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Together again


Brenda Beaty walks with Tinker.
Photo by Mark Hancock

“I was screaming for him,” said Beaty.

“I was crying.”

Beaty searched for him at a nearby shelter and at Home Depot, one of the original holding facilities for lost animals. No sign of Tinker. As minutes passed, hope of finding the dachshund-beagle mix was fading.

His whereabouts and the thought of never seeing him again was heavy on her mind. Since Beaty adopted Tinker from the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter two and one-half years ago, the two were close. They were buddies. Eventually, they were tearfully reunited.

“He is my best friend,” said Beaty.

“We do everything together. He is the most easiest-going, loving dog I’ve ever had in my life.”

In north Oklahoma City is Central Oklahoma Human Society (COHS), which received 151 lost animals and had 87 reunions. The remaining animals were adopted by new families. President- Executive Director Christy Counts recalls how much love that community has for their pets. She recounted that many animals had microchips and tags.

“It was telling to me that the animals that came to us were well-cared-for prior to the tornadoes,” said Counts.

In the months since the massive storms that changed the landscape and the lives of so many, there were hundreds more happy reunions made through the hard work of nonprofits, community members and complete strangers.

These days, Beaty says Tinker still has a few difficulties during bad weather. However, the best friends continue to work through it together.

“Now he is scared of storms,” Beaty said. “He clings to me, and I love it.”

Joyous reunion
In the days after May 20, Beaty moved in with a family and continued to search for Tinker. Facebook was used to notify the community about her missing companion. Soon after, an e-mail arrived from a woman living in Texas, stating that Tinker was possibly at COHS. Beaty kept her hopes tamped down since previous searches were unsuccessful. May 25, Beaty was emotionally reunited with Tinker.

“He was glad to see me,” she said. “I was glad to see him. I was relieved I found him, that he was okay.”

Volunteers are vital after a disaster.

Just like the woman in Texas, volunteers found ways to assist in every way imaginable. Area restaurants served free lunch for 45 days, and truck drivers who were in town for short stays arrived to volunteer their time and services, such as grooming.

Donations were more than $114,000 — much of it was used to pay for petrelated bills like boarding, veterinary care, vaccines, spaying and neutering, heart worm treatments and microchipping, Animal Resource Center (ARC) President Barbara Lewis said.

Future reunions
Kristen Chenoweth’s foundation, Maddie’s Corner, teamed with the ARC to help. Rochelle Doberman, Maddie’s co-founder and executive director, said she was watching the weather activity and was ready to serve. After sending supplies and holding a T-shirt fundraiser, the New York-based organization offered free microchip clinics. “It gives us peace of mind that people will be reunited with their pets after a disaster,” said Doberman.

A total of 800 chips, which have a lifetime registry and use Google technology, were donated. This latest microchip technology, she explained, makes it easier to locate lost pets via a mobile phone.

Adored pets
One of three official facilities deemed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to hold animals was ARC at 7949 S. I-35 Service Road. Lewis said the organization had 158 lost animals and 89 were reunited with owners. The unclaimed animals were adopted by new families. Hundreds more pets were helped through other organizations, she said.

“We had 1,156 volunteers representing every state of the union. People were cooperative and compassionate and willing to do what is best for the animals.”

National groups that assisted COHS included the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Code 3 Associates Animal Rescue Team and the Oregon Humane Society, which arrived to answer phones.

After the tornadoes and subsequent storms, 33,000 people were displaced, according to the COHS website.

New normal
Cooperation among animal lovers and the use of Facebook was a major factor since supplies were needed quickly. With only one paid employee, ARC relied on social media to communicate its needs to the public. In the process, Facebook was used to post photos and messages to link owners and their pets.

Since the turbulent season has passed and all the animals have been reunited and adopted, COHS has shifted to general operations, Lewis said. The organization continues to focus on enriching the communities it serves by promoting the well-being of animals. Counts speaks highly of the organization’s role.

“I was incredibly proud of our staff and volunteers,” said Counts. “It was a team-building experience.”

With systems in place, COHS is ready for the next event that separates people and pets. This was the first disaster for the staff and volunteers of COHS, which opened in 2007.

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