FLORIDA Animals, too, were victims of Charley



The Humane Society is providing medicine, shelter and food for beloved pets.
SCRIPPS HOWARD
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- The thumb-size baby squirrel could have been an angry cat for the screaming that came when vet tech Debi Tietboehl gently stuck a needle though its skin.
The syringe delivered saline solution to rehydrate the animal that someone had brought Sunday to the makeshift Humane Society compound in Punta Gorda.
A mobile veterinary clinic, RVs, trucks, tables and awnings cover the Carmalita Baseball Field. Animal workers and volunteers have come from all over Florida to offer aid, including Tietboehl, who works at the San Carlos Park Animal Hospital.
Around them for miles, the people of Punta Gorda and beyond continue to reassemble their lives, piling storm debris, gathering supplies, filing claims and catching a hot meal when they can.
In the bustle of recovery, many aren't thinking about pets. But in a baseball field here, people find relief from a host of problems they and their animals face in the wake of Hurricane Charley.
Few stores are open, and pet food is hard to find.
Varying needs
Two cats need a shelter while their owners find some for themselves. For the same reason, a Chihuahua is holed up in a cage behind a stuffed animal, shaking and waiting for an owner's return. A puppy has dysentery. Two blue merle shelties have rashes and need to see a vet.
Their houses are falling down around them, but care for their animals is paramount to these pet owners.
Though many think such devotion is over the top, the folks at the baseball field understand, said Diane Webber, regional director for the Humane Society of the United States.
"Animals are our comfort," she said.
Cecelia Eden sits outside the clinic bus in an old Ford pickup with Vander, her 3-year-old poodle-shitzsu mix.
No emergency here, but the little dust mop is hot and needs a clipping. Vets and vet techs warn her it won't be pretty.
Eden nods.
"He'll be cooler," she said.
This is the mundane, but the workers and volunteers also talk of heart-tugging sadness.
Searches and farewells
Some storm victims come looking for beloved pets, missing since Charley stirred chaos into their lives, but walk away empty-handed. Some are tearfully handing over their animals for a while because they have no way to care for them.
Some are worse off still.
After days of weighing his options, an older man said goodbye to his 11-year-old yellow lab for the last time. He thought the dog would be better off with someone else.
The man had little before the storm. He has nothing now.
There is no antidote for that sorrow but time, yet there are moments of joy to ease it for the animal workers.
Licks and kisses, whimpers and tears when a bulldog's owner comes to claim him. And just as there are little miracles for the people of this storm-ravaged area, so there are for the animals.
Food and medicine were running low when a trio of Buddhist monks showed up Saturday to bless the Humane Society complex.
"We were starting to wonder where the supplies would come from," Webber says.
Within five minutes, a flatbed truck and a trailer had pulled up with everything from horse chow to cat litter.
About 350 animals have so far been picked up, cared for or turned over by their owners since the storm hit, said Jim Gibson, a staff member with the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood. All lost or surrendered animals go there.

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