Homecoming: After Harvey, Texas pets find homes in Vermont

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Reese, a tiny ball of fur rescued from a Texas shelter, meets his new owner, Elizabeth Sirrico, last week outside of Williston’s All Breed Rescue. Reese was one of 29 dogs adopted September 7. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Reese, a small Texas puppy, rested softly in the arms of Milton resident Elizabeth Sirrico last week outside Williston’s All Breed Rescue. She was one of 29 dogs adopted on September 7, notching an all-time high for the rescue.

Across both the county and state, various efforts are working to bring animals from Texas rescues to Vermont households in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

As Reese headed home with her new family, other Vermonters awaited their foster animals traveling north. Earlier this week, through foster-based Pibbles and More Animal Rescue, Jackie Wheel of Essex Jct. picked up a mother cat and her three kittens, who will stay with her until they’re ready for adoption.

“In terms of adopting, the benefits, at least for cats and dogs, [are that] they give unconditional love,” Wheel, also a PMAR employee, said. “One of the biggest benefits to owning them is you always have something at your house that is there for you … They feel happiness from you, and you’ll gain happiness from them.”

Personnel from both rescues reiterated these animals were in Texas shelters before the hurricane hit. The animals are moving north to open up shelters to pets displaced during the hurricane.

PMAR is still looking for people to foster some of the 39 animals it transported this weekend. As always, the nonprofit is searching for families to adopt, too. Of the 39, six dogs and 10 cats were Vermont bound.

In Milton, Cosmo’s Cuts owner and PMAR volunteer Carly Buswell helped collect hundreds of dollars in donations and supplies for PMAR to ship south. At her shop, she’s also fostering an animal that must be quarantined.

On Saturday, Sept. 2, Buswell hosted a microchip and vaccine clinic at her grooming boutique. The microchips, she said, help owners reunite with their pets, especially in disasters like hurricanes.

Last week, representatives from All Breed Rescue, including Scarlett Lee Clark, drove to the heart of the crisis, with 20,000 pounds of donated pet supplies in tow. There, they picked up 34 dogs from a few shelters in the Fort Worth and Greenville areas.

With Hurricane Irma wrecking havoc soon after, All Breed officials said they didn’t have a direct rescue effort planned but were expecting another litter of animals this week from the Carolinas.

Originally from the Houston area, Clark said she’s experienced a number of hurricanes. The support, she said, “really does make a difference.”

According to Jenn Strickler, PMAR’s Vermont coordinator, conditions in southern shelters are often unkind. Because there’re more animals in need than there is space, dogs are often killed to make room, she said.

For Sirrico, knowing little Reese comes from Texas made the adopting experience even more special.

“She was rescued out of a bad situation and we’re gonna be able to give her a good home,” the new owner said.

Sirrico and her husband began exploring the idea of adopting a dog about a year ago. Pregnant and expecting a little human of their own in December, the Milton woman said they wanted to add a dog to the family so the two can “grow up together.”

Having talked about adopting for about a year, Sirrico said she kept an eye on All Breed’s online posts about the new arrivals. When she and her husband arrived, they found Reese curled up in a ball. She was the one.

Surprised by the quick process and good service, the couple was ready to bring Reese home that day. First up, though, was a trip to the pet store. As they left, other potential adopters continued to bond with their four-legged friends.

According to Strickler, helping out in times of need — whether fostering, adopting or collecting supplies — is what Vermonters do. The support residents are engaging in returns the favor to people who aided the Brave Little State during Tropical Storm Irene, she said.

“Texas is so far away, we can’t go and rebuild houses,” she said. “But we can take little steps to try and help out. That’s our Vermont culture. When people are in need, we help them out.”