After Kentucky floods, vets help mark area – News

caged animals

Screenshot of VIN news service

The Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association shared flood footage on Facebook last week asking for donations to the group’s charitable foundation. “A lot of what’s done, veterinarians do on a voluntary basis,” KVMA chief executive Debra Hamelback said. “Our core funds will go to veterinary care.”

As deadly flash floods devoured parts of eastern Kentucky, a tall Pyrenean named Jacks helped alert his family and guide them to higher ground.

The gesture was part of the dog’s last acts of loyalty and kindness.

Jacks breathed his last about 24 hours later, on July 29, while being moved and temporarily boarded at his vet. The loss hangs over the dog’s veterinarian, Dr William Hagans, who owns one of two veterinary practices in Perry County and has had a front-row seat to the devastation.

The dog, Hagans said, seemed to be rest, showing no signs of distress.

“In my mind, I throw away all the differentials,” he said in an interview this week with the VIN News Service. “How do you detect weakness in a Pyrenees who lies down and sleeps all the time? This was his normal behavior. There was no vomiting, no regurgitation. He was eating. Was swimming too much for him It’s just heartbreaking.”

Between July 25 and 30, thunderstorms brought heavy rain, dumping up to 10.5 inches of water in eastern Kentucky in a 48-hour period. The deluge caused flooding in seven counties. Large swathes of some communities, including homes and farms, were swept away, prompting Governor Andy Beshear to sign a state of emergency, declaring the disaster “one of the worst floods ever.” devastating” in the history of the state. At least 39 people have died and some are still missing. Countless cattle perished in this largely rural region.

Reflecting on the fact that her own home and her own practice were spared, Hagans mourns those who lost everything: “I have a friend who was trying to get her horses to safety, and they all got swept away. And that same friend then went to save a neighbor and only got the grandson out before they both looked at the trailer being taken away with his grandparents inside.

“I have a technician who lost her house and her two vehicles,” he continued. “His brother also lost his house, and while he was going to see a neighbor, he fell through their floor, cut his leg, got sepsis and is now in intensive care. Somehow , this disaster affected everyone.”

CNN profiled the plight of Hagans technician Belinda Asher in a news report, and nearly $14,000 was raised through a GoFundMe campaign dedicated to helping her family. Almost everyone in Hagans’ one-doctor practice has volunteered to help displaced people, drop off food and supplies at distribution centers or help with cleanup efforts. Between family duties, running a practice and volunteering in the community, Hagans is pushed to his limits. Almost every night, he gets up after 1 a.m., listing the day’s medical cases.

Much of his workload, he said, is now volunteer work: “People lost their homes but were able to save their animals, and now I have them. Some need medicine, [and] they are unable to pay. A lady who lost her house was sleeping in her car when I went out to pick up her puppy, who [parvovirus]. I took it and paid for it, but you can’t keep the doors open that way.”

Floodwaters have receded, but power outages are expected to continue for weeks. For now, local governments are housing the animals wherever they can, such as state parks, schools, and even a grooming facility. Last week, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, a charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association, pledged $25,000 in aid to Kentucky to support those providing emergency veterinary care, food, pensions and supplies. Several organizations also provide support to flood victims, including the Kentucky Humane Society and the Governor’s Office, which established the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund to collect tax-deductible donations for flood victim funerals.

Personal

Photo courtesy of Dr. Lauren Mirus

Dr. Lauren Mirus joined Auburn University veterinary student Ben Cornett, Tara Ritchie, owner of Waggin’ Tails Pet Resort, and Dr. Laura Howard, owner of West Liberty Veterinary Clinic, to examine the approximately 70 animals moved to Waggin’ Tails, a grooming facility in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

A 45-minute drive south of Hagans’ office is Dr. Lauren Mirus in Morgan County, where the damage is extensive. But hardest hit is the Jackson, Ky., area, home to the firm’s satellite clinic.

“You see images and stuff, but until you see it with your own eyes, you can’t imagine it,” she said of the destruction. “It’s breathtaking.”

It’s easier to take stock of the damage, she says, now that the floodwaters are receding. “The fences were destroyed, so some of the horses went as far as the open pits [on hilltops] and survive; others were transported to Lexington [a two-hour drive west]”said Mirus. “I know that one of our customers has to use an ATV to carry gallons of water to her five horses because she has no water source. That’s 50 gallons a day.”

Everyone in the seven-doctor’s office is helping with the relief efforts. The goal, Mirus said, is to dig through what has become a muddy, debris-filled mess: “We all have one day off a week, and that’s when we’re going to offer our services. Debris – it’s not just clothes and trash; it’s school buses and fire trucks, equipment, tractors and vehicles. Where there once were houses, there is more than concrete slabs.

Mirus said a vet she practices with lost his home. She was at work when she received a call that the flood waters were rising. Eventually they got so high that only the roof was visible.

“She just graduated from vet school in May,” Mirus said of her colleague. “She and her husband lived with her parents, so he lost his childhood home. It’s just devastating.”

The one bright spot, Mirus said, was seeing the community come together. “It’s heartwarming to see everyone lending a helping hand. Even in dire circumstances, it feels good to see that.”

Dr. Jordan Thacker leaves his office in Pikeville to examine and vaccinate animals that are temporarily housed at Floyd County Community Center and Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. She also visits the Floyd County Animal Shelter, which is in the heart of the flooded area.

Along the way, she was struck by the strength of the human-animal bond and what companion animals mean to their owners in times of despair. She thought of a man whose house had taken five feet of rising water, but he still managed to get inside to bring his little dog.

“People talk a lot about Eastern Kentucky, but when it comes to devastation, we always try to stick together,” she said. “And we love our animals.”

VIN News Service Commentaries are opinion pieces featuring ideas, personal experiences and/or views on current issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a comment for review, email [email protected]

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