"We had hundreds of people begging us to go rescue their dog or cat," said Cedar Rapids Police Sgt. Kent Choate. "These people had put their pets upstairs, on the second floor, with some food and water. They thought they'd be gone a day, maybe two at most."
Now, school staff and hundreds of volunteers are trying to reunite families with their pets.
Some people have already come to pick up their animals. Some evacuees have tearfully said they can no longer care for their pets, because they're now homeless. Others, however, simply can't be found: They left contact numbers with the shelter for phones that have been disconnected or that are in houses that can't be entered.
Hundreds of animals are still waiting to be picked up: As June was drawing to a close, 6-27 the shelter still had 352 cats, 252 dogs, 18 birds, 5 ferrets, a lone iguana and a rabbit (it had been picked up by one family, but later found on the street by another and returned to the shelter)
The emergency shelter is closing down and, by July 10, plans to start finding new homes for these animals -- either here in Iowa, or with agencies and other care facilities outside the area.
"I came THISCLOSE to begging the animal rescue workers to let me adopt a dog yesterday, and I still feel like a heel for leaving him there...
I'm a complete sucker for a pair of big brown eyes and a thumping tail. My boyfriend knows this. Before I stopped by the shelter Friday evening, he gently reminded me that a) I travel so much for work that b) my goldfish died while covering Hurricane Katrina and, c) even now I can barely keep houseplants alive.
Oh, and I'm sort of allergic to most dogs.
"Don't come back with a kitten or a dog," he warned. "Seriously, pets take a huge amount of time and energy that you don't have. Remember what happened to your ivy last month?"
I mentally chanted a mantra -- not yours, not yours, never gonna be yours -- while walking along the rows of wood-and-metal cattle pens. It was working. I smiled at the basset hound, cooed at the chatty Siamese, and scratched the ears of an adorable boxer. Everything was fine until I turned a corner and there he was: a lab-golden retriever mix, with his tongue lolling, golden tail wagging, and butt wiggling in utter happiness.
One of the rescue workers had found him swimming along a flooded Cedar Rapids street. There were no tags. No microchip. No name. All they know was where he was found: The 3700 block of G Avenue NE.
He bumped up against my knee, plopped down and looked up at me. All logic went winging out of my head. I forgot that there might be someone out there looking for him. I forgot the reminders of my boyfriend, or the realities of my allergies. I was in love.
"In the first few days after the shelter opened, we were inundated with people offering to adopt or host some of these animals," said the shelter's Anne Duffy. "We needed to figure out first if they already have families."
So if someone who used to live on or near G Avenue in Cedar Rapids is looking for a happy-go-lucky golden dog, he's safe and waiting to go home. If not, then I'm starting a campaign to convince my boyfriend that his ancient Siamese -- 18 years old -- would love company.
As for my allergies? Not that bad.
When the weather becomes your guide. . . .