DR. GREG RICH, THE VETERINARIAN WHO SAVED HIS PATIENTS
SEPTEMBER 25, 2005
I made a second trip to Louisiana, leaving the office on September 24, 2005. I went alone this time, primarily to connect with Dr. Greg Rich so we could visit Donna Powell's house together and evaluate the birds there. Initially the trip was supposed to be about getting the birds at the Lamar Dixon Center moved to another site, but this was accomplished by others the day before I headed down there. They were moved just in time before Hurricane Rita blew thru the area, and were able to be safely indoors rather than outside in the horse stalls. I left Kansas City on Friday afternoon and arrived at Dr. Rich's house at 1:30 am, where I was able to get about 4 hours sleep before his happy, hyperactive dog woke me up by running across my air mattress on his living room floor. Nothing like an Australian Shepherd stepping on your bladder to get you out of bed! Dr. Rich and I planned to head over to Donna's after he got his patients and pets fed and cleaned.
Dr. Rich had lost his home and clinic in Metaire, a suburb of New Orleans, but had rented a truck and evacuated all of his hospital patients and his own pets, along with his medical records and whatever equipment he could grab, before the hurricane struck. He and his wife Rene had spent almost 4 weeks living at his brother's house in Florida, with the animals living in crates and being let out to play twice a day. They bought a house in Baton Rouge sight unseen, knowing that it would be a very long time before their own house would be livable again. After buying a few pieces of furniture and salvaging what they could from their badly damaged house, they rented another truck and moved themselves and the animals into their new place. They had only been there 48 hours when I arrived, but already had about 8 people staying with them who had evacuated from either Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita. They were very gracious hosts, offering everything I might need, including a new air mattress after the dog ate mine when nobody was home to entertain her.
Dr. Rich's practice only sees birds and exotic animals. He was housing macaws, a cockatoo, several other birds, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a really big snake that I could only see part of, and some sort of reptile that I wasn't particularly interested in examining more closely. Remember, this is only 48 hours after they had moved into their new house, so there hadn't been time to get them all rearranged. By the time you read this, these animals have probably already moved into big cages or been returned to their owners, since some of them were due to be picked up on September 27.
Since there had been no way to move the birds back and forth to Florida in large cages, the crates had been their home for several weeks. This Blue and Gold Macaw had created a window in the side of his crate, but surprisingly didn't choose to escape from it. Thanks to the large number of cages that had been donated to Donna Powell, we were able to bring two of the extra ones to Dr. Rich's house for birds that would be staying with him for a long time until their owners had found a place to live. This crate looks just like some of my crates that I used to house my macaws after I evacuated them when I had a house fire. It only took my birds less than 24 hours to create this kind of damage, but they are quite talented.
This Green Wing Macaw was so happy to be moved into his cage that he immediately jumped into the water dish and took a bath. This cage is not really adequate for a bird this size, but as soon as more cages could be purchased, this big guy would move into something more suitable, and one of the smaller birds could move in here. After these two birds moved into the cages, we rearranged a couple of the others so that one Blue and Gold and the rabbit had bigger crates. I learned that not every veterinarian in New Orleans had evacuated their patients. A rescue person told me about one clinic she had entered while doing a door to door search for any live animals, and all the animals there had drowned after being left behind by someone less caring than Dr. Rich.
The doctor and his wife own a Hawkhead Parrot, a Blue Front Amazon, and I think one or two of the other birds, but I saw so many animals during my two trips that it is all kind of a blur. I can't imagine what I would do if I had to evacuate my flock of around 100 birds, but I know I would find a way just like they did, or die trying.
In a last minute decision, I chose to take the little male Purple Grenadier finch that I had taken from LSU down to Dr. Rich. He certainly didn't need the burden of another animal to care for, but the little bird was doing very well, although he still has a bit of a problem with stumbling and falling. I did not want to be accused of taking a bird out of the state, and it was never my intention to keep the bird. I felt that if I did not have a chance to make a third trip to Louisiana, this would be my only chance to return the bird to where it belonged.