BOOKS: Dogs Gone Wild After Hurricane Katrina
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2008:
Dogs Gone Wild
After Hurricane Katrina
by Theresa D. Thompson
Tate Publishing (127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang,
OK 73064), 2008. 127 pages, paperback. $14.99.
In the age of “instant” book publishing to commemorate major
events–and cash in while public interest is highest–Dogs Gone Wild
is oddly enough the first book about the Hurricane Katrina animal
rescue effort to reach ANIMAL PEOPLE, arriving nearly three years
after Katrina inundated much of New Orleans and devastated the Gulf
Coast from Alabama to Texas.
It is not the rescue memoir one might anticipate. Author
Theresa Thompson is a retired medical secretary, recently widowed,
who lives in Upper Marlboro, Mary-land. She was not directly
involved in the animal rescue. Neither was her sister, Charlotte
Brown, who sent Dogs Gone Wild to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“I applaud all the good work that humane workers and
volunteers do,” Thompson e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “I have not
been to any of the hurricane zones yet,” she acknowledged. but she
and Brown are planning to attend the August 29, 2008 unveiling of a
memorial to the animals lost to Katrina, commissioned by the Humane
Society of Louisiana.
Dogs Gone Wild, though closely grounded in the factual
events of Katrina and the aftermath, emerges from Thompson’s
imagination of her own dogs caught in the predicament of the many
thousands of dogs who were left behind. Some were left by people who
went to work but could not return home before having to flee the
city. Some were left by people who evacuated under orders, but
expected to be able to return soon. Some were left by people who
“Mr. Reds, the leader of the dog pack in my book, is my
present dog,” Thompson told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “All of the dogs
mentioned were my personal dogs at one point or another.”
The story of Dogs Gone Wild is told almost entirely through
human-sounding dialog among the pack and the other dogs they meet.
Much is awkwardly said by these evidently well-educated dogs that
should have been left to descriptive passages.
The human victims of Hurricane Katrina were primarily
African-American, as is Thompson. One might hypothesize that
Thompson is telling the human story through animal characters, a
device of fable-tellers since Aesop’s time, often used to awaken the
consciences of thse who have been indifferent to human suffering. A
confrontation with dogs who are attempting to prevent looting in the
French Quarter, in particular, evokes memories of the use of New
Orleans police to prevent looting while evacuees were miserably
stranded for days in the Superdome. The refugee dogs respond with
phrases often heard in human rights causes, and after some debate
over tactics, choose nonviolence.
Yet, though there is some poignant and pointed allegory in
Dogs Gone Wild, it appears to be incidental to Thompson’s primary
themes. Thompson is concerned about people, but her heart is with