Recounting NOLA–August 29, 2008 National Katrina Animal Memorial Luncheon

I arrived at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel just before noon and had to leave my rental car with a valet, transport books to the second floor, and set up my display table before the luncheon. I should have lined up help in advance, but the bellhop took the books upstairs for me. While I was setting up my table, a woman named Kim came over and she saved me a seat at one of the luncheon tables, which were filling up.

At the luncheon, Joe DuBois, Past President of the Coalition of Louisiana Animal Advocates, was the Master of Ceremonies. Wendy Diamond, Founder and Editor of Animal Fair Magazine, Honorary Chairperson of the Katrina Animal Memorial Project, and Celebrity Judge on “The Greatest American Dog” TV Show gave the Keynote Address. Distinguished Speakers were presented an honorary key to the City of New Orleans. They included Becky Robinson, President and Co-Founder of Alley Cat Allies, Debrah Schnackenberg, Director of Animal Emergency Services and Chair of the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Services for the American Humane Association, Laura Lanza, Regional Director of the ASPCA, Patty Hegwood, Director of Animal Care, Best Friends Animal Society, Frances Hayward, President of Friends of the Amigo Foundation, Mary Pat Boatfield, Executive Director of the Nashville Humane Association, Paul Jolly, Director of the Petco Foundation, Ed Powers, Vice President, Strategic Planning and Operations for Petfinder, and Susana M. Della Maddalena, Vice President and Executive Director of PetSmart Charities.

The following supporters were recognized:

Marc Aronstam, Owner, Aronstam’s Designers & Fine Jewelers and award-winning designer from Indianapolis, creator of the “Paws to Remember” sterling silver pendant

Ed Kostro, author of “Through Katrina’s Eyes, Poems from an Animal Rescuer’s Soul”

Mamou, author of “Kreasy and Katrina”

Jenny Pavlovic, author of “8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog”

Cathy Scott, author, “Katrina’s Paw Print: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned”

Therese D. Thompson, author, “Dogs Gone Wild—After Hurricane Katrina”

Pioneer Spirit Awards were presented by Courtney Chandel to the following people and organizations:

Humane Society of Louisiana Golden Heart Recipient: Garo Alexanian, Founder of Companion Animal Network TV and North Shore Animal League America

Amanda and Marty St. John, Founders and Directors of the Muttshack Animal Rescue Foundation

Brenda Schoss, Founder and President of the Kinship Circle

Pilar Gosselin DVM, Dave Brace DVM and Rory O’Neill, Canadian Animal Rescuers

Special Recognition was presented by Marilyn Knapp, Founder, Stealth Volunteers, to Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), represented by ARNO Executive Director Charlotte Bass Lilly and Shelter Director Robin Beaulieau

The Hurricane Hero Award was presented by Cassandra Koster to Mark and Shannon Miller, Founders, Winn Dixie Animal Rescue Center

Many of the “All Stars” of Katrina animal rescue were present. Notably the HSUS was not present, as I’m sure they were not invited. Much of the $ that they raised “on behalf of Katrina victims” did not stay in the Gulf Coast, but apparently went back to Washington, DC. The Humane Society of Louisiana was left largely to defend for themselves.

Candace, a Louisiana girl who raised over $500 for the animals on her own, was given special recognition by Wendy Diamond. Her mom bought her a book and I signed it for her. We had our picture taken with my book display table. I told her that she is probably more famous than I am! She and her mom walked away and then a minute later she ran back over and hugged me. As she was walking away, she read what I had written in her book and ran back over to give me a hug. The whole trip was worth having that moment with Candace! She is a hero to me. If every kid was like Candace, the world would be a much better place.

The event broke up pretty quickly after lunch. I didn’t sell a lot of books, but met some nice people. I was set up next to tables for SpayMart, Alley Cat Allies, and Invisible Fence. I got a book into Wendy Diamond’s hands, and the books that went out at the luncheon went to people who will appreciate them. I met the other authors and we signed books for each other, but I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I wanted to. Everyone scattered pretty quickly after the luncheon. I saw Amanda and Martin St. John receive their award and then they were out the door shortly after. They were in the process of coordinating the refrigerated semis to evacuate animals to shelters close to the shelters for people. They made the Katrina Promise and they are committed to keeping it. If you would like to support their efforts, please go to

It may seem ironic that Gustav was bearing down on us as all of these people who did animal rescue after Katrina were here to remember the animals that didn’t survive. But on the other hand, it’s great for the animals that we had planned to be here already. No time was lost in getting people down here since they were already here. At the luncheon, someone asked for help loading animals at the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter (which I had visited in May). After lunch, 20 people went there and helped load the animals for evacuation and clean and organize the shelter. As I said, it’s a good thing those people were here already. St. Bernard Parish had a mandatory evacuation starting at 4:00 pm on Saturday. After that, nobody was allowed back in.

After the luncheon on my way out of the hotel, I ran into Jeff Dorson of Humane-LA. He encouraged me to get more involved and I told him that I’m starting the 8 State Kate Fund. He told me about watching the movie “The Secret” and creating his whole vision for what he is doing now. I had just listed to the audio book version of “The Secret” and he encouraged me to keep going with my efforts. He was surprised to learn of my “real” engineering profession and what I consider my “calling” to write and do more for the animals. He bought a book from me, and I’m curious to know what he thinks once he’s had a chance to read it. He said that we need to talk more and I agreed. He is always very busy, but I’m curious to hear more about his evolution in this area. He will be at the shelter in Tylertown, MS for Gustav.

On Friday evening, restaurants and other businesses on St. Charles Avenue were already closing and some were boarded up. I picked up some dinner at a nice Carribean restaurant around the corner from my B&B. I called Northwest Airlines and was able to move my flight out up to Saturday afternoon. They changed my flight, assigned me seats on the Saturday flights (connecting through Detroit instead of Houston, the original plan), and reassured me that I would be able to log in on Saturday morning and print boarding passes.

I attended the benefit for Humane-LA at Tipitina’s on Saturday night. The benefits for ARNO and Humane-LA on Saturday had been cancelled due to Gustav. National Guard vehicles were starting to show up in the neighborhoods, but there was no curfew and the weather was fine. Jeff Dorson and Joe DuBois helped me get books from the car and set up. I spoke quite a bit with Joe and Mary DuBois, a very nice couple from Houma, southwest of New Orleans. I had a good long talk with Joe about our experiences at Lamar-Dixon and how poor the “leadership” was there. Joe had volunteered at Lamar-Dixon for two or three weeks and then went down to Raceland with Pasado’s Safe Haven at about the time I arrived at Lamar-Dixon. He knew my friend Connie from L-D. Mary decided to buy a book and I’m curious what a fellow Lamar-Dixon veteran will think of it. Joe and Mary were planning to drive down to Houma and get their animals on Saturday morning. They know the back roads and could take them if they needed to evacuate.

Next: Getting out of NOLA

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