Lizzie’s journey in rescue began amid the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey when her Houston neighborhood was beneath it and she, one of the luckier dogs in the region, was taken in by one of the many rescue efforts to save displaced pets, strays and other animals affected by the disaster.
Rescues and shelters across the country have stepped in where they can, taking in the Texas refugees wherever possible. Lizzie’s carrier ended up on a van to Northern Virginia, where she came under the care of the Arlington-based Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation. Last month, the Washington Post reported, this rescue took over a boarding kennel in Falls Church that was able to accommodate some 200 animals collected in the hurricane rescue efforts.
With refugees still coming in from Harvey, Irma and soon, Maria and Nate, this will be a busy base of operations for quite some time.
Lizzie was not the Chihuahua mix’s name when she came into rescue. She was brought in with 30 other animals to an empty Houston grocery store that had been set up as a makeshift shelter. Overwhelmed residents were surrendering their pets in droves. A veterinary volunteer said she was scrawny, underfed. She was found to be heartworm positive.
“She was very sweet but looked like she’d had a hard life,” Clare Callison, the head of Pets Alive, the San Antonio rescue group running the shelter, told the Washington Post.
She was taken that same day to San Antonio. Twice weekly, Pets Alive volunteers make road-trip runs into the hurricane zone in order to transport animals from shelters. Some of them foster, as well. The little brown dog was named Nala and fostered for several days by volunteer Lori Maxi, who is a stay-at-home mom.
“She trembled all the way home,” said Maxi, now fostering her fifth Harvey refugee. “My kids absolutely adored her.”
Days later, Nala, along with 72 other animals, were loaded up for a Northern freedom ride. Carlos Uresti Jr., a paralegal who has been caring for stray dogs since his teens, fitted a 24-foot race-car trailer with racks for animal crates and a rooftop AC unit that he runs off a generator in the back of his pickup.
He and two assistants have put 21,000 miles on it since Harvey with runs as far away as Washington state.
Once in the D.C. area, Nala came into the care of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.
“We’ve learned a lot about disaster response,” said Lucky Dog Executive Director Mirah Horowitz, a former Supreme Court clerk who founded the group in 2009.
From there, little Nala went to the home of foster volunteer Kevin McCormack, an IT consultant. He and his wife have fostered more than 40 dogs.
The next day, he drove Nala to a Petco where nearly 100 Lucky Dog animals were up for adoption. Kayla Robinson, 26, a recent law-school graduate starting a job as government attorney, had seen Nala’s profile online. She had failed to get to the little dogs fast enough at previous adoption events (they are often in high demand in urban areas) so this time she completed her application ahead of time.
“There were already other people interested in her when we finally found her,” Robinson said. “But I knew she was the dog for me.”
Before long, Nala was headed to her new home, but not before a wonderful new-adoption ritual could take place. Robinson purchased a tiny collar with a dangling tag for the little dog, whose hard life was about to turn anything but.
On it was a dangly tag with her new name: Lizzie.