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Service Dog Performs Double Duty


Jazzie, a life-support dog, is a hero of the Red Cross shelter in flooded Minot, North Dakota.

Some residents have been forced to stay in shelters twice in the past several weeks when flood waters forced them from their homes. Going through any evacuation is stressful; going through it twice in the span of a few weeks is very difficult. For someone with a medical condition, the stress can be compounded.

Minot resident Linda Spruce depends on the help of Jazzie, her life-support dog, and is grateful to the Red Cross for helping both of them during the current flooding disaster. She first spent 11 days in a Red Cross shelter in early June and had to leave her home again less than two weeks later due to flooding along the Souris River. Spruce and Jazzie have been staying in the shelter this time for more than a week.

“I would have been homeless,” she said. “Many hotels don’t accept animals.” But instead of being out on the streets, Spruce and Jazzie are safe at the Red Cross shelter, away from the flood waters that continue to swamp the small northwest town.

Jazzie has become somewhat of a shelter hero, helping not just her master, but others as well. One evening Linda began to have a seizure and Jazzie came to her aid. “Jazzie pulled me in my wheelchair to the first Red Cross staff member she could find to notify them of my seizure,” Spruce said.

But Jazzie’s heroism doesn’t stop with her owner. Shelter resident “Honey” underwent knee surgery prior to coming to the shelter and almost fell. Jazzie sprang into action, bracing her from falling. The dog led the woman to her cot, pointed to her knee with her nose and barked. Shelter workers discovered one of the stitches in Honey’s knee had come loose.

Because Jazzie provides a life-saving service for her owner, it is important the two remain together. The Red Cross does not accept pets in shelters, except in the case of service animals like Jazzie. Many people have health issues or are just afraid of animals. Red Cross shelters need to accommodate all of them.

Disaster pet shelters are usually handled by local or state governments and animal welfare agencies. Red Cross chapters have lists of pet-friendly hotels, kennels, veterinarians and animal welfare agencies that can take pets during a disaster.

During a disaster, the Red Cross makes it a priority to ensure everyone affected has a safe place to stay, food to eat and other basic necessities. If someone has special needs, the Red Cross is committed to helping them. Depending on the type of disability the person has, Red Cross workers can help them move around, replace their medications, and provide special items like shower stools, commode chairs and bigger cots to make someone with access needs comfortable.

The best way to ensure the safety of your pet is to include them in your disaster planning. More information on what you should do to help ensure your pet’s safety during a disaster is available on our web site. Information is also available on Red Cross courses such as Dog and Cat First Aid, comprehensive guides to keeping your pet healthy and safe.

Since the end of March, the Red Cross has opened more than 270 shelters and provided almost 37,000 overnight stays to help people like Linda, people who have had to flee their homes because of flooding, tornadoes and wildfires. There have been 42 large relief operations in 29 states across the country. More than 13,000 Red Cross workers from all 50 states have deployed to these disaster areas, serving millions of meals and distributing millions of relief items.

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.