Katrina cat, owner reunited
KINGS BEACH – A cat and its owner were reunited at a Kings Beach animal hospital Monday afternoon after almost a year of being separated following the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.
Tammy Hupin, a 36-year-old New Orleans-based court reporter, went through the pet rescue foundation Noah’s Wish to connect with the displaced 3-year-old mix named Lucy.
“I had to give her up because I lost my house,” Hupin said on the way to Agate Bay Animal Hospital. “But I found out she had never been adopted.”
For her special reunion, Hupin came armed with a gift basket of toys, old pictures of her cat and tissues. She couldn’t promise not to cry.
She said it was all she could think about, after pulling up to the hospital in a large, black sports utility vehicle driven by Noah’s Wish representative Jennifer McKim. The nonprofit pet rescue foundation based in El Dorado Hills arranged for the gathering.
Last October, Kings Beach veterinarian Dr. Bree Montana, in a partnership with Noah’s Wish, traveled to Louisiana to work at a temporary animal shelter where displaced pet owners surrendered their animals in the weeks immediately after the storm. Strays were plucked from the attics and treetops of the flooded region.
Hurricane Katrina, which rolled over southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, claimed the lives of 1,836 people, devastated 100 miles of the Gulf Coast, flooded 80 percent of Hupin’s city and caused $81.2 billion in damages.
Montana described her triage work in Louisiana for the marooned animals as one of the hardest experiences in her professional career.
She was able to bring back one cat through efforts by Incline Village’s Pet Network, working in conjunction with Noah’s Wish and Kanab, Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society to bring several Katrina cats and dogs to the area for adoption. Most have since found homes.
A few weeks after Montana returned from the storm’s epicenter, she received a call from a Noah’s Wish official.
Twenty felines were flown to Sacramento.
“They all needed shots, and tests… many were ill, or shocked – it was a tough few weeks,” Montana said.
One by one, the cats were vaccinated, cared for and adopted – except four of them. Lucy was among them.
Clad in a sequined “I Love Lucy” shirt, Hupin cradled her beloved cat for the first time in 11 months.
Hupin was concerned about Lucy’s transition living once more with other animals in her household.
“She’ll probably warm up to (them). But keep them separate at first. Cats are like families at Thanksgiving, reunions can get a little heated – just give it time,” Montana said.
Hupin, who has been living in a one-bedroom apartment in Austin, Texas – will move back to New Orleans on Oct. 1. Her three-bedroom home east of downtown has been vacant since the storm. She will decide this fall whether to sell it or fix it up.
“For now, we’re moving up-town,” Hupin said. “I’m going to get back to work, get settled – and we’ll go from there.”
“We’ve never had this kind of reunion before,” McKim said. “It’s unreal.”
Hurricane Katrina was the sixth strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.