A Dog's Life

Dog Savior

Mike Malloy and Abbey, the dog he saved as part of his job at the North Shore Animal League America. Even though Abbey must get around on three legs, she's a lively runner and jumper.

Mike Malloy saves dogs every day. His zeal for the job even took him from New York to Mississippi to rescue Hurricane Katrina dogs who became strays after the storm.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in September 2005, among the thousands left homeless were untold numbers of dogs. Mike Malloy, an animal behaviorist with the North Shore Animal League America (NSALA), was one of those who came to the rescue.

Unlike Squirrel and Bone in A Dog’s Life, who had been taught by their mother to hunt and find food, these suddenly stray dogs were used to human companions who gave them food and water each day. Now what could they do? Malloy and other staff members from NSALA set up a temporary camp for stranded dogs and cats in Tylertown, Mississippi, on property owned by the New Orleans Humane Society. They established an emergency triage area to evaluate the animals, some of whom had been stuck in several feet of standing water in their former homes for days. Others had wandered off in search of food and were identified by the block on which a rescuer finally located the animal.

Once the dogs were in the temporary camp, recalls Malloy, “the biggest problem was the heat. Words can’t describe how hot it was. We were literally baking.” It didn’t take Malloy long to figure out that the tents they had pitched to give the dogs some shelter from the sun were actually holding in the heat. Workers used knives and scissors to cut slits into the canvas tents as a primitive means of ventilating them. The crew had one air-conditioned trailer a volunteer had driven up from Florida, which was usually used to transport racing dogs. Malloy organized a dog rotation in and out of the trailer during daytime hours, a move he believes saved many of the dogs from dying of exposure or dehydration.

NSALA workers drove three mobile units the 1,200 miles back and forth from their headquarters in Port Washington, New York, to Tylertown and back countless times. With each trip, they brought back about 20 dogs in individual crates. After several weeks, 1,400 dogs had been relocated to New York. Photographs of the animals were posted on petfinder.com along with any information the volunteers had managed to gather about where each dog had been found. Most were treated at NSALA for heartworm and skin infections caused by the standing water after the flood.

“Dog owners didn’t realize how bad the storm would be, just like everyone else,” explains Malloy. “Most of them left their dogs with enough food and water for a day or so, assuming they’d be back soon. Nobody realized they’d be gone for weeks or months.” Indeed, a large portion of New Orleans’ population, as well as people from the surrounding area, will never return to their homes. In many cases, their homes no longer exist.

The 1,400 dogs Malloy and other NSALA staff members and volunteers brought back to Port Washington were kept on hold at the shelter for several months, just in case a dog’s owner wanted to claim his pet. Eventually several dozen of the rescued dogs were flown back to New Orleans and reunited with their human companions. The remaining Katrina dogs were placed in new homes, mostly in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Malloy’s rescue efforts go on. Four times a week, he loads up the NSALA van and drives to shelters in the New York area that have no more room for strays and plan to euthanize them. Malloy looks for external signs of good health and gives each dog a quick temperament test. He plays with the dogs to make sure they can be handled, and even pulls gently on their ears and tails as a child might, in order to gauge their kid-compatibility quotient. “The friendlier they are, the quicker they’ll be adopted from our shelter,” he says. And as for Malloy’s personality? “They call me North Shore’s own dog whisperer. It takes a whole lot of patience. I just have a feel for it, I guess.”

Malloy, whose parents bred and raised German shepherds, got to choose the pick of the litter as his first dog when he was 9 years old. At home, he now takes care of Bailey, a coon hound, and Abbey, a three-legged hound mix he saved on a rescue mission to another New York shelter. In addition to Abbey, Malloy saves some 125 lucky dogs every month.

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