Sam Bailey's life has gone to the dogs -- literally and figuratively.
We met Sam at his new home, a FEMA trailer, in Pearlington, Mississippi, a town hit by the full force of Hurricane Katrina. The home he and his wife had lived in was destroyed by the storm and wreckage is still strewn throughout the property. Their new trailer is in their old yard, a yard they share with more than 50 dogs and cats.
You see, Sam is the founder of the Pontchartrain Humane Society, an organization dedicated to taking care of stray animals until they are adopted. His humane society is different than most, because the group has no building. Some of the dogs are kept at volunteers' homes, but most stay right in Sam's yard amid all the damage from Katrina.
In the days before the hurricane, Sam was able to place many of the dogs in temporary homes to wait out the storm, but he couldn't place all of them. So as Katrina approached, Sam acted like Noah -- he ushered the dogs up to the second floor of his house, and then the attic as the water continued to rise, climbing to over 15 feet. The one dog he couldn't get in the attic was a pit bull named Sampson. That particular dog was too big and stubborn to get into the attic.
As Katrina roared through, Sam did not think he and the dogs would survive. He found other animals out in the flooded yard. He pulled them into his house too. He saw dead animals float by. Then the storm started getting less ferocious and Sam realized he and his pets would be alright.
Now, more than ten months later, he has more animals than ever because the storm left multitudes of strays, with fewer people around to adopt them.
He admits that some of his animals have "social" problems because of Katrina and are unlikely adoption candidates. Yet, he has a policy of not putting animals to sleep unless they are terminally ill. So Sam isn't quite sure what he's going to do with all the animals.
He spends hours every day with volunteers who help take care of dogs in the outdoor kennels in the hot sun. There is no shortage of mud and insects in the primitive (at least compared to other kennels) outdoor compound. But he loves his dogs, knows all their names and personalities, and hopes they will get adopted even though the calls are not exactly pouring in.
Sam and his wife say they wouldn't mind leaving Mississippi permanently because of the damage they've suffered. But because of their dogs, they have no choice but to stay.
You can visit the Pontchartrain Humane Society online at: pontchartrainhumanesociety.org