Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Monthly Arts and Literature Review

I just came across this book review in OPEN LETTERS: A Monthly Arts and Literature Review and wanted to include it here. Review of Pawprints of Katrina by Steve Donoghue When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005, dozens and dozens of city blocks became inundated swamplands of festering sludge, and thousands of people were displaced and evacuated, n most not knowing when – or even if – they’d ever be able to return. The haphazard squalor of their subsequent fates became the shame of a nation, but there were those who suffered even worse – the pets left behind in the drowned ruins of the city. Cathy Scott was embedded with the Best Friends Animal Society, a group that ended up rescuing nearly half the estimated fifteen thousand stray or stranded animals scrounging and starving in the wake of the storm. In this meticulously-reported (albeit ploddingly written) account, she tells the stories of all the desperate animals, and all the heroic volunteers who boarded flatboats and searched through attics and garages to find them (the included photographs by Clay Myers, of formerly pampered cats and dogs reduced to haunted-eyed scavengers skulking in the wreckage, are indelibly wrenching). These are stirring stories, and Scott tells them all – lacking a more poetic touch, this will certainly be the definitive account of Katrina animal rescue. Everything’s here: the owners cruel enough to leave chained and fenced dogs behind; the kittens and puppies born right as Katrina or Rita made landfall, the white-faced older animals who survived against all odds. And, happily, the beginnings of legislation to prevent such ancillary tragedies from happening again:
As a result [of the media attention given to abandoned pets], Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call with a resounding message: along with people, pets also need to be protected during a disaster. What came out of the televised images, as the world watched in horror, was the vow never to let it be repeated. Katrina proved that people need to be prepared, from individuals putting identifying tags on their pets’ collars or microchipping them to cat owners keeping crates on hand to government officials at all levels mandating provisions for not only humans but their pets.
The essential promise all good, conscientious animal owners make to their charges is rock-bottom simple: I will protect you from harm. If legislation arising from the tragedy of Katrina helps in the keeping of that promise, then some good will have come of those high waters. Photo of first responder Craig Hill in the Lower Ninth Ward by Clay Myers.

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