When Hurricane Harvey first hit, everything was relatively fine at Tall Tails Animal Rescue in Hankamer, Texas, just 45 miles east of Houston. But then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from two dams to avoid uncontrolled overflow and the rising waters hit the area in full force.
“We are in serious need of help! They opened the dam north of us and we got over a foot of water overnight … and it’s still rising! They’re going to release more water from upstream and more rain is on the horizon. We’ve got to go and we’ve got to go now!” wrote Kevin Miller, the rescue’s president, on Facebook.
“We won’t leave the dogs so need help getting them out by boat. We need temporary places for them to stay as well. We will need about 20 more large crates. We’re still having trouble wrapping our heads around this and really aren’t sure where to begin. Can anyone get to us with a boat and a trailer so we can make several trips back and forth with dogs in crates?”
Miller posted photos of dogs chest-deep in water and cats on tables and kennel rooftops, trying to get to safety.
Not long after, Kat K Tschirgi of the rescue group posted that they were overwhelmed with offers of help. People with boats were ferrying the animals to people with trucks and trailers who could transport them to higher ground.
People followed along on social media as boats arrived and transported more than 70 of the animals to a nearby park pavilion. But 15 to 20 dogs and about a half dozen pigs were left behind and were still waiting for rescue. The remaining dogs were let loose in the home by a group of rescuers, not knowing that they didn’t get along with many other dogs.
Early Tuesday morning, a despondent Tschirgi wrote that her phone was nearly dead and she was worried what the day would bring.
An army of animal-loving social media fans have been sharing the saga and volunteers were trying to make it to the remaining stranded animals. Media outlets have also been telling the story, pointing out that the rescued dogs (and people) need food and other supplies.
People rallied rescue boats and supplies, and Austin Pets Alive, a Texas shelter, was planning to take some of the rescued dogs.
As of early afternoon Tuesday, a friend posted an update on Tschirgi’s Facebook feed, saying the water was rising quickly where they were, but rescuers were almost on site to help get the animals at the pavilion to higher ground. But not all the news was good.
“The focus right now is getting the animals that are at the park [with Kat and Kevin] to safety and that is it right now,” posted Alicia Mccarty. “Although it pains me to say this and I feel like less of a rescuer for saying it, right now trying to get the dogs left at the house is not the priority. The dogs left behind were not only dog aggressive but some were human aggressive and it is not safe. Especially since Kat and Kevin cannot come and there is no evacuation point if a dog were to be found.”
“I got a message from Kat this morning before her phone died that was gut wrenching. It was full of the despair both her and Kevin are feeling,” Mccarty wrote. “I’m hoping that when they see the amount of support from across the country that they can eventually heal and get back to rescuing. It’s what [they] are best at and the animals need them.”
Finally, late Tuesday, the news was great. Boats finally made it to pick up Tschirgi, Miller and the dogs they had with them at the pavilion and rescuers even braved the waters to get to the dogs stranded in the house.
Mccarty posted, “Update: ALL of the dogs and the pigs at the house are safe and alive!!!!”
Once everyone was safe and rescued, Tschirgi posted her own update, saying that the dogs were heading off to various other rescue groups, with one dog that had been loose in the home rushed to the vet for injuries sustained overnight. Tshcirgi said she was overwhelmed by the amount of support they had received, from actual physical aid and donations to all the virtual cheerleading online.