The folks over at Animal
Control came on all the major networks, which had gone "wall to wall" in
their coverage about two days before Frances was expected to hit. They
told us to be sure our animals had on tags, or had microchips or tattoos
and that cats should be in carriers and dogs in crates "just in case."
When Frances came ashore near my home in Jupiter, Florida
she came as a category two, having been downgraded from the four that we
were expecting. It sounded for all the world as if a freight train was
traveling through my tiny backyard. And the thing about Frances was that
she was moving at a leisurely pace, drawing out the terror, dousing us
with rain and battering us with wind with a ferocity that was downright
She stayed with us for a whole day and night, coming
ashore in the midnight hours and slipping away silently. But it was just a
tease; it was only the eye passing over our little town as we waited in
dread for the second assault. Frances came back with a ferocity that
rattled the windows. When she was really, truly gone, the genuine
Millions of people were without power. One of them was my
friend Mary Pat who had offered to take in the greyhounds of people who
had to evacuate, and there were many of them. She had fourteen greyhounds
in her little house, which was battened down and fully capable of defying
a cat two hurricane. But when the power went out so did the air
conditioning, of course, and in South Florida in early September that is
truly a nightmare. A few of the dogs became ill and needed Gatorade and
Immodium to help them struggle with symptoms of diarrhea and heatstroke.
Mary Pat and her fourteen greyhounds were without power for a full week
and she sobbed every day when I called her to ask what I could do. "Bring
ice, please, bring ice and water" she told me, because both were in very
short supply. I did what I could and we learned that greyhounds rather
like the taste of kiwi-strawberry Gatorade!
The folks at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary had a dilemma as
well. The electricity had gone out there too and with it went all the food
supply for the seabirds. The frozen fish was no longer frozen and was
spoiling fast. I called to ask if they needed anything and David, their
executive director, asked if I knew anywhere to get some fish for the
seabirds. "All my suppliers are without power and the birds have not eaten
now for three days." There was a supplier in Miami, which is about two
hours south of us and not affected by the storm, but gas was in very short
supply and there was a dusk-to-dawn curfew which made it very difficult to
get to Miami and back with a truckload of fish. In the end, they found
some fish for the birds but several animals had died of heart failure
during the height of the storm. Immediately after the storm, their animal
population swelled as over two hundred animals were brought in to be
treated for hurricane-related injuries. A baby squirrel had been slammed
against someone's front door and was soaking wet and traumatized. Birds
had become disoriented, snakes had run afoul of people's personal spaces
and all were brought in for some tender loving care.
A story appeared in the Palm Beach Post about a woman who
opened her door right after the storm to find a strange dog, a Rottweiler,
standing there pleading with her. At first she was afraid and called to
her husband in alarm. He came and saw the dog and decided that the dog was
harmless and so he ventured outside to see if the rotti had a collar or
tag. But the dog turned and ran into the backyard and so the homeowner
followed her to see where she was going. When he arrived in his yard he
found a second Rottweiler struggling to survive in the debris-infested
pool. He saved the drowning dog and, at last report, both dogs were
"eating them out of house and home" while their owners were tracked down.
The animals at Lion Country Safari took over the kitchen
and bathrooms and the Palm Beach Zoo suffered the loss of a few animals
and many, many tropical plants. I heard several reports of older animals
suffering heart attacks or shock and dying at the height of the storm.
These are the victims one never reads about but they are disaster victims
just the same.
By far the biggest tragedy to come out of Hurricane
Frances was the thousands of cattle who were standing in flooded pastures
with nothing to eat and suffering from a disease that rots their feet
because of the water. The farmers will no doubt be reimbursed from FEMA
but I can't help feeling the tragedy of the pain of hunger and isolation
those animals must be feeling.
As I write this we have just escaped a strike from Ivan
and are waiting to see what Jeanne and Lisa will bring.
As for me, I am leaving for California and getting out of
the way. Hurricanes are not discriminating in their total destruction of
flora and fauna and humans and their habitats. In that regard, we are one
with the animals.
Go on to Rastus
Return to 5 December 2004 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright