Volunteer Chris Percious helps care for sick dogs Thursday at Hi Tower Kennels in Beaumont, Tex. (Lucian Perkins for The Washington Post)
BEAUMONT, Tex. — It was a dire scene when veterinarian Nick Moore opened the door — dozens of dogs, panting or seriously ill in the hot, dark rooms of a run-down kennel that had been partially flooded the night before by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.
One dog was already dead. Six more were close to that, and at least a dozen were in critical condition. There were 128 dogs in all, plus 16 cats and a horse. There was no air conditioning, and many were too dehydrated to walk, much less drink or eat. Some were going into shock.
Moore had traveled with a friend and a truck full of veterinary supplies from his home in Georgetown, north of Austin, to the flooded landscape along the Texas-Louisiana border. In a crisis as expansive as the one wrought by Harvey — which left thousands of submerged homes across miles of rural East Texas and thousands of people to be rescued and placed in emergency shelters — he knew there would be animals left behind.
“Helping animals is what I do for a living, and it was four hours away,” said Moore, 38, one of hundreds of volunteers mobilized in Beaumont on Thursday, though one of the very few with veterinary skills. “How could I not come?”
Veterinarian Nick Moore prepares to enter Hi Tower Kennels, which appealed for help as it was surrounded by floodwaters. (Lucian Perkins for The Washington Post)
Cherie Brum owns Hi Tower Kennels — really a low-lying house that had been converted into that purpose. When heavy rains started, she said, she had only 30 dogs in crates and cages here. But as the flooding began, surrounding her property up to the edge of her doorstep, dozens more came, most of them rescued from a neighbor’s place.
The Beaumont Police Department had heard about the dogs, as well as more than a dozen horses and other animals stuck out there in the murky waters. But they were still in the midst of rescuing people and trying desperately to manage the fresh crisis of a city devoid of drinking water. So Moore, who normally works with horses, gathered the locations of stranded creatures from an officer in the animal services division and set out to see what he could do.
At Brum’s kennel, Moore, his friend Sam Darlington and a general contractor got to work fast. They began inserting intravenous drips into the dogs that were going into shock, and they carried the most critical cases into the front room so they could be monitored.
Moore, 38, asked a group of young volunteers who showed up — two couples with minimal equipment but eager to assist in any way — to hold the bags of IV fluids and watch the dogs’ progress. He handed one man his cellphone to post an urgent and specific request his vet practice’s Facebook page — for crates, a truck and a dry place to take all these dogs fast. He had another help him start checking crates. Look at each dog’s gums, he instructed. Dry gums mean the animal needs care immediately.
Sam Darlington, left, helps Moore prepare to hydrate a very sick dog via an IV at the Hi Tower Kennels. (Lucian Perkins for The Washington Post)
Moore and Darlington, 55, worked for more than two hours, their faces damp with sweat. “Pinch this down,” Moore told volunteer Erica Berlinger, 31, as she held an IV drip. Put the dead dog in a garbage bag if there is one, he directed one man. “We don’t want him in any water, in case what he’s got is contagious,” he said.
As the sun began to dip low in the sky, the first batch of around a dozen new crates arrived, plus two new volunteers who run a dolphin boat cruise in Alabama. They began putting the crates together with zip ties.
“We’re going to get these critical ones sorted out, and then we’re going to go by boat to get more,” Moore said, referring to some 200 dogs and horses believed to be at another flooded property nearby.
By then, he had been able to move more than 12 of the most critical cases to dry land down the street, though he knew that he would have to put some to sleep. He had also spoken to his receptionist back at Moore Equine Dental Services and heard that additional volunteers and supplies were on the way.
“In this business, you do deal with emergencies. But not like this, not in this scale,” he said, water still covering acres in every direction. “As long as there’s places to go, we’re going to keep going.”
Correction: Brum’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.
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