by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor
Scrolling through my news feed the morning after I visited Van, I came across a familiar face. One of my friends had shared the story of the Bouchillon family—survivors of Sunday night’s tornado. The Bouchillons' car was tossed by the tornado. Andy, his wife and their baby came out virtually unscathed, but the family’s dog, Tater, was nowhere to be found.
Andy was reunited with Tater the next morning. I was there when Andy was interviewed by the national news stations. I saw him holding on to Tater for dear life.
The Bouchillon family’s story is not one I personally heard first hand, but I did meet a couple of people who shared their pet survival stories with me.
We met Shelly on our first trip down Bois D'Arc Street. Her house was still standing and although she was without power, she was worried about leaving her home. Shelly expressed to us that she needed help. She needed supplies and wondered if there was anything we could to help spread the word about the cat she had found after the tornado devastated more than half of her neighbor’s houses. She told us she believed the cat lived across the street, because she said the cat kept looking over, seemingly to say, “Where did my house go?” When we returned to Shelly’s to deliver a Target Comfort Care kit, we snapped a picture of her and the cat.
If you recognize the cat, please contact the American Red Cross.
Blue: The Dog That Comes Out to Say Hi
While searching for people who needed a tarp, we had a very friendly dog greet us along the way. We patted him and found his owner raking debris from his lawn. Though windows had to be boarded and a tarp covered his roof, the house was still pretty much intact.
Telling the owner that a photographer had taken a picture of his dog the day before, I asked the man where he took shelter during the tornado. He told me that when the warning sirens went off and his pictures started “levitating off the walls,” he ran into the bathroom and hid under the sink. As soon as it was over, he immediately ran outside to find his dog, Blue. Instead he heard screaming coming from next door. His neighbor’s home no longer had a roof, or many of its walls. He rushed over to help the women trapped inside. With the other neighbors, Blue’s owner picked off two by fours, rescuing his neighbors.
The search for Blue helped save lives.
Pets Need Emergency Kits, Too
For those of us with four-legged children, the stories of Tater and Blue hit home. Those are two lucky dogs! But not all pet stories have happy endings. Without any form of identification, Shelly’s rescued cat may never make it back to its original owners. When preparing for a disaster, keep your pets needs in mind.
• All pets should identification at all times. Put your cell phone number on their tag or have them microchipped.
• Keep enough food and water for your pet for five days stored in your safe room. Don’t forget a can opener if your pet eats canned food.
• Have a copy of their medical records in a waterproof bag close at hand.
• Pets should have a leash and a crate.
• Remember cat litter and garbage or plastic bags to clean up your pets’ waste.
• For comfort and security, your safe room or pet’s emergency kit should contain a blanket or bed and a toy.
• In case of evacuation, take your pet with you. Before a disaster strikes, map out the pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route.
• Store the phone number of an animal shelter or kennel in your cell phone. Have a plan in place where you will keep your pet if you have to shelter in an American Red Cross shelter.
You have to wonder where outdoor animals go during a tornado. Tater was found near the Bouchillon’s overturned vehicle-where I can only presume he stayed overnight. Animals, especially dogs, can be fiercely loyal to their people. We owe it to them to prepare for their safety as much as ours.
To help, visit RedCross.org/Donate or call 1-800-REDCROSS.