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Hurricane Katrina pets -- Wednesday November 9th, 2005

Animal Evacuation Dutton helps pets caught in Katrina By Stephanie Porter-Nichols Media General News Service He is old. He is blind. He couldn't see the floodwaters rising around and in his New Orleans house. Nonetheless, Bruce's story encompasses the tragedy and the devotion and spirit that helped many souls survive the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and failed levees. The golden retriever also represents the adage that life goes on. At least 10 years old and completely blind, Bruce survived three weeks without food before he was rescued. He was found by the side of his owner, an 87-year-old man who died because he refused to leave his beloved dogs behind. The life of his other pet, a Dalmatian, was also claimed by the storm's aftermath. Because he was an elderly, special-needs dog, rescuers were afraid no one would take Bruce in, but Sarah Dutton, a longtime advocate for animals, felt an immediate bond with the friendly dog and brought him to her Ceres home near the Smyth-Bland line. Not only did she return home from a weeklong stint at the animal rescue site in Gonzales, LA, with Bruce, but also with two other dogs (a beagle and a Jack Russell terrier mix), four turtles, and a corn snake. At about half his normal weight, Bruce came into the rescue site at the Lamar-Dixon Center on the day Sarah and her team arrived. "He was pitiful," she said. When it came time to leave, she couldn't go without the retriever. I just couldn't leave him. There was something about him. Since Bruce's owner died rescuers weren't sure anyone would come looking for him. However, with all the rescued animals listed on petfinder.com, someone did seek him out. His owner's daughter had been looking for Bruce for weeks. Worried, she and her family wanted to know his fate and were delighted to discover he was alive and recovering. For a time she contemplated adding Bruce into her family, which is now living in a one-bedroom apartment, but eventually she decided against uprooting him again. Dutton knows the decision must have been agonizing. "He (the father) died to keep these dogs alive,"she said. The daughter and her husband and child lost their home of 30-plus years and were only able to retrieve a vanload of possessions. They did evacuate with their pets. Dutton and her two children and completely attached to Bruce. From start to finish, Dutton acknowledged that her work with the rescued animals has been difficult. After seeing the abandoned animals repeatedly on news programs, Dutton, who operates the non-profit Lost Fantasy Stables, said, "I had to go, ¦I had to help." With 1400 animals on site, she said rescuers needed people to walk dogs, feed the pets, and help get them medical care. The animals were present in every size, shape and breed, she noted. For each one, a file was started with rescue information, vaccines were given and worming was done, and all were given identification. While she saw quite a few pets and owners reunited, Dutton said it was frustrating that so many animals came in with no tags or other form of identification. She has vowed that her animals will receive identifying microchips so they can be more easily found if lost. While Dutton was volunteering, one family came in search of its Corgi. The animal had been found in the home's attic. Its mother and brother were dead, and the dog resisted rescue out of fear. But, said Dutton, when the family came down the aisle where it was crated and called its name, that was all it took. Many families, she said, left their animals behind believing they would return home in three to five days. She hopes that officials have learned that pets should be included in evacuations. "I hope something was learned out of all this. I really do. For all the suffering, a little bit of knowledge has been gained. Hopefully, everybody learned" "I know I did," she said. While it's not realistic, Dutton would like to see all the pets reunited with their owners. Estimates project about a third will be returned home. The Jack Russell she brought home to Virginia was returned to its owners, now in Kansas, October 24. The beagle was never claimed and has been adopted by its foster family. "You know they are missing their families,"she said. She recounted how one rescued dog simply sits at a window watching down the road. Like humans, many animals have been traumatized and are suffering serious psychological consequences. One dog, being fostered by another rescue, said Dutton, was terrorized when a recent storm struck and nearly had to be sedated. Though challenging, Dutton felt compelled to make the 14-hour trip to Louisanna a second time. She returned with 11 animals- 2 pit bulls, 6 puppies, and 3 cats. One of the pit bulls, Missy, was left tied in a kennel for 41 days. She weighed 25 pounds when rescued by a group of people working out of a nearby grocery store. She has tested positive for heartworm and will require expensive treatment. She has been owner surrendered and will be available for adoption after her treatment is complete. The other pit bull Tootsie Roll, is being held for 60 days in the hopes that her owners will seek her out. The 6 female puppies were found in a parking lot, probably the result of street dog breeding. Scheduled to be spayed, they will be available for adoption after November 15. The cats include a Siamese, a black and white medium hair, and a gray and white domestic short hair. The last dog left Lamar-Dixon Monday October 10, en route to another rescue group. The largest animal rescue effort in the nation's history rescued 6,036 animals. Dutton is seeking foster families to help with the animals. If more foster homes were available, she said she could accept more of the rescued animals. The group is also seeking sponsors to pay for heartworm treatments and vet expenses. Also needed are chainlink kennels for the outside dogs and bedding (sawdust/shavings). Though her home is already filled with animals, Dutton's philosophy is simple; "I would want someone to do it for me." While she talked, Molly, a rescued pit bull who loves to give kisses, tried to sneak off her designated spot. A basset hound and a three-legged cat, both brought home from the Smyth shelter, take their cues and also try to share affection with the visitor. "From the time I went the first time, I knew I'd be going back." For owners who aren't in circumstances to reclaim their pets, Dutton promised that the ones in her protection would get the best care. "They're family. God love them; they're family." The number of animals housed at the rescue site shocked the animal lover who can't remember a time she didn't have pets. "It's more than you can wrap your mind around,"she said. However, she was also touched by the number of volunteers who responded to their needs. "I couldn't believe all the people who banded together." She said volunteers represented every state and Canada. Perhaps her greatest endorsement comes from her children, who also love animals. "They are proud of me," she said. With her local rescue work, Dutton hopes to bring educational programs to area schools and get more people involved in advocating for animals. Anyone interested in learning more about Lost Fantasy Stables may visit the organization's Web site at www.lostfantasystables.org. At the time of the interview, though, most of Dutton's attention was focused on Bruce. As the retriever slept on a couch, Dutton said, "We do love him. He deserves his couch. He's gone through a lot." Speaking of all the rescued pets, she said, "Someone loved them, and they loved somebody." As Bruce twitched his legs while dreaming, Dutton watched him and recalled again how he was found beside his deceased owner. "He's an angel," she concluded.

More Katrina pets -- Sunday October 16th, 2005

We have just returned again from the gulf coast (working with HumaneLA) and have brought back 10 animals.. 6 owner surrendered puppies, 2 pittys, and 2 kittens.

Katrina pets have arrived -- Saturday September 24th, 2005

Arriving from the Lamar-Dixon center today are 3 displaced pets from Hurricane Katrina. We will foster these dogs for 30/60 days to give their owners time to find them and be reunited. If a reunion does not happen they will be released for adoption to approved homes. Please check our website for more information.

Radio Interview -- Sunday August 28th, 2005

WFNR Radio/Cumulus Broadcasting-NRV and Marty Gorden were kind enough to do an interview with us today! We want to thank WFNR & especially Mr. Gordan for taking the time to educate the public about animal issues.

4H Club seeks donations -- Thursday January 13th, 2005

The Wythe County 4-H Saddles & Bridles Club is performing a community project. The club members are taking donations of items to assist "Lost Fantasy Stables" with the many animals the organization helps find new homes. Items on the "wish list" include: canned dog and cat food, donations for vet bills, hay and feed, calling cards, stamps and envelopes, winter turnout blankets (all sizes), halters (all sizes)and leadropes, outdoor kennels and indoor crates, tractor, and construction assistance for repairing barns, pens, and fencing. The deadline for donations is Friday, Feb.11. To make donations, see any 4-H Saddles and Bridles Club member; contact the club leader, Donna Stroupe, at 686-4333; or donations may be dropped off at the Wythe County Extension Office at 275 South Fourth Street, Wytheville, or call 223-6040

Talking to the animals -- Friday September 3rd, 2004

Talking to the animals Group provides haven for horses, dogs and more STEPHANIE PORTER-NICHOLS -- Staff The Wytheville Enterprise Friday, September 3, 2004 Sassy loves people. With her short legs, the small beagle mix dog generously shares kisses as she jumps up on anyone who will allow it. Last week, Sassy was on her way to Mississippi where her new family was waiting to give her a home. While the little pooch readily loves, she’s fortunate to be alive. Sassy was rescued from an animal shelter the very week she was to be put down. Recognizing her as an easily adoptable dog, Sarah Dutton, the founder and operator of Lost Fantasy Stables and Animal Rescue, gave Sassy another chance, just as she has with numerous other animals. At the same time Sassy headed south, a hybrid with the intense eyes of a wolf and the desire for attention of a family dog would travel north to a new home in New York. The same day as Dutton was sharing the adoption news of these animals, she was preparing to go pick up another dog and bring it into foster care. The Pomeranian mix had lived most of its first eight months of life in a crate. She was also planning a trip to the Smyth County Animal Shelter to take photos of the available animals and post them to the rescue Web site – www.petfinder.com, the largest online database of homeless pets. More than 7,500 animal welfare groups throughout the U.S. and Canada post available pets on the site. Smyth County Shelter Manager Linda Bridgeman sees potential in using the Internet site. “It’s a good medium,” she said, but also noted that keeping new photos posted had apparently been a scheduling challenge for Dutton. However, Bridgeman hopes the effort to get the animals’ pictures out to people can continue. Despite her efforts, Dutton said, “You don’t feel like you’re making a dent in the problem. It’s hard knowing so many die every day.” Yet, Dutton doesn’t give up. For 20 years, she persisted in her independent work to save animals. Now, she’s taken the work public. In July, Lost Fantasy Stables and Animal Rescue with locations in Ceres and Rural Retreat became a government-recognized non-profit, no-kill animal shelter. Now, the organization’s volunteers are appealing for support. “We’re here. We can be an alternative. We can’t do it by ourselves. We need community involvement,” said Tina Hostetler, who oversees the Rural Retreat work of the rescue group and serves on its board of directors. Apparently true animal lovers, both Hostetler and Dutton appear to have special affection for horses. Hostetler’s work with animal rescue actually began when she contacted Dutton about adopting a horse. Today she fosters multiple horses, some of which are available for adoption and others that are still being rehabilitated. Hostetler came across one animal now in her care while searching for a horse for her daughter. When she went to see the animal listed for sale, she discovered it was blind in one eye, its tongue was nearly severed, its feet hadn’t been trimmed in a decade and it was undernourished. According to Hostetler, the sight of the animal so upset her, she bought it on the spot and had it hauled out in the middle of a snowstorm. When a veterinarian examined the horse, Hostetler said he declared the horse would have had less than a week to live had it not been rescued. Today, the horse’s tongue has healed and the animal has gained a healthy 400 pounds. “It’s all a trust issue,” said Dutton. Hostetler added that rebuilding trust between a horse and human takes patience and time. Standing at a pasture fence as they talk, horses easily walk up to the women, who share stories about each one -- the comedian and escape artist, the gentle one, the aggressor. As they scratched noses and flicked away flies, the pair noted the need for volunteers who will work with neglected or abused horses by simply sitting in a field with them and waiting for the horses to approach them. Dutton explained that many horses come to Lost Fantasy Stables and Animal Rescue because their owners failed to realize the time and financial commitment required by the animals. “Horses are a lot of work,” she said. The long-time advocate reiterated the same point for all animals saying that pets typically have long life spans and experience mood and health problems just like humans. “Animals are not disposable like paper plates or diapers that you just throw away. … Pets are your family…. They are a part of your life,” Dutton said. Both Dutton and Hostetler said they are striving to teach their children about the proper care of animals and would like to initiate education programs in area elementary schools. On this morning, Hostetler’s daughter Lorrie stayed quietly in the background ready to walk a horse or play with a dog. The organization’s education efforts aren’t limited to just youth. The rescue organization wants to work with local officials, animal wardens and animal shelters, and individuals to reduce the number of animals euthanized. Not only has Dutton worked with the Smyth County shelter by listing animals available for adoption on “petfinder,” she also tries to adopt animals from the shelter. At this time, she’s not working with the Wythe County shelter, which also assists Bland County’s animal warden, but would like to develop a relationship there. Statistics would indicate a need exists. From July 2003 to July 2004, according to animal warden Bill Ward, the Wythe shelter euthanized 795 of the 1,002 dogs picked up, seized or turned in by owners. Of the total dogs, 117 were adopted and 96 were reclaimed by owners. During this past August, Ward said of 195 dogs seized, picked up as strays or turned in, 109 were put down. In July, Smyth County Animal Warden Bill Turman reported that 327 cats and dogs came into this shelter. Of those animals, he said, 206 were euthanized, including 184 cats and 74 dogs. Another 54 pets were adopted and 15 were reclaimed. Since county officials don’t pick up cats, Turman noted that most of those animals were turned in by their owners. The 17-year animal warden pointed out that his statistics were just for one month in one locality. “This is just one locality. Imagine what it’s like,” he said when the totals are added up across the state and nation. Ward, another longtime animal warden, called individuals’ unwillingness to spay and neuter their pets “the big problem.” Ward noted that among the owners who turn in their dogs, a significant percentage have not had their females spayed, allow them to get pregnant and then bring the puppies to the dog pound. “It’s not right. The pups don’t have a chance at life,” he said. Dutton agrees. She said that Lost Fantasy Stables and Animal Rescue wants to establish a fund to help lower-income people pay to have their pets spayed/neutered. To accomplish this goal and continue rescue efforts, Dutton said that the organization needs support in a variety of ways. Volunteers are high on the list of needs to help with a range of tasks from repairing an old barn to fostering animals. Donations of materials for animal care as well as money to help pay vet bills and other expenses will be appreciated, said Dutton. Currently, she said, most of the group’s limited budget comes from private donations and adoption fees. Though required by the IRS, Dutton said the adoption fees are part of their screening process to ensure that animals are going to safe and appropriate homes. “There’s always something people can do to help,” said Dutton, who noted that providing a bag of dog food or a calling card to help arrange transports are simple needs of the organization. The toughest aspect of the work, agreed both Dutton and Hostetler, is fostering. At the same time, it was also their consensus that fostering is the most rewarding labor. “Animals give unconditional love,” said Hostetler. In exchange, she said, “You protect. You nurture. You see that their needs are met.” Dutton added, “It’s the satisfaction of getting them out of the shelter … and into homes.” “They all take a piece of your heart, but their hearts are broken when they come in. The piece of your heart is what mends them,” concluded Dutton. To learn more, visit www.lostfantasystables.petfinder.com, www.lostfantasystables.org or to see the Smyth County animals up for adoption go to www.petfinder.com/shelters/VA299.html.