So much has been said about the horrors visited upon the Gulf Coast cities and towns it seems almost useless to add to it. Of course, it is always useful to express your feelings. When I was a very young man in the U.S. Air Force in the early 50s, I was stationed for almost a year at Keesler Air Force Base just outside of Biloxi and as a result became familiar with the area including Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula and, of course, New Orleans. In those years, the blight of segregation was still an ugliness that took the edge off the beauty and excitement of the region, especially New Orleans, where we went to hear the best Dixieland Jazz and cut loose from the tedium of the military life. It came as a shock to a young man of nineteen to see signs that said so blatantly “”White Only”” and “”Colored Only.”” Watching the news of the shelters in New Orleans looked like a throw-back to that shameful time. When I looked at the devastation on the news, it was with grief and profound sadness I recalled the city’s past glory, having to do with the birthplace of the country’s original art form, jazz music. It is only fitting and proper for those wise southern heads to name their airport after Louis Armstrong.
Then, there were the wrenching stories of people, ordinary people, forced to leave their beloved dogs and cats behind or be denied rescue, which torments me to this day. As I understand it, no one was permitted to bring an animal into the major rescue centers and, of course, the same was true for those being rescued by helicopter. If you ever saw the film “”Sophie’s Choice,”” you know the most painful moment is when a mother must choose which of her children will live. This is what came to mind when I learned about the Gulf Coast victims who were faced with such a horrible choice concerning their pets.
I grieve for the people and the pets that have either perished or been left behind. What was allowed to happen hardly seemed like America. Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor have I felt so vulnerable and insecure. In truth, we are all just a hurricane away from chaos and disaster.
Remember that as you try to decide what to do and how to feel about this ongoing nightmare. Never forget that life is a dangerous thing and requires courage and generosity of spirit in order to go on each day, to prevail and enjoy all that is attainable. We all recently witnessed on the news a reasonable man reunited with his gray cat. He searched, and searched, and searched around many communities in several states. Some good people from Friends of Animals got the two of them back together. I cannot think of the moment without my throat drying up and my eyes blurring up again with their own little hurricane. It was so hopeful and reassuring that enough of us understand what those little creatures mean to us. God bless us, everyone.
Mordecai Siegal’s next book will be “”I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?”” published by Simon & Schuster, to be released in January, 2006. His latest book is, “”The Cat Fanciers’ Association COMPLETE CAT BOOK. The Official Publication of the CFA,”” published by HarperCollins. This feline reference book is comparable to the AKC’s Complete Dog Book. His most recent dog book is “”The Good Life: Your Dog’s First Year”” (Simon and Schuster). His most durable books are “”Good Dog, Bad Dog (Henry Holt),”” “”When Good Dogs Do Bad Things (Little, Brown),”” the 10th Anniversary Revised Edition of “”I Just Got A Puppy. What Do I Do? (Simon & Schuster),”” “”The Cornell Book of Cats (Villard),”” “”The Davis Book of Dogs (HarperCollins),”” and “”The Davis Book of Horses.”” He is President Emeritus of the Dog Writers Association of America and a founding member of The Cat Writers’ Association.