Char Quinn was exhausted, muddy, sweaty and had never felt better.
Quinn, director of the Eagle Valley Humane Society, was among the rescuers who spent days slogging through mud, muck and mountains of flood debris to pull hundreds of animals out of Colorado’s flood waters.
As part of the American Humane Association’s swift water rescue team, for six days she was part of a team working with Boulder animal control, wading over muck and mud, up and down debris piles and through water.
“We rescued more than 160 animals and helped many more that were staying in place or people needed supplies for,” Quinn said.
They rescued cats, dogs, goats, horses, chickens — just about everything with a pulse that couldn’t walk out on its own. Quinn even carried a beta fish to safety, schlepping it for an hour in a fish bowl.
‘Cats don’t come when called’
In one rescue they worked through the debris and muck to get to someone’s house to rescue a cat. They had to climb down some cliffs, across some water and through a new debris field. After all that, they had to get the kitty to cooperate.
And the cats were hiding because, well … what would you do?
“Cats don’t come when they’re called under the best of circumstances, especially when they’re traumatized. And we were wearing strange gear,” Quinn said.
When the search and rescue part was over they moved into the Longmont animal shelter, which had taken in about 250 animals. To help the Longmont folks, Quinn brought 20 adoptable cats to the Eagle County animal shelter.
“A lot of people got out without any warning, but in general, people who could got out with most of their animals” Quinn said.
Boulder County Animal Control asked for help from the American Humane Association’s Red Star Team and Code3 Associates to do animal search and rescue.
“The tragic flooding that our community has experienced is like nothing else we have endured,” said Sarah Clusman, operations director for the Longmont Humane Society.
Clusman got a 4 a.m. call asking that the shelter be opened immediately so rescuers would have somewhere for the animals they’d pulled out of the flood. They said “sure,” but had no idea what that meant.
They took in more than 220 animals needing refuge while their owners escaped the waters and later searched for temporary housing, Clusman said. More than a month later, Longmont still had more than 50 animals.
“Eagle Valley graciously offered to take 20 cats from our shelter. We were bursting at the seams with kennels filled, doubled up with occupants and temporary kennels set up in the hallway,” Clusman said.
Longmont Humane Society also called in the Colorado Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps-West to help with sheltering evacuated animals.
“Floods are among the most terrifying and destructive of natural disasters,” said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “Fortunately, our Red Star team is well-trained and well-qualified to handle this kind of emergency so that we may save lives and reunite families.”
The Eagle County animal shelter keeps animals until they’re adopted.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.