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Their adopters look back on the love these dogs have brought to their lives.
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After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast in 2005, anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of animals became separated from their human guardians. Some of these animals were reunited with their families. Many died. Others never found their original families, but eventually found new ones. These grateful pets have brought so much love and fulfillment to their rescuers.
“We know adopters of victims of natural disasters experience an immense degree of satisfaction for helping an animal who has endured a tragedy,” said Dr. Franklin D. McMillan, D.V.M., director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. “My personal as well as professional opinion is that many of these dogs recognize the person caring for them after their traumatic experience is the cause of their good fortune.”
Cajun and Lolli, both Katrina refugees who ended up with Best Friends and later got adopted, are lucky puppies indeed. But their adoptive parents would say that they, the humans, are the lucky ones.
Susan Gillin of Arizona knows little about the background of Cajun, her sweet Australian Kelpie mix. The dog had been traumatized — he spent seven years at Best Friends and could not be adopted out because he would bite people.
“He’s definitely a special case. I won’t allow children to be around him,” Susan said. “One minute, he’ll be wagging his tail at you; the next minute, he’ll be snarling.”
But even tricky dogs can make a love match. Susan — who always had wanted to rescue a dog who was really in need — clicked with the difficult dog when she visited Best Friends to volunteer.
Cajun climbed into Susan’s suitcase when she stayed the night at the sanctuary last spring. She took it as a sign that she should take a leap of faith and bring the dog home with her and her husband, Shayne.
Cajun still has his moments, but he is “in a good mood 99 percent of the time and happy-go-lucky — following me, wagging his tail,” Susan said.
Cajun has brought a lot of joy and spice into Susan’s life, and has given her his hard-earned trust.
“It’s so nice to know he got a chance to have a home,” Susan said. “I’m just happy that he’s happy. I definitely think it was meant to be.”
Lolli, as in Lollipop. The name fits Kathy Hay’s Katrina dog well because she’s so sweet, despite a tough past.
Lolli, a 50-pound mixed breed, ended up in Kathy’s California home after an intermediate stop at Best Friends. In February 2006, Kathy and her husband, David Hathaway, went to visit Best Friends, where a friend was working. While the couple toured the facility, a staff member who was fostering Lolli said, “I think I have a dog for you.”
“I think you’re mistaken,” Kathy replied. “I didn’t come here to get a dog.”
Kathy isn’t sure what inspired the woman to pick her out like that, but it was meant to be.
“I met her, and my husband was watching us,” Kathy recalled. “He turned to our friend and said, ‘I think we just got a dog.’ The whole time I was driving home, we kept saying, ‘What have we done?’”
Lolli is certainly special. “When you look at Lolli’s eyes, you see into her soul,” she said.
“There’s a patience and an understanding with her. She’s so sweet. She’s made me a better person,” Kathy said.
Top photo: Cajun courtesy Best Friends Animal Society.
Kellie Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as “Mother Catresa” to homeless kittens and cats. Read about her adventures in fostering on her blog.
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