Milo’s Journey Home: A Volunteer’s Tale
By Lori Underwood, HSPPR CART Volunteer
On August 29, 2021 Hurricane Ida hit the gulf coast state of Louisiana. The storm had developed rapidly over the previous week and happened to hit on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating hurricanes in recent history. However, thanks to lessons learned during Katrina, Louisianans were better prepared, and so were their pets. Shelters coordinated to move adoptable pets from the storm’s center, making room for emergencies and strays. Animal welfare groups from across the country came together to help those in need, not just animals.
On Monday, August 30, 2021, the ASPCA contacted our local Community Animal Response Team (CART) of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) requesting help. Information was coming in sporadically, as power was out in the most vulnerable areas; emergency phones were inoperable, and the scope of need was unknown. My daughter, Leah, and I signed up to join the effort. This would be Leah’s first time deploying with ASPCA as response partner. She was ready and excited for the opportunity to help.
Along with three others from the response team, we waited for two days to hear our departure date. It felt like a week had passed with the anticipation of long, exhausting days and short nights for recovery. This would be my third deployment with ASPCA, and I had a good idea of what we were about to experience. These deployments are never the same. One activation doesn’t always prepare you for the next one but that doesn’t stop you from raising your hand when the need arises either.
We finally arrived at the shelter in Tennessee on Thursday, September 2. It was evident Louisianans were well-prepared. We had twenty dogs moved from Jefferson Parish, LA to Oak Ridge, TN. The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley provided shelter space for the ASPCA to temporarily house animals who were already awaiting adoption in Louisiana, to then be sent to shelters which had room. We provided daily care for all twenty and were fortunate for such a small population as we had an opportunity to spend more time with them outside of their kennels. The next stage would be to disinfect the kennels, allowing us to bring in more animals while the water receded, power and phones restored, and a larger need was identified.
The ASPCA has an efficient emergency system and is essential to have in place when disaster strikes. It’s extremely rewarding to help animals in need and be a voice for them. On my two previous assignments, it was hard to leave and go back to regular life. A bond quickly develops with the animals during the short period of time you care for them. This time was no different. The personalities you meet with sheltered, stray, and displaced animals is a highlight. These are very stressful times for any animal, but more so with the population of dogs we saw. Pit bulls were in abundance; some with horrific stories we could see in their eyes. They want love, no matter the circumstance.
Leah walked a very special dog with whom she had an instant connection. We weren’t looking to add to our pack but most times we don’t look for our pets, they find us. This held true for a five-and-a-half-month-old Labrador Retriever named Milo. It only took a couple pictures and a video for my husband, Randy, also a CART volunteer, to say yes!
Our team was so excited to see that Milo had stolen our hearts; they even joked that he would be the team’s mascot. Milo’s middle name is CARTer, as homage to our awesome group! Leah and I stayed behind when the rest of the team returned home to ensure we received Milo’s health license. Milo was finally certified on Wednesday, September 8th to leave the state, and we began our long journey home, unexpectedly driving with our new pup. He was a great passenger; no messes, no whining, or barking the entire way. It seemed he knew he wasn’t going back to a shelter and it was a wonderful experience for us all. On the way home, he stole hearts at every stop. He was a magnet for affection with his sweet eyes and gentle disposition.
When we crossed the border into Colorado, our excitement grew for Milo to meet his dad. My husband had played a video for our dogs of Milo barking at the shelter. They responded with perked ears and heads moving sideways. Milo met dad in the parking lot of the Colorado Springs Airport. We returned the rental car and headed home to make introductions with our pack. Milo was introduced to Alfalfa, Hannah, Tyler, and Princess. After a small adjustment period, all dogs are getting very well! Milo is enjoying life on the farm with all of our animals and even gets along well with our cats and even snuggles with them at night.
Thank you ASPCA and HSPPR. I was honored to work amongst amazing people! The ranch is nothing but happy tails now.