Mary Bohanon waited patiently Wednesday outside the Chatham County Animal Shelter in Savannah.
Having just gotten home Tuesday from an evacuation shelter in Augusta, Bohanon said she was waiting on Leila, her 4-year-old golden retriever mix, who was being brought home separately by Humane Societies and animal aid groups from other areas. As she waited, she shared a cell phone photo she’d taken with Leila from a few days before in Augusta.
“She was a little sad, but that’s to be expected,” Bohanon said.
The two were among a couple thousand other people and pets who received transportation assistance over the weekend in advance of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma. It was the second time they’d had to be evacuated from an oncoming storm in as many years.
Similar to last year, when Hurricane Matthew was barrelling up the Florida and Georgia coasts, Bohanon and Leila this year caught the evacuation bus from the Savannah Civic Center. And in some ways, Bohanon said, it was an improvement over last year’s experience. Still, she said, things could’ve been more organized and the animals could’ve gotten home sooner.
“I’m grateful, and I understand that the focus was on the people,” she said. “But for some people, their pets are like their children.”
After a few more minutes of waiting, the transport vans arrived. And once a few crates carrying cats and smaller dogs had been dutifully carried inside, Leila emerged. As soon as she saw Bohanon, she jumped excitedly, making it at least a couple of feet off the ground.
Savannah resident Michael Brown’s dog, Ark, was just as excited when he got back to town Wednesday. And like Bohanon, Brown said he was grateful for the evacuation assistance. The shelters in Augusta were spotless, he said, and they took good care of Ark.
Brown said he’d had some medical issues recently and Ark has been his most devoted caregiver. It was certainly good to have him home, Brown said.
Taking a few minutes from unloading the evacuees, Animal Shelter Director Kerry Sirevicius said that although there had been rumors, no animals were taken out of the county to be euthanized in advance of the storm. On the contrary, she said, the community rose to the occasion to aid in getting the animals in Chatham County’s shelter out of the path of the storm.
Along with the 30 or so pets who were evacuated with their families from the Savannah Civic Center, she said, even more animals were temporarily fostered by volunteers or taken out of town to other shelters.
“We got them all out,” she said.