BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Nearly a month after the tornado disaster, life is only just beginning to regain a measure of normalcy.
For many of the littlest victims, this is still a confusing time away from their family and best friends -- their owners.
Columbus, a petite tortoise-shell kitten that suffered from a fractured pelvis and broken hip in the storms on April 27/28, has taken up a temporary home at the Greeneville-Greene County Humane Society Animal Shelter until her owner, Rodney Poling, has a safe place to which she can return.
The tornado destroyed Poling's home and the chain-link fence that housed his dogs and cats.
"They've been a big help since pretty much the second day of the storm," Poling said of the Humane Society, which has been housing pets and providing owners affected by the storm with food, water, leashes, bedding and other needed pet supplies.
Like many of the animals who survived the storms, Columbus was nervous and untrusting of the Animal Shelter staff for a time.
Although her injuries were the most serious among the animals being assisted by the Humane Society, Columbus is beginning the process of recovery.
"All of them were stressed; all of them were scared to death when they came in," said Animal Shelter Manager Amy Bowman.
"The first few days we found numerous animals, and they were frightened and trembling. It was so sad."
WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK
While the obvious pressing need was to care for the people affected by the tornadoes and severe storms, Bowman and her staff, along with volunteers from Feral Friends of Greene County, have been working around the clock to gather and care for pets from the areas hit by the storms until the pets' owners are back on their feet.
Thus far, the animal shelter has taken in 62 dogs and cats that the storm displaced.
Among the 43 still remaining at the shelter, some are waiting for their owners to be able to retrieve them, others have been relinquished to the shelter for adoption, and 22 have not yet been claimed.
According to Feral Friends President Robin Quillen, another dozen were temporarily housed at the Feral Friends rescue on Fairview Road.
'I WOULD DO IT AGAIN'
Although the work weeks have been long and irregular, the results made it worthwhile.
"We spent many many days out there, but I would do it again," Quillen said.
The response from owners has also been satisfying.
"A lot of people are so grateful," Bowman said.
With emotion, she recounted the story of Rudy, a black cat that was found injured and miles from home.
Rudy received treatment from the Humane Society's on-site veterinarian, Dr. Bobbie Hodges. Two weeks later, her family came searching for her at the shelter.
"They immediately recognized their Rudy," Bowman said. "They started crying ... I get chills just talking about it."
DONATIONS HAVE BEEN VITAL
The Humane Society has been able to shelter the animals thanks largely to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency's provision of a large tent, in addition to PetSmart Charities' "more than generous" donation of beds, toys, food, crates and other supplies that came from six different store locations including Johnson City, Bristol, Kingsport, Knoxville and Alcoa.
Also important to their efforts have been individual donations and Purina's recent large pet food donation in response to The Band Perry's challenge.
"If that [the Purina donation of 10,000 pounds of high-quality cat food] hadn't come then, I don't know what we would have done," said Wendy Palmer, Bowman's assistant.
The animal shelter is still in need of assistance, Bowman said.
"We mainly need volunteers to come up and walk the dogs and help clean the cages, or to just sit and hold the animals and comfort them if you're not able to walk them," Bowman said.
Supplies and monetary donations are also welcome.
ASSISTANCE IS CONTINUING
The Humane Society will continue to drop off needed supplies through next week at Creekside Market, 790 Graystone Road, Camp Creek, from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday.
Storm victims can contact the Humane Society with any additional needs, or in search of a missing pet, at 639-4771, or Feral Friends, at 639-7353 or 823-1987.
Greene County Animal Control will also pick up animals from the affected area and bring them to the Humane Society.
Owners of missing pets may call Animal Control to report a description at 798-1777.