My experience with 8 State Hurricane Kate, a rescued Katrina dog, taught me a lot about rehabilitating dogs and giving them a safe environment to just learn to be dogs. Kate traveled with me from Louisiana to Minnesota, where everything was different. She’d suffered significant physical and emotional trauma during and after Hurricane Katrina. Not knowing her history before I met her in Louisiana, I was challenged to understand her and help her become comfortable in this new environment. When I realized that Kate wasn’t socialized to other dogs, I knew we had a long road ahead of us. After a couple of months though, Kate picked up a ball to play, perhaps for the first time in her life. She kicked up her heels and cavorted with joy. I finally felt like we were on the right path.
Kate’s story is included not only in her own book, 8 State Hurricane Kate, but also in the new book Dogs & the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing and Inspiration, by Allen and Linda Anderson. This book is a wonderful collection of stories about women and the dogs who have changed their lives. I had the privilege of joining the Andersons to share Kate’s story at book signings in Minnesota. That’s where I first crossed paths with the people from Braveheart Rescue, Inc. in Hastings, Minnesota. When I learned about this rescue organization, I could tell that they truly understand dogs.
Braveheart Rescue is a unique, non-breed specific 501(c)(3) non-profit dog rescue organization. With one simple mission: “Dogs Come First”, they’re committed to saving dogs’ lives, helping them become physically and psychologically healthy, and finding them homes where the people and dogs fit together well. At Braveheart Rescue, dogs are given needed veterinary care and each have their own kennel space with a raised bed. They go outside a few times every day, and when healthy and ready for socialization, they’re exercised with other dogs in a fenced area.
Brandi Tracy is truly a dog whisperer who moves among the dogs and keeps order with a simple touch or a word. It’s amazing to watch her interact with the dogs. Robin Romano adopted her dog Apache from Braveheart in 2009. She was so impressed with the organization that she became deeply involved in its continued success, caring for dogs, scooping poop, doing laundry, organizing fundraisers, attending dog adoptions, and pitching in where needed to help Brandi run the rescue smoothly.
Braveheart Rescue, Inc. was inspired by a dog who changed Brandi’s life, leading her into full-time dog rescue. Brandi ran a boarding kennel for years on acreage outside of Hastings, Minnesota, occasionally helping rescue dogs. One day she learned of Braveheart, a husky mix who had been hit by a car. Enter Brandi, who tried to save Braveheart’s right rear leg. After three surgeries and many rehabilitation sessions, amputation was determined to be the best course. But Braveheart didn’t give up, and neither did Brandi.
In addition to his injured leg, Braveheart was in critical condition. After the accident, he “died” on the table at the vet clinic. Both sides of his pelvis were broken. His ribs were extremely bruised, and he had a severe concussion. The vet pumped fluids into Braveheart until he could absorb no more. People sat with the injured dog for several hours, almost certain he wouldn’t make it through the night. Everyone except Brandi thought Braveheart’s story had ended. But Brandi waited.
Suddenly Braveheart raised his head, his eyes partially swollen shut, and sat up looking dazed and confused. Everyone, including the vet, was amazed.
Brandi made it her mission to give Braveheart a wonderful life. Today, hears after the accident, he’s a happy and healthy dog, and they’re the best of friends. Nothing daunts Braveheart. He runs like the wind on his three legs, to the dismay of squirrels and rabbits. He loves to go for rides, and goes everywhere with Brandi. There is no question about his excellent quality of life.
Brandi was so inspired by Braveheart’s heart and will to live that she decided to help other dogs who might not otherwise get a second chance. Since formally becoming a rescue organization in 2008, Braveheart Rescue has taken in dogs in need from New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, and many other states in addition to Minnesota.
Ralf was rescued from a local humane society. He’d been labeled dangerous because he was food aggressive, usually an automatic death sentence. But Ralf gobbled up anything in his sight because he was starving. Once his hunger was sated and Brandi and Robin worked with him, he ate very gently from their hands with a grateful look in his eyes. He soon learned to sit on command when offered his food, and gave a quick kiss before he started eating. Ralf now lives in Stillwater, Minnesota with a wonderful family. He campaigned door-to-door with his human owner who ran for office.
Roo, a puppy mill dog who had never enjoyed human interaction or the medical attention he deserved, came to Braveheart from Georgia. He arrived with the worst case of heartworms the vet had ever seen. At seven years old, Roo never complained once as he fought for life with every ounce of his little black Chow-Chow body. Four treatments, two surgeries and eight months later, Roo walked out the door and into his new home. Brandi said, “To watch him waddle out the door with his new family was nothing less than divine”.
Coy, a smaller than average Siberian Husky, was found chained to a rusted out truck in South Dakota, where she was sometimes locked inside for days. In her short two year life she’d been beaten, verbally abused and had whelped four litters of puppies. Coy was finally rescued by a loving young woman and transported to Braveheart. She was vetted and on the road to recovery from her spay surgery when she was diagnosed with cancer. Coy endured two more surgeries and never looked back. She continued to maintain her sweet, affectionate personality and was adopted by a kind young couple.
Journey, an Australian Cattle Dog, was running out of time in a Kentucky animal control facility. Her owner had gone to prison and nobody came to claim her. She was middle aged, overweight, and had cloudy eyes. Lost and alone, she was running out of options when Brandi offered to take her in. At Braveheart, Journey has received needed veterinary care, is losing weight and enjoys playing in the snow. She’s starting to feel like she owns the place! Soon she’ll be ready to find a new home.
Bernie, a sweet blue heeler, was on death row in a kill shelter in Louisiana. His chances of survival became even slimmer when he tested positive for heartworm. Brandi took him in and he has responded well to treatment. Once his series of heartworm treatments are completed, he’ll be socialized with the other dogs and will be evaluated for adoption.
These are just a few of the dogs who’ve been given love and a second chance at Braveheart Rescue. Brandi founded the organization at great personal risk and depends on the generosity of others to keep the rescue running smoothly. If you would like to provide financial support, volunteer to help care for the dogs on a regular basis, organize a fundraising event in your community, or provide computer, accounting or other support, please contact Brandi through www.BraveheartRescueInc.com.
Learn more about Braveheart Rescue, Inc. at the Twin Cities Pet Expo on March12th-13th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Meet author Jenny Pavlovic at the Braveheart Rescue booth, pick up free samples of Omega Nuggets and register to win Canine Shine for your dog. A portion of 8 State Hurricane Kate and Not Without My Dog Book sales at the Pet Expo will be donated to Braveheart Rescue, Inc. Find more information at www.BraveheartRescueInc.com, www.8StateKate.net and http://www.twincitiespetexpo.com/about.htm.
8 State Hurricane Kate, an old Australian Cattle Dog, was rescued from a rooftop in Louisiana nine days after Hurricane Katrina. I met her in September 2005 in Gonzales, Louisiana, where rescued animals were taken for care and shelter. With no known address or ID, she was running out of options. When Hurricane Rita forced our evacuation, I drove home to Minnesota, through eight states, with Kate in a kennel in the back seat. While fostering Kate, I listed her on Petfinder and searched for her original family, even posting a “Do You Know This Dog?” video on YouTube.com. Yet five years after Hurricane Katrina, I still don’t know what her life was like before August 29th, 2005.
Kate’s story holds valuable lessons for all animals. My journey with Kate inspired me to write the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book, to organize my dogs’ information in one place, for daily use, travel, and emergencies. This book includes important information from Noah’s Wish(www.NoahsWish.info), a group dedicated to caring for animals in disasters. The following tips will help keep you and your pets safer and happier.
8 Things I Learned from 8 State Kate
1. Microchip your pet. Katrina showed us how easily pets can lose their collars and IDs. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the best permanent identification. I recommend a microchip even if your pet never leaves the house. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule the size of a grain of rice. When a pet is found, the ID number is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified. The company looks up the ID number in their database to find the owner. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if you’ve registered your current contact information.
2. Keep good pet records, including a current photo of you with your pet (to verify ownership) and photos of your pet’s unique identifying characteristics. Store your pet’s vet, food and medication records in one place (like the Not Without My Dogbook). Include information on the pet’s daily routine, words the pet knows, and other useful tips for anyone taking care of your pet in an emergency situation. Make sure a designated person knows where your pet’s information is stored, in case something happens to you.
3. Make a disaster plan for your family and pets. Know the most likely natural disasters in your area. If you must stay home, be prepared to survive without assistance. Assemble a kit to meet your family’s basic needs for at least three days. Store it in easily accessible waterproof containers. If you must evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. Have carriers, leashes, and harnesses for your pets. Know the local evacuation routes, how you’ll transport your pets, and where you’ll take them. Plan alternate destinations because emergency shelters for people often don’t allow pets, and pet-friendly hotels fill quickly.
4. Make a family communication plan in case a disaster occurs while you’re separated. Know where your family will meet if you can’t reach each other by phone. Identify a neighbor or petsitter who will get to your pets quickly when they need help and your family is away from home.
5. Make sure your pets are properly vaccinated, treated for fleas and ticks, and on heartworm preventative. Healthy pets are better prepared to survive anything, including displacement and housing with other animals. Accepted vaccination protocols are changing, and some flea and tick treatments are not approved by veterinarians. Do your research and decide what’s best for your pet.
6. Socialize and train your pets. Socialize pets to be confident in different situations. Positively trained pets are less likely to get lost. Make sure they know how to walk on a leash/harness and are comfortable riding in their carriers in the car. Teach them to wait before exiting the car by pausing, then giving them a reward.
7. Tune in to your pets. They’re tuned in to you. Give them opportunities to do what they were bred to do. Help them relax and be confident. Appreciate them for who they are. The more connected you are to your pets, the better you will weather anything together.
8. Be resilient. An old girl who has lost everything can recover with dignity and grace, and be happy. Kate taught me this too.
(Photo credit: LS Originals of Fridley, Minnesota)
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