Last Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence cloaked the coastal Carolinas under massive arcs of wind and rain. Florence has since been downgraded to a slow-swirling tropical storm which has sandwiched the region between two walls of water: the storm surge from the Atlantic and torrential runoff from cresting rivers and saturated hills to the west.
It’s hard to imagine any good coming out of yet another natural disaster especially in this political climate where some are denying the magnitude of previous disasters - and that our carbon footprint had anything to do with them. Yet a tidal wave of goodwill has risen to a level that would put Biblical lore to shame.
Some individuals and organizations mobilized on behalf of companion animals well before Florence made landfall.
Lucky Dog Animal Rescue organized the transport of 50 shelter dogs and cats from Florence, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon. About an hour and a half after pulling out of home base, their van broke down. Fifty volunteers responded to pleas over social media or from having seen the van stranded by the side of the road. Some took the pets into their own vehicles to provide air-conditioning until a new van arrived.
Shortly before midnight, Looney K9’s replacement van pulled into Arlington, Virginia, with its tired crew and cuddly cargo. These animals were taken far from the whipping winds that might have taken their lives before they could find love again. Many are all still looking for their forever homes.
Shelters across the Eastern Seaboard and the U.S. are rallying in big numbers. Brutalized by Hurricane Irma last year, a grateful Broward County Humane Society in Florida took in three dozen rescue animals - including a bunny - trucked in from Beaufort, South Carolina last Tuesday. Earlier, Broward HS had taken in 15 dogs from Puerto Rico in advance of tropical storm Isaac. The North Shore Animal League on Long Island brought up 70 dogs from South Carolina and Virginia shelters to make room for animals displaced by tropical storm Florence.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, neighbors waded through chest-high waters looking for people in need of help. Tugging along in a motorboat, Good Samaritans Matthew Drake and Sean Boggs did not find any people but they plucked several stranded pets from the rising flood waters and brought them to safety. Several more people were out helping others despite winds that had ripped off roofs, toppled trees and extinguished power overnight. Officials anticipate a power outage lasting for weeks and flood waters lingering for a week.
Rescue efforts for Hurricane Florence are not limited to humans. Three teams of search-and-rescue dogs from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF) were deployed to the Carolinas last Wednesday. The dogs have been trained to sniff-out survivors of all species. One of the dogs, Lily, is on her fourth deployment. Based in Santa Paula, California, the NDSDF is fully funded by donations.
One of my favorite quotes about humanity comes from the 1984 movie “Starman.” In one scene a visiting extraterrestrial who has assumed human form tells a stunned earthling what he finds beautiful about his species:
“You are at your very best when things are worst.”