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To the Streets and Back Home Again

Dale, Lily, and Carlos Menendez
Lily came into the Menendezes’ lives the same way she would later be forced to leave them: wandering the streets of New Orleans. Spotting her from a cab several years ago, Carlos Menendez was inspired to jump out and save her from a dangerous and uncertain existence.

Carlos’s wife, Dale, named the little puppy after her recently deceased mother, and the couple gave her a permanent place in their home on Nashville Avenue. But three years later, the family would have to evacuate that home, pleading for their dog’s safe passage onto a boat and then a bus before spending five nightmarish days together in the Convention Center.

When National Guard helicopters finally arrived the sixth day after the storm, the Menendez family was airlifted by helicopter. Weak from the experience, Dale was on a stretcher. The National Guard gave the couple an ultimatum: Either the dog had to stay behind or the Menendezes wouldn’t be allowed to go. No amount of pleading would change the guardsmen’s minds. Relaying the experience even now, Dale can hardly bear the haunting memory of her own screams as she lay on a stretcher, seeing Lily released by the guardsmen and running away from the Convention Center, alone and confused.

“Oh my God, I just about lost it,” Dale recalls.

But Lily had made her way alone in the world before and found a way to do so again—for three months. Responding to a report of a frightened dog filed by New Orleans District 3 firemen, Louisiana SPCA animal control officer Kris Damon found a very thin, hungry, and thirsty Lily on December 2. She’d carved out a den for herself in the abandoned oven of an Irish pub next to the firehouse.

Many false leads had almost permanently dashed the hopes of Dale and Carlos Menendez. But their use of a friend’s computer to help in the search, combined with the detective work of Louisiana SPCA board member Susan Hess, finally brought Lily back home—though this time “home” was in a new state. Now living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the family was reunited in December. Dale, who can finally smile again when she thinks of Lily, was surprised to learn that Lily had been found in the French Quarter. “We never took Lily to the Quarter,” she muses, “but I guess she’s a Quarterite now.”


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