Susan Floyd found four small stowaways among the shivering dogs, cats, possums, pythons and other pets that she rescued recently from the floodwaters following Hurricane Matthew.
The day after the hurricane hit South Carolina, Floyd was helping the Marion County Animal Shelter and others find animals in flooded homes around the towns of Mullins and Nichols. In a boat, Floyd arrived at one submerged property to find a frightened mother Chihuahua and her new puppy.
“They were pretty cold and upset, so I quickly tucked them in a crate on the boat, and went about finding more pets for a long while,” she recalled.
It was only when Floyd finally returned to the animal shelter in Mullins that she discovered the tiny stowaways. The mother Chihuahua had given birth to four more puppies in her crate. “Talk about in the nick of time!” said Floyd. “I don’t know if they would have survived if we didn’t discover them that day.”
Equally fortunate is the Chihuahua’s owner who soon found the new family at the shelter. But dozens of rescued pets haven’t been so lucky. Shelter director Angela “Angel” Rogers said there are still about 150 animals at the shelter’s new donated space, a former lumber warehouse in Mullins. Dogs wait in wire crates, cats roam two rooms, and an outdoor pen is home to four horses, five chickens and one black baby calf nicknamed “Nicky.” Rogers is keeping 14 rescued goats on her farm.
Some pets have already been claimed and others belong to people currently living in an American Red Cross temporary shelter in the town’s armory building. Recently, Red Cross also donated some clean-up kits and dozens of clean, used blankets for the animals. This community partnership between the animal shelter and Red Cross helps people safely house their pets while they figure out if or when they can return home.
Rogers said she knows the addresses for some rescued pets. But any “hurricane animals” that remain unclaimed will go up for adoption, starting November 17.
Happily, 40 ball pythons have already been picked up from the animal shelter, said Fletcher Estes, a county animal control officer.
“Angel rescued them. I don’t mess with snakes,” said Estes. “But we’ve found dogs on the hoods of submerged cars, or floating on debris, or worse, still chained up with their snouts barely above water.”
Phil, a member of the animal aid agency, Guardians of Rescue, has also arrived from Florida to help. He recalled wading waist high in fast-running floodwater to save a partially blind poodle named “Poppy” for an elderly man who had been pleading for help from passersby. “He was so upset that he couldn’t get to his dog. It was great to be able to do that for him.”
Nine “water-logged” possums and six rabbits were also rescued and subsequently set free. Only “Ricky,” a wild raccoon particularly fond of grapes, is still at the shelter until he recovers from his ordeal, said Rogers.
Floyd said she relates to the animals that lost their way during the disaster. It is the second time Floyd and her 11-year-old daughter, Calista, have been homeless after severe flooding. Last year, their house near Charleston was destroyed in a deluge. Now, Hurricane Matthew has blown a tree onto their new place and flooded it too, she said. Mother and daughter are currently “camping” in a room above the animal shelter while helping look after pets there, including Calista’s tabby cat called “Longtail.” They aren’t really sure where they will go next.
“I guess this shelter kind of rescued us. Eventually we will need to find a new home, too.”
People missing pets can visit the Marion County Animal Shelter at 503 East McIntyre Road in Mullins (across from Gapway Tire), call 843-758-4322, and check photos of some rescued pets on the shelter’s Facebook page here.