Features January 2004 Issue

Domestic Pets and Natural Disasters

Give if you can, to help after disasters.

by Nancy Kerns

New disasters quickly replace older ones on the news. Only rarely does the press check in with people who struggle to put their lives back together months after a catastrophe.

Here in California, the tragedy of last year was the storm of wildfires that scorched the southern half of the state in late October. Twenty-two people lost their lives and 3,500 homes burned in 12 separate fires that blackened more than 750,000 acres.

Untold numbers of wild and domestic animals lost their lives and many others were displaced. Domestic pets flooded area animal shelters as they were plucked out of evacuated homes and yards by rescue workers. Some had to be placed in shelters by desperate families, as many human shelters would not accept pets.

Holistic veterinarian Stephen Blake, a good friend of WDJ (who was interviewed in September for the article on colostrum that appears in this issue) was one of the thousands who lost everything in the fire: his home of many years and his home-based holistic veterinary practice, including an extensive library of books on conventional and alternative veterinary medicine. Early risers, Steve and his wife Charene alerted their neighbors to a precipitous shift in the fire, so that their whole neighborhood was able evacuate quickly, but with little more than the clothes on their backs (Steve grabbed his computer). Only two of 22 homes on their block were not destroyed.

I don’t mean to make the Blakes’ losses seem any greater than anyone else’s. In fact, as wise and philosophical people, with extremely supportive children and grand-children nearby to help them, they are in better shape than some. They are staying in a home that belongs to one of their sons and daughters-in-law, and friends (Greg Tilford of Animals’ Apawthecary and Joan Holden of Animals Essentials) have set up a relief fund for them. (Greg leaped into action, having lost his home and herb farm in a Montana wildfire three years ago.)

Give anyway
When I was in college, a wonderful professor once asked his class for permission to “stand on a soapbox for two minutes.” A devastating earthquake in Mexico was the disaster on that day. My prof said, “You have all heard pleas for help, from the Red Cross and other emergency relief organizations; here is one more. I understand that many of you are on tight budgets; you may even be poorer now than you will ever be. My suggestion is to give something now anyway, even if it’s just a dollar.

“People always think that they will give later, when they have more money. Somehow, no matter how much money you have at any given time, it never seems like you have enough to give away. But if you have enough for a cup of coffee, you have enough to help people who have nothing. Get into the habit of generosity now, while you are young and poor, and you will likely grow into a person who gives later, too.”

That two-minute speech was perhaps the most memorable of my college career. Time and again I’ve seen how right he was; it always is difficult to give when disasters come up, but rarely, after you’ve done it anyway, does the cost turn out to be more than you could afford.

As you read this, the holidays will be over, and many of you will have already given to charitable organizations. Just in case you didn’t, or you could give more, here are some worthy people and animal-friendly organizations that could use some post-disaster (or pre-disaster!) help.

Dr. Steve and Charene Blake Relief Fund
c/o Animal Essentials Inc.
2205 Faraday, Suite M, Carlsbad, CA 92008

PETCO Foundation Disaster Relief Fund
7262 N. Rosemead Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91775
(For more information, see www.petco.com, click on link at bottom for PETCO Foundation)

The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW, Washington DC 20037
(202) 452-1100 or www.hsus.org

The American National Red Cross
www.redcross.org or (800) HELP-NOW


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