She was found near the green plastic tub, barely able to move anymore. After all,this was 42 days after the hurricane hit. And there was no evidence that food or water had been left for her in the house.
After being glued to the T.V. for weeks, my heart breaking with every image of another dog trapped on an innudated porch, or swimming after Ann Curry's boat, I had traveled down to New Orleans as soon as I could get off work.... I camped for a week in a Winn Dixie parking lot with other animal rescuers and on my last day I met Beulah at a make shift triage center (otherwise known as an defunct gas station). I had never seen a more vulnerable, pathetic sight. Beulah was rooting around for anything she could find to eat, including paper and pebbles.
We had to load her on a tractor trailer to take her 2 hours away to a vet. She tried to howl, she didn't want us to leave her all alone again, but it came out as a croak... her vocal cords were too dehydrated from weeks of barking fruitlessly, and no water.
As determined as I had been NOT to return home with an animal, I could not turn my back on this dog. My family was less than pleased that I now had THREE dogs, and this one had heart worms, along with 4 different other kinds of parasites, and needed thousands of dollars of treatment that would take 6 months to make her better. She has no front teeth (I think from trying to gnaw her way out of the house)
But other than that there are few lasting scars from Katrina and her life before Katrina (which I do have reason to believe was not great). We did leave a note on the house for the owners and I was never contacted. Had I been contacted, they would have to sue me for her return. And even then....
SOooooo.... this brings us to today. For the past 4 years, Beulah has been living the life of Riley. She is my "heart dog", the special one, the soul mate of dogs. She sleeps by my head, and her snores and farts are as welcome as a fresh spring breeze. That's how much I love her.
On the weekends, we go for hikes on some trails near the landfill. The dogs can go off leash, since the trails are far away from any cars. We have been going several times per week for 4 years. With never an incident. Or not a major incident. Here is a picture of Beulah on her first hike, when she discovered running river water and spent 20 minutes barking at it. What a change from the Lower 9th Ward!
Today we arrived at the trails at 10AM. By 11AM we were heading back to the car. Beulah took off after some scent. And that was the last I saw of her.
I searched high and low.
I climbed that mountain from 7 different angles, on trail, off trail, up one side, down the other. I was parched, starved, had low blood sugar, had thorns tearing at me, was crying after about 3 hours of searching (I kept my cool for the first 3 hours). I kept thinking: "Is this how it ends for my girl? Alone in the woods? What if I don't find her by night fall? I'm NOT leaving her alone out here!" I went back to the parking lot and wrote a note pleading with hikers to look for her and left my cell number. I went off again, my legs barely able to move anymore. I called my neighbor to bring water so I wouldn't have to leave the site (her car was unavailable so that didn't work).
I had images of Beulah lying dead and that is why she could not hear my calling and my shrill whistle. It didn't make sense.... the trails are about 5 miles in all directions and I covered them all several times... why couldn't she hear me? Perhaps she was so exhausted, I thought, that she had a heart attack?
I was starting to feel nauseous, heat stroke in 50 degree weather is hard to acheive but I was getting there. It was almost 3PM.
I made deals with God: "If you let me find her, I will believe in You, I SWEAR." I wondered whether that prayer would actually work, since certainly it is the same prayer mothers of missing children say and they often do not find their kids.
I was just starting to plan how I would camp out that night, because sleep was not going to come to me, worried, at home in a warm bed. There was NO WAY Beulah was spending the night out there alone. Suddenly my cell phone rang.
"Hi, did you lose a dog?"
Yes, yes, yes, God, I did.
"Well, she's down here in the parking lot by your car."
I begged them to hold on the her and I ran down the mountain, slipping, tearing jeans, panting, crying. "Sure, honey, don't worry, we got her."
When I arrived at the parking lot, they had tied her to my car (DUMB!!! Her collar is so loose she could EASILY slip it!) but she was still there. Exhausted, bloody, torn up, muddy, tail wagging but not much. She could barely jump in the car, she was that tired.
We came home. She had a whole bowl of water, a banana for potassium, I cleaned her cuts and we all took naps. I can barely move I'm so stiff and Beulah is still sleeping.
My heart dog.
We are NEVER going to the landfill again.