Many people were forced to leave their pets when they were evacuated from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a result, hundreds of unlucky animals were left to struggle for life in the watery, battered landscape of New Orleans.
But the motto in the historic Colorado floods was "No pets left behind," according to Skye Robinson, a spokesman for the National Guard air search and rescue operations here.
That's because including pets in the rescue effort helped convince even reluctant residents to leave their homes, according to a story by The Associated Press. Officials also had more than enough space for the animals and even carried animal crates with them.
Livestock, like horses and cattle, were left behind, and a television news video of a single horse standing in floodwater in Greeley fueled public anger and concern. Even that situation ended well. More on that later.
Elswhere, helicopters rescuing people after massive flooding in Colorado carried more dogs, cats and fish than people, the AP story said. "Rescuers using zip lines to evacuate people over raging rivers also risked their lives to make sure the four-legged members of families were safe."
More than 800 pets have been ferried to safety with their owners via helicopter, the National Guard told AP. Hundreds more were rescued by ground crews.
Once safely on dry ground, Red Cross shelters had water bowls, on-site dog kennels and all the necessary supplies to ensure evacuees wouldn't be separated from their pets.
"We kind of learned after Katrina, when people wouldn't evacuate because of their pets," said Kathy Conner, a worker at a shelter at a YMCA in Boulder.
"It just makes sense that you bring the pets along. They are part of the family," Robinson said. "You wouldn't leave a family behind because they had kids."
Robinson's comment is essentially the foundation of ongoing research that is shedding light on the true depth of the human-animal connection. Sone of that research is being done at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Science.
The research has found, for example, that many battered women refuse to take refuge in shelters because they have to leave a pet behind, where it can be the target of revenge violence. Likewise, some people who live alone are reluctant to stay in a hospital because an animal companion is left.
In the legal system, service animals are being used to calm young people who face the terror of testifying in a criminal trial. And therapy animals are being used in marriage counseling and a whole host of similar issues.
This is not to say that animals should be regarded as four-legged people. What it does say is we're still learning about the impact animals have on our lives, and we on theirs.
Which brings us back to Socks, a 14-year-old male horse filmed by 9News standing nearly chest deep in the rush of flood waters on a small farm in Weld County. It appeared as though the animal was tethered to a fence and unable to escape. The station says the image generated some of the biggest concern from viewers.
So, 9NEWS drove to Weld County, dodging road blocks, road repairs and still flooded streets, and tracked down the horse's owner.
The owner, caretaker, and the farm manager say they did their best last Friday to move Socks and the other horses and livestock out of the flood, but could not maneuver safely through the rushing waters. They walked the horses to dry land on Saturday.
They all insist that a closer look at the video shows that they never tied Socks to the fence. (An Examiner.com reader commented that enlarging the image showed Socks was wearing a mask but was not tied.) They moved all the livestock to the highest ground on the property, and Socks found his own way to that spot, and remained there until humans were able to get him out of there the next day.
The horse was not injured.
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