by: Karena Loggins, Rover Sitter

Shorty after Hurricane Harvey

made landfall, I received a desperate message through Rover’s Sitter to Sitter program: There was a dog, marooned by flood waters on Houston’s suburban outskirts, in immediate need of a new sitter. Her name was Annabelle, a senior Labrador with a sleek black coat, showcasing eyes so bright they reminded you of a puppy. Her current sitter could not reach her because she herself was trapped. Annabelle had no one to feed her, give her potty breaks, or administer her medicine. It was a true emergency.

The owner was out of town could not inform me if the house was bursting with flood waters or safe and dry. Anxiously, I tried driving out to the address she gave me and got as close as I could in my vehicle 30 minutes or so after I got the initial message. I soon realized, however, that I had to walk three miles in knee-high rain boots through flood water to be able to reach the owner’s house. My legs were sore and I was frightened by thoughts of what I might find, but the adrenaline kept me going.

When I approached the home, I contacted Rover’s Support Line to guide me through a situation foreign to me. How was I going to get in? What did I need to do to ensure my safety? What about Annabelle? What should I expect from her, and what should I do if I find her in a bad state? The person on the line comforted me and helped me think logically about the process. We proceeded together.

With the owner’s blessing, we realized I would have to break a window to be able to get into the house to secure Annabelle. There was no hidden spare key I could use, so I would need to get creative. This was four hours into the rescue, and there were times where flood waters were up to my waist. My fingers fumbled through the murky goo around the owner’s yard, and I felt a large rock. With a little hesitation, I threw it into one of the home’s windows, watching shards of glass scatter violently. Even after that, I saw no Annabelle. I got worried.

Once I climbed through the window, I began scanning the home. Fortunately, waters hadn’t yet penetrated the indoors. In the master bedroom, I finally located Annabelle curled up in her owner’s closet, terrified and confused. I introduced myself by extending my right hand, and once she sniffed it and perked up, I had a feeling we would get out of this together.

With my adrenaline still pumping, I tried to quickly locate Annabelle’s harness, her medication, and other important items to her. As we neared our departure.

toward my car miles away, I began to wonder if Annabelle could swim. She was a good 60-70 pounds, and I wasn’t sure if I could carry her after the tiring first leg of my trip.

I watched her closely once we exited her home, throwing a backpack over my shoulder and taking several deep, conscious breaths. Annabelle could swim! She seemed to realize the teamwork we needed to practice.

I tried channeling my companion’s courage whenever I saw a snake swimming through the gloom bayou that the town had transformed into. Visibility was low, and even with my thick boots on, I had trouble overcoming my personal fear. I took a gulp and marched on, hoping no danger would find us.

On our journey back, we didn’t encounter any problems (thank goodness!), but we were in a time crunch because it was starting to get dark. I wanted to make sure that we got to my vehicle safely before nightfall. Once we approached my car, I felt a huge sense of relief. My body’s tension started to release, and I made attempts to contact the owner right away. Annabelle’s mom was beyond grateful when she picked up, overcome with joy and a sense of peace. Annabelle was no longer all by herself. Her baby girl was fine–but, she did need a bath. I fixed that problem as soon as we arrived home.

While Annabelle was obviously exhausted after that ordeal, she recuperated quickly and seemed to enjoy the presence of other dogs, my daycare clients. She played with them, slept beside them, and appeared to feel as if they were her “pack.” They helped her achieve a sense of normalcy. Her owner kept in close contact with me throughout her time with me, continuously offering her thanks. She saw me as going above and beyond, but I only did what I considered to be the right thing. That’s the spirit right now in the Houston area, and Rover helped me pay it forward. Annabelle deserved it.

Annabelle is now safe, dry, and happy, and that’s the best result I could have gotten out of this.