Dogs and cats are among the uncounted victims of now tropical depression Florence, which was keeping the Carolinas in its bull’s-eye Monday as it spawned storms across six states. In the race against the encroaching floodwaters in North Carolina during the past few days, some residents made the heartbreaking decision to leave their pets behind, thinking they would be safe on higher ground. Others appear to have been abandoned.
As Josephine Horne climbed aboard a Coast Guard punt boat, she looked forlornly at her 10 beagles that remained in their kennels at her Columbus County, North Carolina, home. They were yelping and crying, trying to climb up the sides of the cages to keep their heads above water.
Another Coast Guard punt boat â a flat-bottomed boat used in shallow water â pulled up and Mitchell Moretti scooped up a female struggling in the water. Soon, his boat was filled with beagles gratefully wagging their tails â a few moments later, Moretti told USA Today, and “I don’t know these guys would have made it.”
For the Coast Guardsmen, the happy pooches provided a bright respite from the grim task of rescue and recovery work. Florence’s death toll continues to climb as the floodwaters begin to recede and more bodies are discovered.
“We got a boat full of beagles!” crew member Tyler Elliott told USA Today. “This is the best day of my life!”
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‘WE COULDN’T LEAVE THEM, AT ALL’
The floodwaters turned April Casey back when she headed out in Kingston Saturday to rescue a friend’s cats, but then she heard dogs barking and whimpering from a nearby house. Some were trapped inside, others in a kennel. The water was quickly rising.
“We could hear them,” Casey told the News & Observer. “There was at least eight in the pen. And they were standing on the doghouse, but we couldn’t leave them, at all.”
Soon, an all-out rescue effort was underway. Casey and her family used a jet ski and jon boats to rescue the soaked, trembling and terrified dogs and bring them to higher ground that remained dry.
“I love dogs. I love animals, period,” Casey said. “âŚ They can’t save themselves. There was some locked in the house, and the one that was hurt was locked up underneath the steps. Some of them were in kennels, some of them weren’t. There was just a lot of them back there.”
The house where the dogs were penned and confined was on high ground that hadn’t flooded before, Casey said. From what she could gather, several of the dogs’ owners had thought they would be safe.
The impromptu pet rescue crew worked furiously against the encroaching floodwaters, eventually saving 18 dogs. Ten were reunited with their owners, and those that weren’t claimed were taken to a local fire department.
Veronica Henderson was among those who left her dog behind. “My baby,” she said. “I didn’t know if my dog was going to be under water or what.”
The dogs are expected to be OK, though Casey is worried about a female that had just had a litter of puppies that didn’t survive.
“So the female is really depressed and sad, and she’s not herself,” Casey said. “She’s all to pieces.”
DOG CAN’T STOP LICKING RESCUERS
Another North Carolina pooch was mighty grateful, too.
Brent Scott, 37, and Sam Woodman, 35, drove from Maine Thursday to help rescue animals â and they found a female pit bull stranded on a front porch in South Lumberton that everyone else in the neighborhood seemed content to let drown.
She must have belonged to someone. She didn’t have tags, but a leash dangling from her neck suggested she might have been cut loose and left to fend for herself.
“She was so appreciative to see us,” Scott told the Huffington Post, describing how the dog wouldn’t stop licking him and Woodman and relentlessly wagged her tail.
“These people [in the neighborhood] weren’t even going to take her.They just were ignoring her, and we said, ‘Well, we’ll take her now.’ “
There was no way of knowing who the dog belonged to â “responsible people take their dogs” or at least leave contact information on their collars â so Scott and Woodman named the dog Florence and took her home with them to Maine.
They also rescued a kitten, but left her behind at a shelter because she was so young and still likely nursing. “Tough decision for sure but it is for the best,” Scott wrote on his Facebook page. “We want this little cat to have the best chance ever.”
PASTOR RESCUES DOGS AND THIS KITTEN
With hundreds still stranded and the worst flooding yet to come, human rescues take precedence over saving pets, but sometimes they occur in tandem.
Jacksonville pastor Matthew Drake and two members of his church were looking for people trapped by the rising water Friday and plucked cats and dogs from the floodwaters. CBS news correspondent Adriana Diaz posted a video on Twitter that shows Drake, the pastor at Richlands United Pentecostal Church, clutching a drenched kitten.
This video from the Associated Press shows the cat rescue.
Journalists covering the storm also helped rescue pets. Marcus DiPaola, a freelance reporter, saved six dogs Sunday after he found them locked up in an outdoor cage in South Lumberton.
Lead photo: In this image from video, a resident rescues a dog by boat in floodwaters in Jacksonville, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)