Kinship Circle: Ginger’s Story: Two-Time Hurricane Survivor

October 28th, 2008 7:20 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at]
Date: Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 5:52 PM
Subject: Ginger’s Story: Two-Time Hurricane Survivor


10/28/08: Ginger’s Story – Two Time Hurricane Survivor Illuminates Flaws In Evacuation System

Kinship Circle - 2008-10-28 - Ginger's Story, Two-Time Hurricane Survivor 01

Courtney Chandel with Ginger, rescued after Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Lower Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Courtney Chandel, akameridians [at]
Nanette Martin, nantucketred [at]


Katrina left Louisiana’s Lower Plaquemines Parish post-apocalyptic. The deserted area stretched for miles, with sprawling shrimp trawlers parked on highways, a truck in a tree, debris strewn fields. Former homes were stripped to concrete foundation blocks. It felt as desolate as the moon.

The Parish had finally let animal rescuers in — when Nanette Martin and I drove from New Orleans with dog/cat food, carriers, catchpoles… It was hard to digest what we saw. Neither of us spoke until we spotted a cluster of remarkably intact mobile homes by a roadside sign that said “Ironton.”

“First stop, Ironton,” Nanette said as I turned the bumpy corner into the debris-strewn neighborhood. We hoped we’d find something alive here… Then we saw her — a gorgeous Golden Retriever with expectant eyes, wagging away. A sparkling oasis of life amid destruction and decay. She sat by her little dogloo, near her boarded-up person’s home, tied to a tree.

We ran to her. Her tongue dropped out and she smiled… “Good dog! Good girl!” She was so thin. We could feel her bones easily, yet bowls of fresh food and water sat beside her. We saw the house was deserted, so we headed to the street where a woman greeted us. “You met Ginger!” And so we learned how a neighbor was caring for Ginger after her disabled person evacuated. People weren’t allowed to take pets with them, even the disabled. We tried to imagine what Ginger had seen and felt during the storm…the sounds, wind, darkness… It was hard not to feel fiercely protective toward her.

Each day we made the two-hour drive from New Orleans to Plaquemines Parish, we checked on Ginger. We thought about bringing Ginger to ARNO until her “mom” came home. The idea was cinched when we saw three German Shepherds, who’d also survived, bullying her. We obtained mom’s phone number… There is no other call like the one after a disaster to tell someone their animal is alive. And, yes, she sure would like it if Ginger got out of there…

Ginger’s odyssey didn’t end with ARNO. She was routed through Best Friends and then to a foster home in Southern California…until her mom returned after living in a FEMA trailer. We advised her to never leave Ginger again.


Fast forward nearly three years to September 13, 2008. From my New York City apartment, I helplessly watched reports of Hurricane Ike barreling along the Gulf Coast. I’d just returned from Louisiana for Gustav evacuations, and now Ike was there. One report said Ironton was under five feet of water.

Ginger! I rummaged through three-year-old Katrina rescue notes…and (unbelievably) found a phone number for Ginger’s mom. She picked up on the first ring. She’d evacuated for Ike, but again, wasn’t allowed to take Ginger. Incredible. But no time for that. Was Ginger tied? No.

I posted an SOS for Ginger on the web. Almost immediately, Belle Chasse resident Ramona Billot contacted Lori Wilson of Rescue Ranch. Lori had to wait another excruciating two days until rescuers were admitted into Plaquemines again. I imagined the worst…until the call came from Lori: Ginger was alive! A neighbor working on a levee identified her and agreed to care for her until her mom returned.

I called with the same good news as three years ago. Once again, the relief on the other end was palpable over the cell towers. A frail voice asked, “You have Ginger?” I can still hear her anxiety in my ears today.

Two Hurricanes. Two Evacuations.
Each Time, Ginger Was Left Behind.

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Was Ginger forcibly left behind because authorities refused to let her disabled person evacuate with her? Or, were new pet evacuation rules poorly communicated — leaving elderly, rural residents without the knowledge or means to leave with their animals?

An imperfect system needs much work…so precious lives don’t slip through its cracks. But for now — despite politics, bureaucratic red tape, and really bad weather — Ginger is safe.


After some research, it was determined that Marie and Ginger can participate in an assisted evacuation together, through the Health Department Superintendent. Let’s hope Ginger never again stands alone in a hurricane.

— Courtney Chandel, akameridians [at]
MuttShack and Kinship Circle Disaster Aid Network volunteer


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