Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Finding Nemo

Thanks to Hurricane Gustav, I've been thinking a lot about Katrina and what happened with Nemo. After the hurricane hit and the recovery efforts started, I joined an online group that tracked down the owners of animals that had been rescued in Lousiana and Mississippi. Petfinder had set up a database so people could create reports for pets they had left behind when they evacuated, and we would try to match the information for the found animals with those that were listed as left or lost. I only had a few successes but overall the group was responsible for reuniting over 1000 pets with their owners. A couple of months into it, we were also helping people look for their still missing Katrina pets. One of those was a Shih Tzu named Nemo.

Not the best picture, I know, but his owners only had this one and another to give to me.

Nemo's owners, Jonathan and his girlfriend, had evacuated NOLA before Katrina hit, leaving the dog with her father, Mr. Emelle. When the levees broke and the house flooded, Nemo woke up Mr. Emelle with his barking. Rescuers came along in a boat, and at first, they would not let him bring Nemo but Mr. Emelle said there was no way he was leaving the little dog behind. Mr Emelle and Nemo ended up at a bus staging area near the Superdome. Mr. Emelle was not allowed to bring Nemo on the bus so he handed him off to animal shelter volunteer who took down information on the owners. The volunteer told Mr. Emelle that Nemo would be taken to a temporary shelter set up at Lamar-Dixon in Gonzalez, Louisiana. Later on, when Jonathan went to L-D to get Nemo, there was no trace of the Shih Tzu being there. Many animals had been housed at Lamar-Dixon and were later transported to animal shelters and rescue groups around the country. Unfortunately, not all of their records were sent with them. This resulted in many animals being lost in the system. We could trace them as far as Lamar-Dixon and then hit a dead end.

Luckily, Jonathan found a photo on Petfinder of a Katrina Shih Tzu that, he felt, looked exactly like Nemo. This dog had been sent from Lamar-Dixon to the Cinncinati SPCA. Jonathan was first told by the SPCA manager that the Shih Tzu they received was older and neutered. Nemo was only a year & a half old and hadn't been fixed so the SPCA didn't think they had him. I exchanged some email with the SPCA and was told a different story, that the Shih Tzu was young and not altered. I was also told that a woman in Dallas thought the Tzu was her missing Katrina dog so the SPCA sent him down to Texas to her. When she realized it was not her dog, she gave him to her brother.

I never heard the details so I don't know how the Shih Tzu made it to Dallas. It amazes me that they just sent him off like that. And, when they found out he wasn't this woman's dog, why didn't the SPCA ask for him back, or at least tell her to bring the dog to a shelter in Dallas. They knew Jonathan was pretty sure this was his Nemo. He had spoken to the manager and left several messages on the found dog report on Petfinder. To make it worse, Jonathan and his family were living in Dallas at the time and could have easily met up with the woman who had the Shih Tzu once she knew it wasn't hers. He was able to get in touch with her brother who sent a video of the Shih Tzu. One thing Jonathan had told me that Nemo liked to do was sit up on his hind legs. I saw the video and when I saw the little dog sitting on his back legs, I knew it was Nemo. Unfortunately, the brother claimed he had given the dog away to somebody who had given him to someone else so no one knew where Nemo was now.

Jonathan and his family called off the search for Nemo after that. They believed he had found a good home and wanted to move on. I couldn't help but dwell on all the mistakes that had been made. I know that Shih Tzu who was at Lamar-Dixon, then sent to Cinncinati, and then on to Dallas was Nemo. I saw the video and I know it was him. I hope he found a great home too.

When I was looking for my Nemo pictures, I found a few that came from the brother in Dallas. This one is from the video (again, I'm sorry for the lousy quality). See the little dog sitting up? He was called Elvis at the time but I know it's Nemo.


Laurie said...

I'm sure this happened to so many pets. I hope he ultimately found a good home. Poor Nemo, getting sent all over the place.

I suppose ID tags could have solved this easily, but not all pets stay tagged all the time.

Elizabeth said...

I can't believe such a great little dog would be passed on like that! I'm actually tearing up!

myboringblog said...

This is exactly why I didn't go to a shelter during a storm 10 years ago. They didn't allow cats. And this is why I knew I never would go to a shelter that didn't allow pets or evacuate without my pets. Luckily for us pet lovers it's now federal law that animals have to be allowed on evacuation buses so we never have to leave them behind. There are too many of these heart breaking stories.