Katrina Rescuers Saved Thousands of Pets

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Racelle Carson, an animal paramedic from Arizona, was one of hundreds of volunteers from around the country who came to New Orleans to rescue stranded pets.

ABC News followed her team through waterlogged neighborhoods. They would often have to sedate scared dogs to get them to safety.

One year later, Carson is back home in Tucson, still rescuing animals as part of the Arizona Humane Society. But her time in New Orleans has stayed with her -- and, in particular, one animal -- a puppy she found abandoned in a crate.

"We see these two eyes with some liquid around it," Carson said. "It ended up being a pit bull puppy where its litter mate had died. … We opened the kennel, and she walked out. And when we saw her we just grabbed her, and we just started back."

They rushed her back, stabilized her and named her "Faith." Faith served as a mascot -- an inspiration that kept Carson's team pushing to rescue as many of the thousands of marooned animals as they could. Such a large number of pets were behind because they weren't allowed on evacuation buses.

Abandoned Pets Were 'In Pretty Bad Shape'

Alexis Raymond, communications director for United Animal Nation, said her group alone sent 436 volunteers to the Gulf region to round up pets left behind to face the wrath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and about 2,100 animals passed through the group's care.

"Those who were rescued from New Orleans and came to our temporary shelter in Louisiana, they were in pretty bad shape," Raymond said. "They had chemical burns from being in the flood waters. They were emaciated. A lot of them had heart worms. I'd say more than 60 percent of the animals at that shelter were heart worm positive.

"A lot of them were very nervous," Raymond added. "A lot of them were very needy. They were very happy when our volunteers wanted to comfort them, walk them, spend time with them. We did see a lot of improvement in the animals during the time when we had them at our shelter, which was very rewarding for us and for the volunteers who were there."

'I Tell Him, "God Saved You" '

Joe and Derene Moses left behind their dog Wimpy when they evacuated New Orleans, thinking the storm would blow over in a matter of days. But in the end, they lost everything -- including, they thought, their dog.

"I had tears in my eyes," Joe Moses said. "I used to sit up and think about him."

He had recently undergone a heart transplant, and Wimpy was a best friend.

After months of uncertainty, the Moses' daughter and a family friend found a picture of Wimpy on the Internet. And last April, the dog came to live with the family in their temporary apartment.

"I tell him often: 'God saved you … and he saved me, too,' " Moses said.

Faith and Fate

Faith, the pit bull puppy, never found her original owner. But one year later, she is happy and healthy, renamed "Fate" and living with Dr. Vicky Payne of the Arizona Humane Society, one of the veterinarians who helped save her.

"When we found her and the situation she was in," Payne said, "my heart went out to her, and I really did everything I could to make sure she was going to be okay. Every animal has a story behind it. Hers is just a little more special."

Since Katrina, thousands of rescued pets have been reunited with their owners. Others have been adopted.

For tips on how to protect a pet when a storm is bearing down, go to the United Animal Nations Web site at www.uan.org.

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