What It’s Like to be a Rescue Responder
Posted On 09/20/2011 by Laura Benn
This morning we have a very special and very moving interview to share. It is from Jennifer Depp, a remarkable woman who was one of the dozens of volunteers deployed to help with the enormous kennelseizure presently happening in Quebec. Thank you Jennifer for taking a moment to speak with Pawsh about the emotional realities of being a rescue responder.
- How long were you there at the rescue effort in Quebec this past week?
I got the email to deploy on September 9th. They needed volunteers at an undisclosed location to help with a large kennel seizure. We did not know where the bust was being performed – nor did we ask as it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we would help 500 or more dogs. They needed volunteers to arrive on September 15th anticipating that the dogs would arrive on the 16th. There is MUCH to do to prepare to receive hundreds dogs. We didn’t know the exact numbers at that point.
2. What tasks did you perform?
We spent the first two days setting up crates, unpacking food, cutting cardboard sheets to put between the crates, setting up the vetting area and more. We worked until 11pm on Friday and the arrival time of the first truck load of dogs kept getting pushed back. At that time they said it would be closer to 2am, so they sent us back to the hotel and those of us who volunteered to come back were to be called an hour before the truck was to arrive.
We got to bed around midnight (after putting in a 14 hour day) and got the call to get up at 2am. Once back at the shelter we had to unload 150 or so dogs. We had to catalogue them all and move them into their crates then water them. It took us most of the night. By the time the other volunteers came in around 8am we were still going. We worked until 1pm and were sent home to catch a couple of hours sleep. Then it was back for 4pm to await the second truck. It arrived around 5pm and took us late into the night to unload and get the dogs set up.
By this time the crates from the first load needed to be cleaned. Next thing we know the third truck was pulling in and we started all over. When we were done someone asked me if I had any clue what time it was. I answered, ‘Somewhere around 10pm I imagine.’ ‘No,’ they said. ‘It’s 3am!’ We’d been working for 24 hours with only about three hours sleep scattered in there. The work was physically demanding and we were running on adrenaline.
3. Can you give a few details about some of the dogs you saw first hand?
I can’t give any real details as this is a criminal case and we had to sign a confidentiality agreement, but I can tell you there were some incredibly sweet dogs who will need some TLC but would melt anyone’s heart.
4. Is there one dog (or dogs) that really sticks out in your mind?
There are several – some that remind me of other dogs I’ve fostered. Again I can’t give any real details, but i can say I fell in love a million times over this past weekend.
5. How would you describe the mood of the rescue effort?
Honestly this past weekend was pure adrenaline as mentioned, but I think by today reality will be kicking in. It takes hours just to clean the cages, feed and water the dogs. By the time you finish it’s time to start again. There was an incredible crew of volunteers this past weekend and they became like family by the time we were done. I made many new friends and was blessed to find that my roomie and I were like soul mates.
6. Is this the first rescue effort you have been involved in as a rescue responder?
Last year I helped with a cat rescue in Valleyfield, QC. A shelter had got overwhelmed and the SPCA stepped in. There was something like 200 cats. I took my training to become a certified disaster animal responder in 2009 after I learned of three large kennel seizures in Montreal. I knew I wanted to be there to help the next time around. I’ve since also taken Emergency Sheltering Management and Animal First Aid for Disaster Responders through HSUS.
7. How has the experience effected you?
I am still reeling from exhaustion and emotion. Both sadness and happiness. Meeting new friends, being covered head to toe in dog poop, seeing a little dog’s slight tail wag with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. There was one dog that when you talked to him he’d smile a big smile with his lips pulled right back to show his front teeth then he would slowly, tentatively roll over to show his belly – he melted my heart. I’ve fostered many rescued dogs before so the behaviours were very familiar, but over 500 dogs at once is very overwhelming.
9. How can people help?
If anyone wants to help now financial donations are desperately needed as these dogs could be in a shelter for three months or more awaiting the trial. Donations can be made to Humane Society International – Canada or to Red Rover – that’s the organization I deployed through. Information about training to join a disaster animal response team can also be found on both links.