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Responding to the Destruction of Katrina: Emails from the front

FOR RELEASE: September 22, 2005 - E-Mail from Britton Badgley-Babcock

examining a cat in the triage area Well, things are unbelievable down here. There are 1200 animals at LSU in the arena (it's about 3 times the size of a hockey arena with barns and another arena off of it) and 1500 animals and still recieving at Lamar in Gonzalas outside of NO. Lamar is so hard to describe it is basically it is a giant fair grounds (like OSU state fair) and it is barn after barn of dogs/cats/horses/birds, ect. in each of of the stalls there are two to four even 6 crates - dog crates with dogs in them or cats in the cat ward. There are so many people but not enough for all those animals.

Basically people start at about 5:30 a.m. on an aisle to feed, water, walk and clean the cages. One group of OSU students told us that they didn't finish their aisle until 3 PM! The ICU is made up of an overhang and tarps to shade animals in their crates. All the animals have fans on them also. There is a central table and the stalls next to it are used for a pharmacy, storage and lab/surgery - yes, surgery. Minor of course but wow definitely new to me. The surgery suite consists of a 10 x 10 stall complete with shavings on the floor a card table on one side with supplies, a card table on one wall for the surgery, table with 2 chairs ( to save your back) and opposite of that is the lab equipment(idexx, vetlyte, centrifuge).

They were really happy to see us and assigned me to help with the surgeries - run anesthesia. Okay, I was paired with a very nice surgeon from OSU- who was pulled in 15 directions within the first 5 mins of our arrival to ICU(which is run by VMAT). On the schedule were 4 surgeries for that day . First was a mass removal/infected dew claw removal) for a Rottie ( a intact female that was emaciated - she should have been 70 lb and was maybe 40 (there no scale so I guessed). Skin and bones. I personally have never seen a dog this thin before first hand. She was being transported to WS to a rottie rescue and they wanted the mass removed before taking her that day!) Why an elective surgery for something she has probably had for years? Because someone(a volunteer vet told her it had to be done before transport) She was so sweet. So armed with some ace/atropine and propofol ( and lidocaine for a block) we started our first quick surgery of the day. So after about 1 hour we were done. She recovered nicely on the stall floor and hung out with us for about 2 hours.

We were called to a mandatory meeting at noon to discuss the current Rita situation - where they let us know where and what catagory she was - and advised us to use are own judgment on wether we wanted to stay or not just in case she turned towards LA. We are actually leaving today - some flights have already been cancelled out of Baton Rouge. We are driving back ahead of the weather. Disappointing when there is sooooo much to do but I understand everyones safety concerns.

Anyway, I know that this long but I truely can't even explain it all. Plus it is really hot and very humid and completly exhuasting emotionally and physically. I have only cried twice. Once with an owner who stopped me to tell me how grateful she was that she didn't have to worry about her dogs now. They had lost everything - house, their business. All they had was their car and what they took when they evacuated. She just hugged me and cried.

On thewater situation. I feel like I spend half the time drinking water. Speaking of water - it is everywhere plus Gatorade, soda- there are cooling stations, food stations, water stations, volunteers who walk around as 'water police' handing out water to people. Besides all the chaos there are so many new people - there are not so nice people as well, that seem to forget that we are all here doing is for the same goal - but it is frustrating the amount of miscommunication, redirection and a lot of cooks in the kitchen you might say! But overall I have met a lot of nice people and have run into some that I have known from Ohio and Idaho. So boy, this is long and I haven't even started the second part of my day. I'm going to take a break and I'll try to finish before we leave.

-- britton