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Animal Foster Families Have Different Experiences When Hurricanes Approach

Brianna Rodriguez, left, and Gabriela Obando decided to foster Brick, a hound and Great Dane mix, as Hurricane Dorian gained intensity earlier this month. (Dana Bryan/WUFT News)
Brianna Rodriguez, left, and Gabriela Obando decided to foster Brick, a hound and Great Dane mix, as Hurricane Dorian gained intensity earlier this month. (Dana Bryan/WUFT News)

Beneath floral-patterned sheets, foster dog Igor hid as thunder and lightning clapped outside his foster home during Hurricane Dorian.

What Igor didn’t know is that it could have been much worse.

Keara Clancy, 21, agreed to temporarily shelter the Jack Russel terrier after hearing news of Dorian’s approach toward Gainesville in early September.

“We really only got the edge of it,” Clancy said. “But we did have storms through the night.”

Before the hurricane shifted from its initially predicted path across Florida, Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue and the Humane Society of North Central Florida were in urgent need of foster parents. Gainesville was not in the direct predicted path of Hurricane Dorian at that point, according to the National Weather Service, but flooding and power outages were expected.

Some animal shelters needed people to provide a temporary home for their animals, so the facilities would have room for pets displaced after the storm.

Jessica Maestas, Haile’s Angels adoption counselor, said over 90 animals were fostered from the shelter due to the hurricane.

As a rescue veteran of over 20 animals, Clancy is no stranger to fostering pets during storms. She said she still remembers her first foster animal from about three years ago, a Pitbull mix given up for his aggressive behavior.

Now, he works as a service dog for post-traumatic stress disorder, Clancy said.

Haile’s Angels and the Humane Society provide the supplies needed to care for the foster pet. Clancy said she takes it a step further and sets up a “safe place” for each animal before the storm. It usually consists of a crate in a corner, blankets and a few favorite toys.

“That way, if they’re scared, they have a nice, comfy home to hide in,” she said.

She said she also moves chewable items out of the dog's way to ensure Igor doesn’t get into trouble.

Clancy said she was planning to stay in Gainesville during the hurricane, but she was prepared to evacuate north, if necessary.

While Clancy comforted a timid Igor, in a different apartment not too far away, foster dog Brick ran with excitement around his temporary family’s home.

The hurricane encouraged Gabriela Obando, 20, and her three roommates to foster Brick, a playful hound and Great Dane mix. At about two years old, he has a warm, lively puppy-like energy, Obando said.

Obando, a native-born Floridian, said she wasn't worried about the intensity of the storm, even when it was predicted to make landfall in Florida.

“You know how Floridians take hurricanes,” she said, “We stocked up on water.”

Obando and her roommate, Brianna Rodriguez, said they didn’t experience any severe weather effects from the hurricane.

“It was basically a vacation,” Obando said.

The “vacation” spent taking care of Brick enabled the four girls to develop a bond with the pet. From vomiting after cleaning Brick’s poop off the floor to kissing him goodbye before class, the dog became part of the family.

“He basically has four moms,” she said while laughing. “We’re very progressive.”

Brick was fostered from the Humane Society of North Central Florida. The four girls first saw Brick when his previous foster parents were returning him. He lovingly approached Obando and her roommates while they were filling out general foster paperwork.

They kept Brick company, and when the time came to choose an animal, the previous caretakers handed them the leash.

“I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything better,” Obando said. “He’s perfect.”

The four girls are even contemplating adoption after the two-week foster process is over.

“I would say we are more than just considering it,” Obando said, “It’s definitely an option on the table.”

Dana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.