When Sour Lake, Texas, residents Harvey and Sandra Sterling went to a relative’s house on August 29, 2017, they had little sense of the severe peril they and their two dogs, Lady and Duchess, would soon be facing due to Hurricane Harvey.
“We had gone just two streets over,” recalls Sandra, adding that Lady, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever, and their 12-year-old Labrador-mix, Duchess, remained at home. But due to the raging storm, the Sterlings were forced to stay at her brother’s house all night.
“We’d never had flooding and expected two to three inches of rain at the most,” Sandra says. “But the next day, my brother’s house had 19 inches of water in it and ours had 28 inches!”
Left to Right: Jonathan Sterling and wife, Tiffany; Stephen Sterling and wife Jeri; and Harvey Sterling with Lady, left, and Duchess, one year after the dogs were rescued and reunited after Hurricane Harvey.
Unable to locate Lady and Duchess after discovering their home had flooded—or even leave their Country Wood Estates neighborhood—Sandra, Harvey and six other adults piled into the Sterlings’ camper, where rescuers eventually found them and took them to a local emergency response shelter.
“I felt so badly about the dogs,” Sandra says. “I thought they had died,”
The next day, Duchess was discovered on State Highway 105 and taken to a local shelter for lost pets where family members were able to retrieve her. But Lady was still missing.
On September 3, five days after the big storm, the Sterlings’ son Jonathan spotted Lady’s photo on the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors Sour Lake” Facebook page. The ASPCA was operating a temporary shelter for lost animals at Sour Lake Elementary School and had posted flyers with photos of all the unclaimed animals on social media and in public places around town. One of those photos was of Lady, who had been dropped off at the shelter by Good Samaritans who’d found her.
After seeing Lady’s picture, Jonathan and a few family members went to the shelter to pick her up.
“They almost didn’t recognize her,” says Sandra. “She had lost weight and was weary, but she perked right up when she saw them.”
A year later, with the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey looming, the Sterlings are still not in their home. After living in their camper for five months, they moved in February into a FEMA trailer, located in their front yard.
“People don’t understand what this has done to our area,” explains Sandra. “It’s just taking time. We hope to be in by Christmas, but we’ll see.”
Despite the setbacks, the Sterlings are grateful to have their pets back. They also had two cockatiels that were safely retrieved by rescuers from their home. Both Lady and Duchess have arthritis in their hips and are on medication, “but they’re still going strong,” according to Sandra.
“I still feel relief when I think about everything they went through,” Sandra says. “Getting them back was a real blessing.”
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