Hurricane dogs

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Animals displaced by hurricanes down south make their way to us

By Rusty Tagliareni

After Hurricane Harvey wrought havoc on the coast of Texas in 2017 with 100-plus mile per hour winds and torrential rains, slowly, people began returning to their homes to see what they could salvage. We know over 100,000 homes were affected. No one knows exactly how many dogs were left to fend for themselves.

An influx of animals — pets and strays alike — after a catastrophic storm causes a backlog that leaves shelters little choice but to euthanize animals to free up space and resources. Hudson and his littermates got lucky. He and his brothers and sisters were rescued and found their way northbound, in a van carrying displaced animals to shelters in less affected regions. From there he and his family eventually made the trek all the way to northern New Jersey, to a 11th Hour Rescue in Rockaway, NJ, which took in the entire litter.

11th Hour Rescue operates as a safety net for animals whose time has run out elsewhere. Be it a shelter animal scheduled for euthanasia, or in the case of Hudson and his siblings, wayward puppies who may never have known a home to begin with.

Enter Kevin Kowalick and Kathryn Cataldo of Maple Shade, NJ, a couple with a puppy-sized void in their lives. Cataldo is a veterinary technician who has worked in the field of animal care for about a decade. To her, adopting was the obvious choice. “There are some good breeders out there, but pet shops? I don’t even understand how they are legal,” she said.

At the 24-hour veterinary care facility where she works, “We get animals in a lot that have kennel cough and sometimes very bad pneumonia. They aren’t cared for.” Cataldo said that before they decided upon 11th Hour Rescue she spent some time simply hanging out in their storefront, observing how they handled and treated their animals. “You could tell they were good people,” she said.

“Growing up I always wanted a dog,” said Kowalick. “My mom always said no, but I always wanted one.” Last November, they adopted Hudson, a mixed breed that looks to be dominantly a Catahoula hound. As Kowalick talks, he plays with Hudson, who’s springing around the floor with a toy. “I love him. I can’t sleep without him now,” he said. “He sleeps on my chest every night.”

I began to place my camera onto my tripod, causing Hudson to spring from the couch, startled by the strange apparatus before him. “He is kinda anxious sometimes,” offered Kowalick, petting Hudson’s head to reassure him. Hudson peered at me side-eyed from the far end of the couch, eventually coming back over to cautiously sniff the camera, tail wagging.

A bit of nerves is to be expected from a young dog whose first six months of puppyhood were marked by tumult. But the fact that he now lives with a loving family hundreds of miles from where he was when disaster struck a year and a half ago speaks to what a network of compassionate people can achieve.

“I actually really like his quirks,” said Kowalick. “He’s unlike any dog I’ve ever met, and I think it’s what makes him him. I wouldn’t change anything about him.” With that, they bundled Hudson up in his winter coat and headed outside for some family photos.

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