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Saving Sarah

Sarah and David
David Fatzinger was a nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital in New Orleans. He was scheduled to work at noon on Sunday, August 28, but on that day he took something extra to “the office”—his dog Sarah. With reports of Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the Gulf Coast and evacuations in full force, hospital administrators encouraged staff to bring in their pets.

What the people in the hospital weren’t anticipating was the extreme devastation and massive flooding Katrina would leave in its wake.

By Thursday, it was time to evacuate the hospital. And, unlike a lot of other people in the city, Fatzinger was permitted to take his beloved chocolate Lab with him. Everyone from the hospital was taken by boat to higher ground and then driven to the Causeway, a crossing of two state highways that served as an evacuation station.

Fatzinger and Sarah were at the Causeway for two days with fellow Katrina victims. It seemed the two friends would soon be out of harm’s way, but the heat and lack of water left Fatzinger dehydrated. A MedEvac was called in to airlift him out—without Sarah. Heartbroken, Fatzinger asked the people he was with to make sure Sarah got to the emergency shelter. That’s the last time he saw his dog before being taken to Austin, Texas.

Fatzinger recovered quickly and was out of the hospital by Monday. Staying temporarily with his sister and brother-in-law in Memphis, Tennessee, he spent hours surfing the Web, looking for any clue as to the whereabouts of his dog. But it would be two and a half weeks before many sites posted photos of pets left behind.

Meanwhile, at the Best Friends shelter in Tylertown, Mississippi, staffers were checking in new arrivals from New Orleans. One group included a beautiful chocolate Lab who just happened to be wearing a collar with a rabies tag. Through a little detective work, Best Friends staff found Sarah’s veterinarian, who was able to contact Fatzinger on his cell phone. His dog was safe!

Now he just needed to arrange a reunion. Fatzinger had recently read in the local paper that representatives of the Memphis Shelby County Humane Society were heading to the Gulf Coast to bring back feline refugees. He quickly called the shelter and spoke with executive director Ginger Morgan, who was happy to help.

Morgan and another humane society employee returned to Tennessee with 39 cats from Lamar-Dixon—and one very excited dog from Best Friends in Tylertown.

After driving all day, they planned to meet Fatzinger at a gas station around midnight. “I was walking her to the grass when I heard someone say, ‘Dufus,’” says Morgan. “Sarah immediately perked up and looked around.”

When Fatzinger opened his brother-in-law’s car door and called Sarah by her nickname again, she bolted toward him.

“She jumped right up!” says Morgan. “She wrapped every leg around him, just like a kid.”


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