After the storm, a joyful reunion
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Heather Roux trembled, too frightened to wag her tail.
For the dog rescued from hurricane-devastated New Orleans, the television cameras and newspaper photographers surrounding her in the Redwood Animal Hospital parking lot yesterday were one more trauma.
But this time the 10- to 12-year-old border collie mix didn't face it alone.
Heather Roux's owner, a teary and emotional Janice Hebbler, stood beside her as she was reunited with the pet she left behind in her flooded New Orleans home six weeks ago.
"She looks wonderful," Hebbler said. "I can't put a price on her or this moment. There are a lot of good people in this world."
Their reunion is one more amazing thing in a string of many, said Hebbler, 58, who is living in Marysville with a friend.
Hebbler's survival story starts just before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August. Heeding the warnings, she made reservations at a local hotel but when she and the dogs — she also owned a 15-year-old dog named Hannah — arrived, the hotel had been evacuated. She tried to join the stream of evacuees, but traffic stopped her. Hebbler returned to her rental house in the middle of New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina hit, but her two-story house survived.
"Then I did a stupid human trick," Hebbler said. "I was walking in my house, slipped on a pencil, fell and broke my hip."
She could barely walk when levees broke and floodwaters seeped into her home. A neighbor with a boat rescued Hebbler when the water rose to three feet inside her living room.
"I had to leave the dogs behind," she said. "They were sitting on the stairs. I thought I'd never see them again."
Hebbler was taken to a church rectory and then evacuated to San Antonio where a medical team determined she needed a hip replacement. She had surgery, stopped in Dallas for rehabilitation and, while in a nursing home, re-established contact with online friends.
One, Betty Wagner in Marysville, insisted Hebbler come to Washington state.
"We met by happenstance in a chat room," Hebbler said. "When I came to Washington was the first time I met her in person."
In New Orleans, Heather Roux had a similar bit of good luck.
As floodwaters receded, Claudia Moore of Monroe and other Pasado's Safe Haven volunteers conducted a house-to-house search for abandoned pets. In Hebbler's home, Moore found Hannah dead and a hungry, frightened Heather Roux.
She left a card on the door and took the dog to a plantation in Raceland where dozens of animals were being cared for by volunteers. The card provided the link for Hebbler.
Her sister, who had lived next door, returned to their neighborhood, found the card and told Hebbler her dog was safe.
Carol Landes of Yakima, an independent volunteer, had also been helping in Louisiana. She was driving home with three dogs headed for foster homes and found room for Heather Roux.
Yesterday, in the Redmond parking lot, Hebbler hugged Moore and Landes repeatedly, long after the camera crews packed up and left. Hebbler, who lost everything in the hurricane — except the dog she raised from puppyhood — slipped Landes a check for Pasado's Safe Haven.
Then she watched as volunteers loaded Heather Roux and her portable kennel into a car.
"We're going home, baby," she said. "We're going home."
Hebbler, a pharmacy technician, said she plans to get certified in Washington and find a job.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company