In memory of Mandy Sue Who, an “orphan” of Hurricane Katrina:

I met you that first week in October after the storm. The LeMar Dixon Center was full of critters displaced from the hurricane.

You just happened to be in my building, my row and in a kennel with three other dogs. You and one other were Chows and of course you were in the aggressive barn. I don’t know why they thought you were aggressive, swept away in the flood waters, pulled out of the muck by a catch pole by strange people in a boat. I could not imagine why you would growl or snap.

You were covered with sludge and had to be shaved, you looked so silly with only fur on your head, tail and feet. You had chemical burns, you were dehydrated and hungry. By the time I had come to work in your area, you were starting to calm down and trust a tad, but you were definitely exercising your right to be a Chow.

I talked to you everyday and walked you everyday. You certainly did not like anything pulling on your neck or even being touched around the neck. Your body was sore and tender and I am sure there were some bad memories of that old catch pole. For some reason we just hit it off.

I sat down by you one day and thought what the heck, let’s just see if I can pet you. Well, you just leaned on me and let me know that the pet felt just fine. But, I understood that I was not to touch your head and neck, so I totally respected that. Each day I would come visit you and that tail started to wag when I came, you had a cute little head tilt and I could see the change was starting to come. You were going to trust people again and you were going to heal.

Well, that week many dogs were coming to Iowa, so I put you and couple of other dogs down for coming to Clinton, I did not know if I would get you or not.

Lo and behold, when I got home, you were at the shelter and I could see in your face that we were back to square one. You were wondering where you were, and who the heck were all of these strange people. But then there was a glance and the head tilt and the tail wagged and I said to you “Welcome home.”

We worked slowly for quite some time, it was just you and me for a while. You were so good, you loved the play yards, you discovered toys, especially hard rubber balls. You passed your temperament evaluation, and you were deemed Mandy. It soon became Mandy Sue Who, and you learned it quickly.

I understood immediately you were very intelligent. You learned the leash thing was not bad, but we always went slowly. Your wounds started to heal, you gained weight and the fur started to grow back in. You were becoming a beautiful dog, inside and out. Time went by and you were available for adoption, but the right family did not come along.

We were becoming close friends and you developed the funniest personality. You were just a joy to watch in the play yard and boy did you like the cool weather. Most days we had to come outside to bring you in where it was warm. My heart was breaking for you, no one from New Orleans ever looked for you. We put your picture everywhere, but the right match or inquiry did not come along.

I did not want you to live in a kennel for ever, you deserved a home and someone that could give you more attention than us, someone you could love forever.

Then one day a very nice woman inquired about you and took you for a walk. You hit it off immediately. She came to visit you every day and the bond began to form. She was interested in becoming your family and taking you home. I was concerned as there was not a big fenced in yard, which is something you loved. We knew you would have to be walked often, you had some kidney problems from the chemicals in the flood. We thought maybe it might not work at first, but then after some time, watching you and your new friend, we felt it would be the loving home you deserved.

So… this December you went to your forever home. It was a happy but sad day, especially for me. I was so happy for your new family and for you, but I had to let go of you. We fought together you and I, you fought hard to come back to a happy life, and you let me be your friend. I was so honored. I never will forget the first day you gave me a lick right on my face, and that is just something most Chows of course do not do. Such regal dogs you are.

This past Tuesday we got a phone call you had taken ill. We told your family to get you to the vet right away. I thought it could not be too serious as you had passed through three physical exams before coming here. After running errands that morning, I was going to come visit you to see how you were doing. I was going to visit your home anyway after the holidays; I needed a Mandy Sue fix.

When I stopped at the veterinarian’s office I asked if I could see you and everyone looked so sad. They thought it was probably a heart attack, so I went back to the kennel and you were lying on the floor. I turned to the staff and they said you were gone. My heart fell out on the floor with you, and I felt like I had lost one of my own dear pets.

I could not believe this had happened to you after such a struggle to survive Katrina. I sat down beside you and held you in my lap, I told you I loved you one more time. I could not think through my tears and could not balance any fairness in this situation at all. You came so far and you found happiness and love, this I know for sure.

I will remember you all the days of my life, Mandy Sue Who. Thank you for being my friend and loving me. You were a gift in my life. Thank you to the wonderful woman who adopted her and loved her and gave her a new and happy life, even if it was for a short time.

Jean Regenwether is the administrator of the Clinton Humane Society .