January 30, 2009

When Dreams Come True

I consider myself to be a very compassionate and caring person, but I must admit I pale in comparison to my friend Tanya. We all know someone who is always going and doing for others, never for personal gain, but out of genuine concern. And so it is with Tanya.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast in August 2005, we were living in Baton Rouge, about 75 miles from New Orleans. I became heavily involved in animal rescue, going into New Orleans and rescuing animals that were left behind and helping care for them at a makeshift shelter at an abandoned school. My name and contact information were plastered all over the Internet and people from across the country were contacting me daily pleading for assistance and giving me addresses of homes where pets were left behind. I would write down all information given to me and relay it to volunteers who were going out into the field and breaking into homes (with permission) to rescue animals left behind. On one such day, I was standing amidst the chaos and confusion in the hall of the school when I received a call from a woman I had never met. It was Tanya. She was calling from Columbia, South Carolina where some evacuees had been transported. She was volunteering to help people with their needs, from finding shelter and clothing to checking on family members, including pets. She had met up with two people who had left their pets behind and were desperately trying to check on them. One was a lady who was medically evacuated and forced to leave her elderly, toothless, dachshund behind. As I listened to Tanya give me the details and the address, I immediately knew this was a dog I had on my list. An elderly, toothless dog named Coco. And the good news was a rescue team had already been to the house and recovered Coco...alive and well! I can still hear the excitement and disbelief in Tanya's voice when I told her Coco had been found and brought to the shelter.

I agreed to take Coco to my house and keep her until Tanya could get to Baton Rouge. Not only was she planning to pick up Coco and deliver her to her person who would be staying in South Carolina, but she was on a mission to pick up a cat named ConCat as well. ConCat's person, Mr. Bill, had left him safely tucked into his house, thinking he would be back in just a few days, as did so many folks in New Orleans at the time. But because Mr. Bill refused to let anyone break into his house, Tanya agreed to drive him back to New Orleans to get his cat. The problem was that at that time people were still not being allowed back into New Orleans to enter their homes. Many folks, including those of us in animal rescue, were having to slip in under the radar of the military roadblocks, which sometimes worked and sometimes did not. Somehow the story of Mr. Bill and ConCat reached the folks at The National Geographic Channel (probably through Tanya's efforts) and they met Tanya and Mr. Bill at my house for an interview, then escorted them into New Orleans the next morning to rescue ConCat. All made possible because of the generosity and determination of Tanya.

To this day, Tanya is still involved with helping rescue and place animals, even ones lost and displaced from Hurricane Katrina. And she is just as involved with people and their individual dreams and causes. A few days before the Presidential Inauguration, Tanya sent me an email about her newest endeavor. She had met a 92-year-old, black woman named Minnie Kennedy who was a retired teacher and former civil rights activist. Miss Minnie wanted more than anything to attend the Inauguration of our country's first African-American President. So, what did Tanya do? She made it happen, of course.

The Wall Street Journal produced a great video about Tanya and Miss Minnie's trip to Washington. You can watch it here.

I found it quite emotional, so you might want to have a tissue handy. Or, maybe I'm just a sap. Either way, consider yourself forewarned.

Thank goodness for all the Tanyas among us who make people's dreams come true!


Lorie M said...

Lilla, thank you for such kind words about my dear, dear friend Tanya. It means alot to her.
Tanya and I met during the Katrina rescues (I was a people rescuer, but Tanya was everywhere!) When I heard the story of Bill and Concat and then saw the TV special on him I was in tears as I watched it because they did such a good job of filming that you did not know if he found his cat (even though I knew how it turned out!).
I have heard many stories of that adventure and the kindness that you in particular showered on so many. In that we three are all sisters, bound by the black water of Katrina.
This latest adventure of Tanya's is amazing. Email Tanya and have her give you the links for the 5 newspaper articles that were published about Tanya and Minnie's Big Adventure. I would post them but I do not think that Tanya wants that.
I am hoping to help Miss Minnie put together a program and display. At her age she wants to take the stories to the schools in her area and give back to the community that she lives in. Minnie is truly a treasure and a great lady. It is an honor to know her, and Tanya, and you, too.
It is so heartening that there are people like you and Tanya in this world. Makes me want to sing!
Blessings on you and your family and pets, old and new.
Since you are Tanya's friend, I am
Your friend,
Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes
- the ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules
and they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them,
disagree with them,
quote them, disbelieve them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing that you can't do
is ignore them.

Because they change things.

- Jack Kerouac


Susie said...

Thank you for sharing such a great story about two beautiful American Women. It is so nice to hear such a positive story for a change.

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

Oh my. That was a two tissue video for sure. Tanya sounds like a beautiful and wonderful woman. How fortunate that the two of you hooked up and you were able to contribute in such a meaningful way. And Minnie is just awesome!

Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story.


Lilla said...

Lorie - welcome to my blog and thanks for the kind words! If anything good came out of Hurricane Katrina it was the meeting of so many kindred souls like you, me and Tanya. It proved that we are not alone in our passions and together we can accomplish big things. The program and display for Miss Minnie sounds wonderful. She is truly an inspiration to us all.

Susie - glad you enjoyed the story. We can all use a good dose of something positive today, can't we?

Penny - yes, Tanya is awesome and I am fortunate to have met her and joined forces with her to help others.

I have watched the video at least 10 times, and each time I swell with pride and joy, and the tears flow.