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Moore Finds Comfort In Animals Who Survived The Storm

There's no room at the inn for the Degmans. Not the Days Inn, anyway.

Jim and Marilyn Degman didn't suffer significant damage to their home in Monday's storm, but they lost power and decided to seek shelter elsewhere. They tried two other places before they found a La Quinta Inn & Suites that would admit Angel Baby, their toy poodle.

"I think she's a little more traumatized than we are, because of her routine," Jim says. "She can't go to her home."

For some people, pets are just animals, but for others, they can become like members of the family. No one wants to leave their dog or cat behind to perish in the rubble.

Kathy Hughes, a teacher in Oklahoma City, was vastly relieved when she found out her parents were able to bring along Gracie, her gray terrier, when they fled the home they share in tornado-stricken Moore, Okla. "I'm crying because I didn't think I had a house to go back to and I thought they'd left the dog behind," she says.

Footage of Barbara Garcia finding her dog while being interviewed by CBS has become one of the most widely shared individual stories on social media out of the storm in Moore. Many people in the area have been saddened by the losses suffered at a local horse farm.

Kathy Hughes sits with her dog Gracie at the La Quinta in Norman, Okla., on Wednesday. This is their third night at the La Quinta, which is one of the few area hotels accepting people and their pets.
/ Katie Hayes Luke for NPR
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR
Kathy Hughes sits with her dog Gracie at the La Quinta in Norman, Okla., on Wednesday. This is their third night at the La Quinta, which is one of the few area hotels accepting people and their pets.

There are half a dozen temporary shelters set up for lost animals. People are dropping off animals who are either injured or so healthy you wouldn't know anything had happened to them, says Kristi Scroggins, a veterinarian volunteering her time at a shelter at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in nearby Norman.

About 60 dogs have been brought to the shelter, along with a handful of cats. The dogs come out when they hear people's voices, while cats stay put at the sounds of chainsaws and other unfamiliar noises, says veterinary technician Jessica Manzer.

The shelter is loaded with piles of kitty litter and bleach, paper towels and Milk-Bones. The animals are put in crates and assigned generic identifiers such as "#31 Shepherd Mix" or "#55 Choc Lab."

One cat at the shelter, a sleepy-eyed tabby named Popeye, belongs to a woman who died in the storm. Volunteers are attempting to find the family to see if anyone will take Popeye home.

About 10 animals there have been reunited thus far with their owners. Those who aren't claimed likely will be put up for adoption after 30 days, Scroggins says.

"This is a great reminder for people to microchip their pets," she says. "They can lose collars, but the microchips don't go anywhere."

Two Norman residents brought in dogs Wednesday night, saying that their own dogs wouldn't like it if they gave a home to the strays. Both animals appeared healthy, though Jen Elsner says the little dog she brought in was clearly hungry and a little dehydrated.

The shelters are sharing information with one another, seeking to match pets with their owners. Many people have stopped by to fill out forms looking for animals such as guinea pigs, parrots and other animals, something the volunteer staff seems to believe is wishful thinking at this point.

But they all are moved when people are reunited with their animals.

"It's pretty amazing anything could survive what happened, but animals are pretty resilient," Manzer says.

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Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.
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