(7/15/08) – Editor’s Note

© 2008 Photo by Laura Richard Samantha, the cat who is now home with her family in the Upper Ninth Ward.

© 2008 Photo by Laura Richard
Samantha, the cat who is now home with her family in the Upper Ninth Ward.

Keeping ARNO’s controlled food/water stations going is a double-edged sword these days. The object of these stations, still placed in uninhabited and/or sparsely inhabited areas, is to keep the animals sustained with food, and to be able to suspend feeding in order to easily trap and spay/neuter, inoculate, and ear-tip. The program depends on two items that are not always as accessible as the need. First is having thousands of pounds of cat food available (dog food, too, but 1/15 needed for canines). Second is having funds to spay/neuter and medically care for those we do trap.

Donations are slim right now, as they are for many nonprofits in our area, so our dedicated feeders pull from their own near-empty pockets to make sure the animals have food enough to survive. The perseverance and loyalty of our feeders is amazing, and the following story illustrates that even an animal fed and on the street can be reunited and experience a very happy ending, even after all this time.

The following article is reprinted as it appeared in The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on April 15, 2008.

(4/15/08) – by Sheila Stroup, Times-Picayune columnist

Pat and Emmett Johnson are happy to be back in their house in the Upper 9th Ward.

When I stopped to see them Tuesday afternoon, they were sitting on their front porch, enjoying the breeze.

“God is good,” Pat said, smiling contentedly.

They left home the day before the hurricane, never imagining it would be more than 2 1/2 years before they would move back into the house they lived in since 1980.

Pat’s greatest sorrow is that they left their three dogs behind when they evacuated.

“I still grieve for my little dogs every day,” she said.

Their son Kirk found the animals dead in a bedroom when he came back to check on the flooded house, but he saw no sign of their cat, Samantha, who was 8 months old when they left.

“I went online and looked for her at all the different shelters, and I sure did some praying,” Pat said.

Stray sighting

The storm blew the Johnsons from the Superdome to Thibodaux and then to a FEMA trailer in Ama [Louisiana]. And Pat kept searching on the Internet for her honey-colored cat with the distinctive dark stripes.

“I missed her,” she said. “That was my baby.”

In 2006, Emmett got homesick, so they returned to New Orleans and moved into a house in Carrollton while their flooded home was being repaired.

One day last year when Pat went to check on the renovations, she noticed a cat under the house next door.

“She kept peeping at me, and I was complimenting that pretty cat,” Pat said.

Many times when she stopped by her house, she’d get a glimpse of the cat, but it would always run away.

“At first, I just figured it was a stray,” she said.

But one day, when the cat inched closer, Pat realized all her prayers had been answered.

“I shouted, ‘Sammy, that’s you!’ ” she said.

© 2008 Photo by Laura Richard Feeders and rescuers with the Johnsons on their front porch in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. All met one Sunday afternoon to celebrate the homecoming of Samantha, the cat who waited so long for her caretakers to come home. Four of the feeders pictured come every other week from Baton Rouge, about 90 miles away, to make sure stations are full of food and available to the pets left homeless since Katrina.

© 2008 Photo by Laura Richard
Feeders and rescuers with the Johnsons on their front porch in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. All met
one Sunday afternoon to celebrate the homecoming of Samantha, the cat who waited so long for her caretakers to come home. Four of the feeders pictured come every other week from Baton Rouge, about 90 miles away, to make sure stations are
full of food and available to the pets left homeless since Katrina.

Well-fed feline

All that time, Samantha must have been waiting for Pat to come home.

Animal Rescue New Orleans still has feeding stations in the Johnsons’ neighborhood and loyal volunteers to bring the feed, so she didn’t go hungry.

“She was fat as a butterball,” Pat said. “I thank those wonderful people for taking care of my pet.”

At first Sammy wouldn’t come inside or let anyone touch her. But she has learned to trust again and has decided to be a house cat.

“I was so happy when I could just hold her in my arms,” Pat said. “Now she won’t let me out of her sight.”

The Johnsons have been through a lot since the storm. They lost their beloved dogs. Emmett, who is on dialysis, had to get a pacemaker. And Pat had triple-bypass surgery.

But they’re home, and when they sit on their front porch enjoying the breeze, a taffy-colored cat lies curled up beside them, purring.

“I just thank God we made it through,” Pat said. “And she did, too.

Sheila Stroup can be reached at sstroup@timespicayune.com or (985) 898-4831.

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We can’t and don’t do this on our own. We need you to help us keep the Samanthas’ on the street sustained with food. Could you possibly consider a monthly donation of even $15 to help ARNO continue our work? The homeless pets still count on ARNO to be their lifeline until they can go home, or can be trapped and brought in for a new home. We still need your help in the form of donations to continue their survival, not just ours. Donated cat food has to be trucked to us and, from the West Coast, can cost as much as $4700 for a 30,000 pound load of food. That supply, at only 15.6 cents per pound, can last our feeders three months. Inoculations and spay-neuter cost about $50 per pet, and that’s not taking into consideration additional medical care. There is not a homeless pet we do not accept because of any disease. Almost anything can be treated, with very few exceptions, as long as we have the funds to pay for that treatment. Donations to our volunteer-driven organization can be made through PayPal, a service that doesn’t cost you a penny, or you can send a check or money order to ARNO, 1219 Coliseum Street, New Orleans, LA 70130. If you want us to spend your donation on a specific need, just notate that on your check or in the ‘message/notes’ block on PayPal.