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Tag: gulf

More help for the big dogs of St. Bernard

It has been more than a month since our extended road trip took us through Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, where we reported on how cash-strapped fishing families were finding it hard to continue caring for their pets since the oil spill ruined their industry.

Now, we’re happy to report, more help has arrived, which could help stem the tide of people surrendering their dogs because they can no longer afford them.

Twenty tons of Kibbles ‘n Bits (for large dogs) – donated by Del Monte Foods and transported by Best Friends — was dropped off earlier this month.

Large dogs, you’ll recall, are numerous in the parish southeast of New Orleans because many residents used them to guard their properties while rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

“The people who are coming in have big dogs,” says Beth Brewster, director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter. “They can’t afford to feed them.”

Brewster told Best Friends that many families picking up free dog food bring photos of their dogs with them, and share their dog’s story. “They have tears in their eyes. They’re very, very thankful,” she says. “It’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

The Louisiana SPCA has collaborated with Brewster and Best Friends, as a part of Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home campaign, and is setting up distribution sites, in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

To get the food, residents fill out an application, present a commercial fishing license or proof that they work as charter boat operators or in another field affected by the spill.

“These families have not only lost their livelihoods, but also their way of life practically overnight. They shouldn’t have to face losing members of their families, too. It’s just too much to expect anybody to bear,” said Ellen Gilmore, campaign specialist for Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home.

St. Bernard: The imperishable parish

If you don’t think dogs are being hurt by the BP oil spill, perhaps you need a lesson in the trickle down – or, in this case, ooze down – theory of disaster economics.

And there may be no better place to learn it than St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, a community that was struggling to survive to begin with, left underwater by Hurricane Katrina and, with more than half of its families owing their incomes to fishing, is now feeling the rippling ramifications of the oil spill.

They evacuated during the hurricane, came back and have been rebuilding ever since. Now, the oil rig explosion and subsequent contamination of the gulf means a loss of work and more sacrificing.

Right down to the family dog.

This one statistic pretty much sums it up: The St. Bernard Parish animal shelter took in 60 dogs in May 2009; this May it saw 288 come in, many of them surrendered by owners who, having at least temporarily lost their livelihoods to the oil spill, said they could no longer afford to provide care for their dogs.

That sad-eyed girl above, named Abby, arrived at the shelter a week ago, surrendered by a family that subsisted on harvesting seafood from the gulf – only a few pockets of which are still open to shrimping, crabbing, and oyster harvesting.

While some fisherman have turned to working on the cleanup, “they’re not making nowhere near what they were making before,” said Shannon Asevedo, a St. Bernard Parish animal control officer.

Another occupant of the shelter, Sasha, was owned by a BP employee who turned her over to his mother-in-law because he was being called upon to travel so much. When Sasha had ten pups last month, it was more than she could handle. Now all 11 are at the shelter, where the BP employee’s ex-wife works as a volunteer – partly so she can see her former dog. Due to financial and legal problems, she’s unable to care for Sasha as well.

“Our intakes have probably doubled if not tripled since the oil spill,” Asevedo said. “They may not all be related to it. Most people just say they can’t afford to take care of them anymore. It’s a shame. More are here because their parents can’t take care of them. At the same time, adoption rates are down, too. So where do they go?”

St. Bernard Parish Animal Services Director Beth Brewster says the shelter attempts to place all dogs in adoptive homes, ships some to rescue groups and tries to put down only those deemed aggressive.

Interestingly, the shelter sees a large number of large dogs and pit bulls. Families returning to rebuild after Katrina often bought large dogs and left them at their homes at night to protect against the theft of construction materials.

Brewster, in the job for two years now, said the parish’s previous shelter, with a capacity of 26 dogs, “was a dump.” The parish opened its new facility this January, with financial help from the Humane Society of the United States and FEMA.

The old shelter had reopened shortly after Katrina, but went nearly two years without electricity or running water. It strung together hoses to bring in water, and used extension cords to supply electricity. It, unlike the new facility, had no air conditioning, which took a toll on dogs and humans alike.

The shelter was so shoddy that the shelter bought an old school bus and would load it with adoptable dogs, parking in front of the Home Depot and trying to find them homes.

Now they have a gleaming new shelter, and a new air-conditioned mobile unit. But they also have more dogs than even their new and expanded capacity can handle, with more and more dogs being surrendered for economic reasons.

“This is not a wealthy community to begin with,” Brewster said. “Most of these people grew up on the water and more than half make their living on it.”

Recognizing the parish’s problems, the Humane Society of the United States has sent a shipment of dog food to the area, to be distributed to pet owners facing hardships associated with the gulf oil spill. The food is also being distributed in Plaquemines Parish.

“The Humane Society of the United States was saddened to hear that animals inland from the shoreline are also suffering from this disaster,” said Julia Breaux, the organization’s Louisiana director.

St. Bernard Parish, as you’ve probably guessed, is not named after the dog breed, but after the actual saint — Saint Bernard, who devoted himself to the conversion of the people of the Alps and is known as the patron saint of mountaineering.

But the determined people of the parish may have more in common with the dog breed, which is named after St. Bernard’s Pass in the Alps (which is named after the Saint). The dogs were brought to a famous hospice there in the 1600s, where they developed their reputation for mountain rescues and where, it is said, rugged and adverse conditions honed their strong instinct for survival.

From sea to grimy sea

We didn’t cover too much ground yesterday — progressing only from Biloxi to New Orleans, but we did get in some beach time in a town called Waveland, Mississippi.

Good thing, too, because it was a sweltering day on the gulf. As Ace splashed about on an isolated sliver of beach in Hancock County — where dogs, on leashes, are allowed and unleashed ones don’t raise too many eyebrows — I wondered, between the oil approaching our shores and global warning, if the day might come when seafood can be hauled out of the gulf pre-fried and ready to eat. For our side order, we could toss in a basket of fries, which would emerge golden brown, salted and only slightly toxic.

But seeing the ominous sight of spill workers combing the beaches with large plastic bags, just a few hundred yards from where children played, I realized it’s clearly no laughing matter. It’s truly a hellish one.

The suffering already caused, to both wildlife and humans, and, as we’ll see tomorrow — even dogs — has likely just begun.

Hancock County’s beaches haven’t been hit — yet — and the hordes of worker are mostly picking up beach trash as they wait to see what comes ashore.

But for parts of Mississippi, and much of the rest of the gulf, particularly New Orleans and other areas still getting over Hurricane Katrina, the combination of natural and man-made disasters is almost too much to bear.

For a little relief, people make jokes.

As I checked into another Motel 6 on the edge of New Orleans yesterday afternoon, a storm appeared to be on the way.

“What’s next?” the motel manager was saying to the front desk staff. “Maybe a sandstorm? Or a rockstorm. That’s what it’ll be, a rockstorm.”

(For all of our continuing series, “Dog’s Country,” click here.)

Biloxi’s beaches — no oil, no dogs

Mississippi’s coast has so far been spared from BP-sponsored black tides, with most of the oil that has leaked since the rig explosion appearing to be headed for the coastlines of Florida and Louisiana.

Despite that, Biloxi’s wide white sand beaches seemed relatively empty when Ace and I pulled into town yesterday.

A massive effort to fight off any slicks that might approach is being staged, but Biloxi’s beaches so far are fortunately free of oil, unfortunately short on tourists and, as usual, not dog friendly.

Maybe Biloxi is a reflection of how skewed our priorities can get. Drilling in the gulf? No problem. Casinos on the beach? The more the merrier. Dogs on the beach? No way.

They, or so I guess the reasoning goes, might taint the pristine shores.

Meanwhile, the welcome mat is laid out for high-rises and high-rollers and those seeking oil from beneath the gulf, even though the potential mess they might bring can mount far higher than a pile of dog poop.

I’m just sayin’.

Of course, policy and practice are two different things, and locals inform me that, except on the weekends, one can pretty much get away with their dog on the beach, as long as he or she is leashed.

We didn’t know that, so Ace and I just sat on a bench under the 96 degree sun and stared longingly at the water.

We stayed at a Motel 6, which we can now add to our truly dog friendly list.

The room was a bit spartan, but the staff went gaga over Ace, and his poundage — despite the silly obsession so many motels have about a dog’s weight — was not a factor at all. The staff even came up with a nickname for him, BAD, standing for Big Ass Dog.

Today, after a day driving south, Big Ass Dog and me head west. Possibly we’ll stop at one of Mississippi’s dog-friendlier beaches, maybe we’ll spend some time in New Orleans before taking on Texas. In any event, we plan to dip our toes in the water — avoiding, we hope, the big ass oil spill.

Camp Bow Wow wants your dog hair

Camp Bow Wow in Columbia — always happy to have your dog come in for a stay — is now accepting just your dog’s hair as well.

One of many groups and businesses across the country that have joined in the effort to collect dog and human hair to help combat the gulf oil spill, Camp Bow Wow is offering several options.

You can bring your pup in for a de-shedding treatment, or collect your dog’s shed hair and drop it by. Also, Camp Bow Wow will accept donations of human hair, if you know of any hair salons or barbers that want to pitch in.

The hair — as we explained last week, and as the video above shows — is being used in the making of oil booms that are being used to help absorb the oil.

Feathers, fur and other natural fibers, such as used nylon stockings are also used to make the booms, and Camp Bow Wow is accepting donations of those as well.

All the donated items collected — as well as cash contributions — are being passed on to Matter of Trust.

How your dog can help with the oil spill

You may not think your dog is in a position to do much about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he is.

As oil continues to gush into the gulf from the April 20th BP rig explosion, booms and mats are being put in place to contain the floating slicks — many of which are made with dog and human hair, stuffed into casings.

The idea of a hair boom and hair mats came from Phil McCrory, a hair stylist from Alabama who came up with it after watching television coverage of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Suite101.com reports.

Using hair clippings from his salon, McCrory experimented to find out just how much oil could be absorbed with hair.

Among those organizations recycling scraps of hair for use as booms is Matter of Trust, a San Francisco nonprofit.

It  accepts donations of hair from all over the world and disperses them to oil spill disaster sites. It asks that individuals not mail in single donations as hair collections in bulk saves processing time.

Dog owners wanting to donate dog hair to the Gulf oil spill cleanup can sign up with the ExcessAccess program, or inform their local groomer about the program.