Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Superman: Update

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

SANTA CRUZ — Things are looking up these days for Superman.

And he has his owner’s ripped T-shirt and some area animal lovers to thank.

After weathering Hurricane Katrina, then spending the weekend at the Santa Cruz SPCA’s kennel on Seventh Avenue with nine new friends from New Orleans, Superman will be reunited with owner Alkaseem Colar in Houston.

As part of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, the Santa Cruz SPCA took in 10 dogs Friday night after the canines were flown into San Francisco International Airport and brought here by the Monterey County SPCA.

Superman caught their eye among the tired pooches. He had a tattered, soiled piece of cloth around his neck with phone numbers that allowed volunteers to track down Colar.

Volunteer Keely Gjelsteen called the number on the cloth and left a message with the dog owner’s mother, Marie Colar, who was staying in a hotel in Louisiana.

Eventually, she put the SPCA in touch with her son. Santa Cruz SPCA Executive Director Lisa Carter called Alkaseem with the good news.

Carter first spoke to Alkaseem’s wife, who shouted, "They’ve found Superman!"

That’s just what the family wanted to hear.

"It made me feel so good," Alkaseem Colar said by cell phone from Houston. "It really lifted my spirits."

He immediately asked for directions to where he could pick up his almost 2-year-old companion, not realizing Superman was on the West Coast.

"I said, ‘He’s taking a vacation in our little beach town,’" Carter said.

The turn of events brought smiles in what could have been another sad story of Hurricane Katrina.

Colar said he never wanted to leave without his dog.

He and Superman slogged through blocks of flooded streets in New Orleans, eventually coming to a bridge along Interstate 10, where emergency crews had set up cots and evacuees were waiting for bus rides out of town.

"We had to walk probably a mile through the water," said Colar, 34, who said he plans to stay in Houston at least a year and is looking for work as a welder.

Colar said he watched bus after bus leave the area, but he stayed because he didn’t want to leave Superman behind. Finally, he was told he had to leave — without his dog.

He pulled a T-shirt from his bag, scribbled phone numbers on it, wrapped it around the dog’s neck and left Superman tied to a cot.

That last-minute act led to the reunion.

"I was so happy," Colar said. "I cried when I had to leave him behind, but I always had a feeling I would see him again."

Superman spent part of Tuesday morning getting a bath at Bed and Biscuits in Santa Cruz before the Monterey County SPCA picked him up for a drive to Texas, where the group was heading as part of the relief effort.

The Santa Cruz County SPCA is hoping for a few more miracles like Superman’s. The SPCA is housing the nine other dogs in foster homes after about 20 volunteers worked late hours this weekend getting the dogs prepared.

"For the most part, everybody is healthy," Carter said.

Information about the remaining dogs will be put on the Web site www.petfinder.org.

The local SPCA is working with its Monterey County counterpart, ready for more pets that could arrive, Carter said.

The Santa Cruz County SPCA operates solely on donations. It doesn’t normally house animals at its facility; they usually are housed by county Animal Protective Services, but SPCA continues with adoption and education programs.

Carter said the group could use donations of money, blankets and towels. The Santa Cruz SPCA may be contacted at 465-5000.