FRANKFORT — In a hopeful sign for an entire region that has been ravaged by too much rain and wind in too little time, 117 dogs and cats that were displaced from their modest riverside shelter home in Franklin County went home Thursday.
About 4 p.m. last Saturday, relentless water began to seep inside the front door of the Franklin County Humane Society shelter and quickly rose 4 to 5 inches.
It wasn't long before shelter manager Diann Wellman decided she had no choice but to get all of the animals out the door and staying elsewhere. The cats were being kept inside the Frankfort Convention Center. The dogs got more open-air digs at the Franklin County Farm Bureau Pavilion in Lakeview Park.
It has been a short week, filled with valuable lessons and good feelings, said workers at both the temporary cat and dog facilities.
"The stress on the animals was the hardest thing," said Angie Stewart, a veterinary tech for the shelter. "They are used to a certain routine, and we tried to keep them on it, but we had more volunteers come out than usual and the dogs got more one-on-one attention than ever."
The cats, said Geneva Smith, an animal-care specialist, were more cooped up; they usually get to wander, a few at a time, over cat towers and indoor trees.
"I look at the silver living in this," Wellman said. "We've gotten our animals out in the public. A lot of people can't make it to the shelter."
That, said Wellman, has led to quite a few more than usual being adopted and fostered out.
On Thursday, while the dogs waited their turn to ride back home, an agriculture class from Franklin County High School showed up to spend a half-hour with them. Kylen Douglas said that he asked his class who wanted to come and help some dogs and that "everybody's hand went up."
He said this week's lesson was actually about vet supplies and equipment so this fit right in.
Even the city's animal-control officer has been out to see the dogs in their temporary facility four to five times a day. Mark Pardi acknowledged that he had to take some animals there, per his job description, but he also was there to help walk the animals that need the attention in this special circumstance.
Wellman said nothing that employees or volunteers on hand last Saturday did to fix the rising water changed the situation and that's what made a bad situation into one that was near disaster.
"We tried sweeping and squeegeeing it out, and nothing mattered," she said.
It was obvious, said Wellman, that the facility, which is about 25 yards from the Kentucky River, wasn't going to outrun the problem.
"The dogs were sitting in water," Stewart said.
Still, said Wellman, the problem wasn't flooding of the river, it was the inability of the shelter's 40-year-old drains to properly function.
"We've given the shelter a good deep cleaning and pressure washing now," said Wellman.
Wellman, who has a background in disaster relief for animals, said once she contacted city, county and farm bureau officials to make the arrangements, everyone cooperated.
"We had just gotten our bus back from having its seats removed and being painted Saturday morning," she said, "and we loaded it with animals on Saturday evening."
The bus made its second trip — this time back to the shelter — on Thursday. On board was a loud chorus of happy barkers, including a beagle named Homer, a pit bull named Emily, a border collie mix named Lucky, a Labrador-shepherd named Chance and a chow mix named Fantasia.
Even if you missed the concert, you could not have missed the bus; it's an unmistakable lime green.