The First Few Days
Volunteering with Evacuated Animals
by louanne myers
Louanne Myers, retired teacher from San Lorenzo Valley USD, wrote down her thoughts about volunteering at the Fairgrounds with two young family members in the days following evacuations from the CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They helped out in the open barns housing goats, pigs, alpacas, llamas, sheep, and a few farm dogs that were staying with their charges. They also gave support in the small animal barns that housed cats, birds, rabbits, chickens, ducks and more. It was difficult to express the deep emotions, strength and compassion of the people, adaptation of the animals and experiences each day. They will continue helping as long as needed. If you would like to volunteer, go to the website scvolunteercenter.org and sign-up.
It started when I heard they need help with the animals at the fairgrounds.
I grab the two 5th graders in my house and we go. “We are going to help the animals” I tell them. “I have no idea what we will be doing, but whatever we can give, we will give, we will help, we will listen, we will love the animals. They are stressed and missing their home.”
When we get there, we see people, animals, and supplies all arriving, a system of organization still developing. The girl notices a pair of newborn goats, 2 weeks premature due to evacuation stress. I notice the people…exhausted, sleep deprived, scared, sad…you can tell by how they look. The boy notices the alpacas and pigs. We ask a goat owner if we can help and the kids go to work. The goats need clean water, they are stressed… so is their owner. The kids help water and feed goats, talk quietly, rub their heads.
A woman near me worries about her animals. One is not doing well, she thinks her home is gone, she will stay with her animals…protect them, love them, care for them. She doesn’t want help, but talks, just talks…she is in pain, shock, holding back tears. I listen.
We notice a large fluffy dog, shaking in his pen with his goats. “Sorry dude, I can’t let you out.” But we hug him, try to calm him. His owner thanks us, and talks…tells his story, where he is from. His home is okay, but fire is close. He looks exhausted.
There are cats and birds. The kids set up kennels for more. The boy organizes donated supplies. He talks to the birds and rubs the kitties. The girl cuddles a sick one while the vet checks her out.
Then chickens, more cages to set up and organize. We hear that 60 more are on their way.
Cages, food, water…we volunteers get it ready.
An elderly llama is being brought in. Stressed, upset after the long ride from Boulder Creek. We quietly help coax him into his stall. We will check on him first thing tomorrow. We promise. His name is Zook. I guess we’re coming back…
In the morning, the woman looks rested. I tell her, she smiles, we talk. The goats get love, clean water, more volunteers clean and help. Zook, gets hand fed from the girl. He is doing better. The boy helps with chickens and checks on the kitties and birds. More kids volunteer…one boy collects eggs. More supplies arrive, more volunteers arrive, more people evacuated. Most from San Lorenzo Valley….and now Scotts Valley too. More stories are told. We help clean stalls, sweep the barn. The girl finds a brush…the dog is content. We will be back…
Things have settled down. Volunteers greet volunteers and send them to needed help. New buckets for every stall, hay bales waiting. There is food, wheelbarrows, fresh fruit, more animals to care for. We ask for a broom and it’s found. The goats need to walk, we find more leads. We are fed. The animals are fed. The donations have provided for all. The preemie goats are doing well, the dog is brushed, more kids and adults volunteer. The people talk…they want to go home. They know they can’t, not yet. Zook is content. He eats rose petals from the girl’s hand. We will be back…..