Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Book review: 'Raw emotion'

Pawprints of Katrina Reviewed by Kathryn Reed Reprinted with permission by Mountain News Tears flowed nearly every time I picked up Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned. Part of it was the raw emotion of remembering driving around last summer during the Angora Fire with Bailey, my 14-year-old black Lab who I had to put down in February. Part of it was knowing this month marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and still New Orleans has only half the population it did prior to the catastrophe. And part of it was learning about the senseless loss of so many four-legged family members. Most of it was the incredible dedication of so many volunteers who spent hours helping save thousands of animals who otherwise would have perished. Cathy Scott, the author, captures the chaos, the love, the drama, the sense of urgency, the harrowing rescues and dedication like a true journalist. I suppose I'm a bit biased, but I think journalists write these sorts of books the best – they are trained to observe and then tell a story. Scott immersed herself in the rescue efforts, sleeping on the ground at Camp Tylertown, a refuge set up by Best Friends Animal Society. I’ve known Scott since we worked together at the Las Vegas Sun in the 1990s. She was a reporter, I was an editor. She’s written several books, though the only other one I’ve read of hers was about Tupac Shakur. Scott lived in Vegas when the rapper was killed. This book, about saving the pets of Katrina, is so much more compelling. Even though I had read countless newspaper stories and seen television coverage of the animal rescues, it wasn’t until I read this book that it sunk in how devastating and miraculous it truly was. Scott went to the hurricane ravaged region to write a story. She ended up staying. Working. Leaving. Returning. And finally she wound up with a full-time writing job for Best Friends Animal Society’s magazine and website. The book is not just about the animals. It also delves into who the rescuers are. The lengths rescuers went to to reunite people with their animals was incredible. The hours involved in nursing so many back to health. The foster families, the adopted families, the owner who didn’t give-up on finding their animals, the owners who knew it was better if someone else took over the caregiving. Pawprints of Katrina touches on the multitude of rescue organizations, though it focuses on Best Friends. And then it talks about lessons learned, including federal legislation that mandates animal shelters be set up when people shelters are erected. That was one of the horrors of Katrina, people being separated from their pets. Tears flowed for the happy stories – like Red, a disabled Staffordshire Terrier, who learned to get around with a cart. Not every story has a happy ending. But the struggles and heartache are real. They needed to be written about and need to be read. Amazon.com lists Pawprints of Katrina as one of its “Hot New Releases.”

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