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Long Beach rescue completes rough road trip with Texas strays

Members of Posh Pets Rescue, which runs the Long Beach Animal Shelter, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, discussed their trip to Texas to rescue animals caught up in the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.  (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

At 1 a.m. Labor Day, in a small Arkansas city off Interstate 30, a Posh Pets Rescue van from Long Beach broke down next to a gas station pump, stranding 38 stray cats and dogs from Texas.

But in the next three hours, kindness from strangers in Benton, Arkansas enabled animal rescuers Sean Maxwell and Melissa McClellan to complete their five-day road trip to help free up space in Texas shelters for animals from Harvey-ravagedd regions.

First, a gas station customer who tinkers with engines helped by looking under the hood. When McClellan asked for “good vibes” on her Facebook page, animal lovers blasted out calls for help and offered housing. Next, a tow truck driver-cum-mechanic got out of bed after just returning from helping hurricane victims - working for free. Finally, a police officer who heard of their straits drove up, shining his flashlight on the engine so repairs could be made.

“I have never encountered so much hospitality and genuine kindness in my life,” said Maxwell, Posh Pets’ kennel manager, who admits to shedding tears of gratefulness. “If there were more people in the world like the ones that I encountered on this trip alone, it would be an incredible place.”

In a five-day road trip full of good karma, Posh Pets brought up 17 dogs and 21 cats from the Dallas and Fort Worth municipal shelters for adoption, one of many animal rescue missions descending on Texas. All along the way, as people saw photos of cats and dogs emblazoned on the van’s side, many realized it was Harvey-related and thanked the rescuers.

Posh Pets founder Linda Vetrano launched the trip on a Texas-size whim last Thursday after exploring trip logistics that morning. “When something like this happens, you just jump in and help,” Vetrano said. Posh Pets, which runs Long Beach’s animal shelter, and other rescue groups have focused on taking strays from shelters outside the flooded areas so that Harvey victims’ pets and livestock can move in while their owners rebuild. It was a lesson from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when rescuers pulled animals out of Lousiania’s flooded areas and transported them out of state. Many hurricane victims searched for their pets but never got them back.

Vetrano and another volunteer flew to Dallas, and the four rescuers spent Labor Day weekend looking at hundreds of animals at the Fort Worth and Dallas municipal shelters.

They chose a mix of adoptable strays and those with little chance of being adopted because they were sick or untrained, including an emaciated pit bull, a lab mix with a broken leg, and a mother cat with seven “crazy” kittens.

But the rescuers said they left behind a bit of their hearts with the animals they didn’t bring back Posh Pets and three other rescue groups are discussing hiring a tractor trailer to bring in a bigger load of animals, Vetrano said. After hearing of a woman taking care of 200 dogs singlehandedly, the rescuers want to help the more rural shelters.

McClellan, who missed a holiday weekend with her husband and her 7-year-old son to make the trip, said the rescue mission was eye-opening. “You have to stop and think that there’s somebody out there who’s going through something so much infinitely worse,” she said. “You can stop and help them and it will in turn end up help make you feel a little bit better.”

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