Hurricane Buddy

It only took one hurricane to lose Buddy “C.”

It took two hurricanes, a microchip and a chain of Golden rescuers that reached nearly 2,000 miles to get him home again.

Hurricane season 2004 was a terrible one in Florida as the state took hit after hit from storms. After the winds of Category 3 Hurricane Jeanne subsided, the C family of West Palm Beach let their happy Golden, Buddy, into the back yard without realizing that a wind-felled tree had damaged their fence.

Buddy went out and kept right on going…and going..and going. The family searched everywhere without success and a seven-year-old boy was heartbroken.

Fast-forward nearly a year to the aftermath of an even more terrible hurricane – Katrina – that drowned New Orleans, devastated the Gulf Coast and left thousands of pets dead, homeless or in mortal danger.

Across the country rescue programs reached out to save the animals as television recorded the heartbreaking images of dogs swimming after rescue boats and sitting on porches and roofs waiting for owners who might never return. In the Golden rescue community, among many others, rescue groups inland called their colleagues in coastal rescue groups and volunteered to take in dogs to help make room for the hundreds or thousands – no one really knew – expected to need immediate shelter after Katrina.

National Rescue Committee chair Carol Allen was coordinating one such move. Joyce Adams of RAGofAZ in Phoenix had agreed to take 10 dogs from Cecilia Henson of Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue near Houston so that Cecilia could accept an equal number displaced by Katrina. Rick and Jane Fish of Austin, who were assisting with transport and housing of Katrina dogs, offered to gather the Houston dogs in their South Austin kennel and then drive all ten at once to Las Cruces, NM to meet the RAGofAZ rescuers. Greg Korycki, a RAGofAZ member living in Austin, volunteered to co-pilot and help play stewardess for the dogs.

But just as the rescue ride was getting organized to leave Austin, the second hurricane that figures in Buddy’s story appeared in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Rita, another monster like Katrina, appeared to be aimed directly at Central Texas. With the prospect of powerful winds and tornadoes reaching as far into the state as Austin, the rescuers decided to hunker down with the dogs for a week and wait to see what happened.

That delay turned out to be a blessing for the young Golden retriever found wandering in September, 2005, on the streets of Moriarty, a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was Buddy – a year later, many pounds thinner and 1,973 miles from his own back yard. The cheerful Golden wasn’t talking about where he had spent his lost months, but his microchip told the animal control shelter all they needed to know, and they contacted the C’s in Florida.

The Eastern Regional Representative of the NRC received this e-mail:

“We live in West Palm Beach. We lost him one year ago after last hurricane and we got a call today from a dog pound in New Mexico. They have our dog. We need help in getting him on his way back. We have an eight-year-old boy who loves him very much and would love him to be back home. Can you help?”

Could they ever: Greg Korycki contacted Patricia DuBruille and Carol Allen contacted Kathleen DesMaisons, both of Golden Retriever Rescue of New Mexico. Both answers were the same – “Yes!” – and the C family faxed permission for Buddy to be bailed out of the shelter and released to GRR-New Mexico.

Rescue Arrive
Timid Gulf Coast hurricane rescues being coaxed out of the truck in New Mexico

From Albuquerque, it was a drive of only a few hours south for Buddy to connect with Texas rescuers Rick and Greg in Las Cruces, NM. They transferred the Houston dogs into the loving hands of Pam Skowronek (then of RAGofAZ, now with Arizona Retriever Rescue) and her crew, then gave Buddy the run of the truck for the ride back to Austin.

Buddy heading for home
Buddy gets the run of the Dogstuff truck for the ride home

Back in Florida, Buddy’s young master, Cody, could hardly wait. He e-mailed Eastern NRC rep Jane Moore, “Hello, I am Cody. Buddy is my dog. Please, please, please get our dog back. My mom told me you are working very hard to get our dog Buddy back. Thank you for letting us get Buddy back. We know you are trying to help us. I will be in touch. Thank you. Cody. Goodbye.”

Almost there, Cody. Almost home, Buddy. In Austin, Greg Korycki happily fostered Buddy for a week while Greg and Carol Allen planned his last trip back across the South. In more normal times, a “Canine Underground Railroad” (CUR) run might have been arranged, with drivers passing rescue dogs needing transport from car to car relay-fashion. But with southern Golden rescuers still overwhelmed by the needs of displaced dogs and the disruption to their own lives, Buddy needed to take to the air.

Carol discussed Buddy’s needs with Deb Haggerty of the Goldstock Fund. Deb, who also is a Western Region Rep for the NRC, was well aware of the mission to get Buddy home and she championed his case with the Goldstock Fund which granted 60 percent of the flight costs. Golden Retriever Rescue of Central New York and an individual shared the balance of the expense.

Buddy’s homecoming was Oct. 9. The C’s were waiting and so was the media – for a nation yearning for some good news after the hurricane tragedies, Buddy was a bright spot, and he quickly became a celebrity. The CBS Early Show interviewed the family and aired the story nationally. In the interview, young Cody had a message for all the people missing their pets after the latest hurricanes: “Keep on looking for him, because you should never give up on your pets.”

And the microchip that allowed rescue to save the day for Buddy and the C’s? Cody’s father explained that it had been almost an afterthought. “When we got Buddy, they said we could have him microchipped for $5,” he said, “and I thought, for five bucks, why not?”

Buddy in 2006
Buddy and Cody – Summer 2006

(This article was originally published in the Golden Retriever News, newsletter of the Golden Retriever Club of America)

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