Lisa and her family stayed in their New Orleans home when Hurricane Katrina hit because Lisa is a single working mother with a disabled fiancé, a very unreliable car, and numerous family pets. She had very little choice.
And they all survived the storm. But after the New Orleans levees broke that most horrific day following, the frame of her front door literally busted out, and her house flooded to the ceilings in a matter of approximately five minutes.
Lisa's disabled fiancé somehow moved Lisa and her son into the home’s attic and then hobbled back down into the house to rescue their beloved animals. He managed to get their two big dogs (Jordan and CeeCee), a little Shih Tzu (Lil Bit), a Cockatoo, a parrot, and two of their cats up into the attic. These animals were just as much a part of their family as anyone else. Lisa also managed to kick out the floor from the attic, and rescue two more of their cats down below.
When they were finally rescued through the roof of their house many hours later, the compassionate fireman driving the boat allowed them to bring all three dogs and both of their birds along. It was extremely hard for this family to leave their cats behind, but the family prayed that their feline instincts would carry them through this horrific ordeal.
They were now taken to a High School gymnasium and stayed there for two days. Someone had actually managed to bring along large bags of dog food, so their three dogs were thankfully able to eat.
As the first day passed, Lisa and her family were told that boats were coming to bring them to safety. It never happened.
As the second day passed, they were told that trucks were coming to bring them to safety. That never happened either.
Finally, they were told that they were going to have to walk to the ferry and somehow get across the river themselves to board evacuation buses.
As the family prepared for this journey, they were told that their birds could only be taken along if they were in cages. Of course, they had no cages for the birds, so Lisa and her fiancé and a friend made a quick trip to the friend's second-story apartment, and they left the birds there with food and water, believing that they would be returning in a couple of days to get them.
Instead, they were not allowed to return to the city for almost two months. The birds starved to death in that friend’s apartment. Lisa's beautiful white Cockatoo, Romeo, who loved to whistle the "Mayberry" song and called the cats and other family members by name, was gone forever. Their precious monk parrot, Micky, was also found dead in the very room where they left him.
They somehow made the arduous journey to the ferry on foot, with their three year old son and their three dogs in tow. Jordan, the oldest of the dogs, quickly dehydrated. Instead of leaving him behind, Lisa and her fiancé and a friend took turns carrying Jordan for a while until they found an old ice chest on the side of the road. They then put Jordan in it and took turns carrying the human toddler and pulling the dog Jordan along in the ice chest.
And, all of them somehow made it across the river.
After hours of sitting on the other side of the river, the family was then told that buses were now coming to take them to Baton Rouge. They were told that their animals would also be allowed to come along.
When the buses arrived, however, they learned that the two big dogs could not come along, but they were told that their little dog could accompany them.
Lisa's fiancé was now forced to tie Jordan and CeeCee to a fence at the Algiers Ferry Landing. He will never forget the looks on their faces as he was forced to abandon them. But they had very little choice, since by this time, Lisa's tiny son was suffering from dehydration, exhaustion, and sunburn, and his life would be in danger if he didn't get medical treatment soon.
Once on the bus, however, they were not taken to Baton Rouge as promised. Instead, they were soon dumped off on an interstate highway, where there were thousands of other very hungry, very exhausted, and very angry people milling around. It had now become far worse a nightmare than Lisa could ever have imagined.
They endured this new hell for two more days. There were buses coming and going periodically, but there was no organization whatsoever as to who, or how, these starving people would get on these buses and be taken to safety. People were now, of course, pushing, fighting, and even worse, to get to the doors of these few and far between buses.
Their lives had now been threatened more than once, and Lisa finally made a plea to a police officer for her son's sake to help them get on one of the next buses. By this time, her son was so exhausted and dehydrated that he was just slipping in and out of sleep. She was truly terrified that now she was going to lose him, too.
The police officer did help. When the next bus came, he had Lisa and her family stand directly in the path of the bus, and he actually got the bus driver to pull right up to where they were standing. Of course, this made the bus driver very angry.
When the bus doors opened and the people quickly started pushing and shoving to get past them, Lisa stepped up with her son in one arm, and their one remaining pet, Lil Bit, in the other. The bus driver now laid the final crushing blow on this family that had already endured so much. He said, "You're not bringing that filthy dog on my bus."
They pleaded with him. Lisa and her son cried, and begged, and pleaded some more. And the driver simply said, "You can always try to catch the next bus."
Of course, this was not an option now; Lisa was too concerned about her son's health. She had no choice but to hand Lil Bit to her fiancé, and he was now faced with abandoning the only family pet member they had left. This was truly a heartbreaking moment for all of them.
This family had left their attic with much of their "family" intact, and at each point along the arduous way, they were forced to leave more and more of them behind, until finally, there were just the three of them left
Lisa thanked God that she, her son, and her fiancé had survived this horrific ordeal, but her family no longer felt whole, or happy. When they returned to the ravaged city of New Orleans two months after the storm, Lisa's three year old son now told people that his dog Jordan "went to live with Jesus," that his dog Cee-Cee "went to live with other people who have a home," and that "when we get another home, Momma is going to find Lil Bit."
Now, her heartbroken little boy asked Lisa every day when Lil Bit would be coming home.
Lisa soon posted a heartbreaking plea on the Internet about Lil Bit in September, 2005. In December, someone saw a photo on Petfinder.com of a rescued dog that looked amazingly like Lil Bit. This dog had been sent out of state to be fostered.
Lisa contacted the rescue person listed on Petfinder, who then put her in contact with the foster person. The foster person was very rude to Lisa and tried everything in her power to discourage her from pursuing it any further. But the dog on Petfinder matched several traits and characteristics that Lil Bit possessed. The dog was 3 years old, male, did a "special" trick, and was found in Jefferson Parish where Lil Bit was tragically left behind.
Lisa tried to get more photos and information from the foster, but was told that the dog had been adopted, and that was that. Lisa persevered and contacted the adopter of the dog. The new owner called Lisa at her work place and proceeded to question her about her fitness to care for the dog. She questioned Lisa about her financial situation, and about her ability to provide for the dog. She also told Lisa that she had been "promised" she could adopt the dog, and that she intended to keep him. Lisa wept after her conversation with the adopter, and truly did not know what to do next.
I just received this in an e-mail from a very dedicated soul who has been valiantly attempting to reunite as many pets and former owners as she can – ever since Katrina hit all those long months ago.
"I have some GREAT news! Lil Bit has now been reunited with his owner, Lisa! She is overjoyed, and so is her little boy. What a wonderful Christmas present for both of them!”
This story leaves me both extremely sad, and extremely happy, at the same time. Funny how stories can affect a person sometimes. And there are hundreds more, just like it.