Wallingford woman rescued pets in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Wallingford woman rescued pets in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey


WALLINGFORD — Kristen Johnson has returned home after spending a week and a half rescuing animals in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Johnson, a paralegal at Aetna, lives in Wallingford and volunteers with the Wallingford Animal Shelter and the Meriden Humane Society. She traveled south with the Animal Rescue Front, a Mississippi-based group that was founded by a woman Johnson met while going house to house rescuing animals after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Rescuing (animals) after Hurricane Katrina somewhat prepared me for the devastation I would see,” she said, “but even so it was still shocking and heart-wrenching.”

Johnson spent nine days at the beginning of the month in Louisiana and Texas, coordinating animal transports and searching for stranded animals.

She flew from Connecticut to Mississippi, and from the town of Madison drove a van full of supplies to Big Sky Ranch in Folsom, Louisiana, home of the Catnip Foundation. The founder of the Animal Rescue Front, Chris McLaughlin, accompanied her on the van trip.

Johnson then went to Texas, responding to calls from desperate pet owners.

Working side by side with other rescue groups that were “working night and day,” she found a lot of animals had been without food and water for two weeks, she said.

“It’s a race against time,” she said. Sometimes authorities would not let animal rescuers into flooded areas, due to the risk of bacterial infections from dirty water, she said.

She encountered mostly cats and some dogs. Although she saw some tragic situations, she also found many success stories.

One such story was Rudy the cat, found alive after 11 days in Lumberton, Texas.

“Due to rising floodwaters, Rudy’s family was evacuated by boat but not allowed to take Rudy with them,” she said. “When we got the call asking if we could attempt to rescue Rudy, he had been in the home without food and water for 11 days.”

Rudy’s home was flooded up to the roof line, she said. Prior rescue attempts were unsuccessful, and the authorities initially stopped Johnson’s rescue truck from entering the flooded area.

“We were so close and couldn’t give up,” she said, “so we parked the truck and grabbed only the basic supplies to walk the rest of the way.”

When they reached the house, they found that every item within the home was destroyed, she said. Calling for Rudy, they heard a faint meow. After moving furniture that blocked a hallway, they found Rudy, alive, huddled in a ball in the middle of a bed.

“Not only could we call the family and tell them we found Rudy, but we could tell them we found him alive,” she said, “and we reunited him with the family that night.”

Rudy’s street was devastated, Johnson said, but one street over wasn’t touched.

She found neighbors helping neighbors who lost everything, offering shelter and food.

“They really a pretty good attitude for what they’ve been through and what was lost,” she said. “My time in Louisiana and Texas reminded me how quickly things we sometimes take for granted can be taken away, and how much pain comes with the loss of a home and a pet.”

Twitter: @LCTakores


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