Dogs have long been called man’s best friend, and as you see the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s trip through Texas, you know why. So many stories from southeast Texas have popped up in recent days about the lengths people will go to save our four-legged friends.
All throughout social media, on TV, and elsewhere in the press have been pictures, videos, and accounts of dogs in the flood waters of Houston and wastelands of communities hit by Harvey’s winds.
The first furry friend who made waves on social media was Otis, a dog from Sinton, Texas who got loose during the storm but was resourceful enough to grab a bag of food to take with him. The video of Otis trotting down the street, food bag between his teeth, went viral, making the big fella a hero, and a symbol of the enduring toughness of Texans.
The dog, owned by five-year-old Carter Segovia, was already a local legend. Carter’s grandfather, who was watching Otis during the storm, said Otis is a special dog in the community: “Otis can go to Dairy Queen and he can get a hamburger. He’s the only dog allowed to lie down in front of the county court house.” He’s even allowed to roam the local H-E-B grocery store.
As many of those affected by the storm evacuate their destroyed or flooded homes, they take little with them. That may include just the clothes they’re wearing, their family, and often their pets. Many people, like Naomi Coto, carried their dogs with them as they trudged through deep flood waters to safety.
One man rescued his neighbor and her Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, the same kind of dog I have, from her home, carrying the dog as he and the pup’s owner waded through rushing water to a rescue boat.
In a heroic act that must have been a logistical nightmare, a group of rescuers saved a woman and a whopping 21 dogs, which she had collected from her neighbors and kept in her attic for safety until she could get help. Betty Walter said that once someone found them, she didn’t think that all the dogs would be able to fit.
“I was worried there was too many dogs on the boat and it would tip over. I told them I would stay behind and for them to make two trips. They said no, we are taking all and you,” she said.
Unfortunately, not all animals are as lucky as these dogs. Some shelters won’t accept animals with their owners, and in the chaos of evacuating pets can often become separated from their families. Fortunately, as rescuers search for people, they often retrieved stranded animals as well. Even members of the media who encounter dogs trapped by flood waters are chipping in to help out.
While reporting on Harvey, CNN’s Ed Lavandera encountered Frankie and Bear, two retrievers stuck on a boat outside a home. The owners couldn’t take them along, so they put them in a boat hoping someone would come along and rescue them, and that’s exactly what happened.
UPDATE: Frankie & Bear are safe. The two dogs we saw sitting in a boat in a flooded neighborhood have been rescued! A combination of volunteer rescuers and friends pitched in to save the day. In the chaotic evacuation, the family was not allowed to bring the dogs in the rescue boat so they thought putting them in the boat temporarily, until someone could reach them, was the safest decision. They’re being cared for and the owners will reconnect them at some point. Photo courtesy @agband93bcobrooks
On Sunday a group of rescuers came across a dog that had been swept away in the water and was clinging for dear life to a roadside railing. Thankfully they were able to recover the scared and water-logged puppy.
A photographer covering the floods found a dog stranded by a telephone pole as the waters rose around him. After snapping the heartbreaking photo, he rescued the dog.
In a scene that seems straight out of a movie, cowboys and their dogs drove a herd of cattle down a city street in Dayton, seeking to keep the cows out of the flood waters. As rural lands along many of the rivers outside of Houston have also flooded, livestock have faced similar dangers as household pets. Unfortunately, you can’t put a cow on your back and wade through flooded fields.
Finally, as Aaron Jayjack stopped for gas, a frightened dog jumped in the back seat of his Jeep. Jayjack took to social media to find the dog’s owner, and sure enough, through the power of Twitter, Cash and his family were reunited.
— Aaron Jayjack (@aaronjayjack) August 26, 2017
Just like the stories of people coming together to help one another that I highlighted earlier in the week, these stories warm your heart. They also remind you that pets really are members of your family. My dog is my best friend, and if I ever had to evacuate there’s no way I’d ever leave without her by my side.
If you want to help out the dogs, cats, and other animals hurt by Hurricane Harvey you can give financial donations, pet supplies, or volunteer your time to many organizations including the SPCA of Texas, American Humane Society, the Harvey Disaster Animal Fund, or the shelters housing displaced animals like Austin Pets Alive!, San Antonio Pets Alive!, and the Animal Defense League of Texas.