Freeport pet shelter cleans up from Sandy
Half a dozen hammerers banging joined 43 dogs barking at Bobbi and the Strays animal shelter Sunday in an industrial pocket of Freeport's bayfront.
The dogs and 144 cats had been evacuated a day before superstorm Sandy, which swamped the kennels, the veterinary trailer and an office building so new it had not been officially unveiled with up to 4 feet of water.
"We lost everything, just about," said shelter founder Bobbi Giordano, of Queens, who said she'd been told it would cost up to $200,000 to repair the flood damage and replace ruined medicine.
The animals were taken to sister shelters or foster homes across Long Island. Now the dogs have returned, and the cats will come back in coming weeks.
More needs to be done before the shelter is returned to working order. Longtime shelter volunteers have already soaped down the kennel's cinder block walls and laid flooded paperwork out to dry.
On Sunday, new volunteers, many of whom had never visited the shelter but had heard of its predicament from friends, ripped out sodden drywall under the direction of Brad LaForce, 33, a contractor from Brooklyn.
"It's got to be done," LaForce said. "When you have gray water and brine in a building like this, it's not good for you -- not for dogs, humans, anybody."
It was a hardworking crew, armed with claw hammers, mallets and crowbars -- but an amateur one. Among them were an insurance company worker from Franklin Square, an interior designer from Bellmore, and a teacher from Queens and her boyfriend, a lab technician from Franklin Square. Some were self-described animal lovers; some just wanted to help Freeport rebound from devastation.
"The place was a mess. I wanted to do something for the community and for the animals," said Kathy Laureano, 44, the interior designer. Anna Pacura, 27, the teacher, said the shelter seemed only appropriate as she'd spent the previous weekend in Staten Island working on "a human house."
Diane Frostati, 47, the insurance company worker, said demolition work was "good for getting the frustration out." A dog owner, she appeared to be unfazed by the cacophony of barking behind her. "That's dog-normal," she said.
Outside, Tony, a hound-pit bull mix, stood on his hind legs and put his paws on the shoulders of the woman who was trying to walk him -- Marie Fisher, 50, of Oceanside, a laid-off office clerk and longtime dog walker at the shelter. "I couldn't do all this by myself," she said, over the hammering.
Luis Toala, 24, a deli worker from Williston Park, and Michael Greenberg, 26, a banker from Hewlett, sorted through dog toys. Toala said his dog, Coda, had cowered in the basement during most of the storm; Greenberg's dogs, McGruff and Cozmo, had done themselves no honor in his parents' laps.
Toala had come down because he feared the shelter wouldn't get the same attention as better-known charities. Greenberg hadn't done much volunteering before, besides teaching youth hockey clinics at a nearby recreation center, but he liked the way it made him feel. "Once you start doing it, you realize it really is appreciated, and you're really helping," he said.