Hurricane Katrina and a Life That Went to the Dogs
An emotional recounting of animal rescue during the aftermath of one of the nation’s worst storms
On August 29, 2005, the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States devastated the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. Like many others in America and around the world, Chris McLaughlin watched the tragedy of Katrina unfold on a television screen from the comfort of her living room on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In the devastation afterwards, almost 2,000 people and an estimated 250,000 animals had perished.
Miraculously, many pets did manage to survive. But in the months that followed the hurricane, thousands of them were fending for themselves in the ruins of devastated neighborhoods. They roamed the streets in feral packs or struck out alone. Their plight triggered a grassroots rescue effort unlike any this country had ever seen, and while relief organizations such as the Red Cross were tending to the human survivors, and movie stars and celebrities were airlifting food and endorsing seven-figure checks, a much smaller and meagerly funded effort was underway to save the four-legged victims. With no prior experience in disaster response and no real grasp of the hell that awaited them, scores of animal lovers, including McLaughlin, made their way to the Gulf Coast to help in any way they could.
Including photos from four-time Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Carol Guzy, Mississippi Barking spans the course of two years as McLaughlin and others ventured into the wreckage of the Gulf Coast to rescue the animals left behind. McLaughlin tells the moving stories of the people she met along the way, both those who lost everything to the hurricane and those working beside her rescuing and transporting animals away from the neglected, derelict conditions in which they barely survived. Within this story of tragedy and cruelty, suffering and ignorance, Mississippi Barking also bears witness to selfless acts of bravery and compassion, and the beauty and heroics of those who risked everything to save the animals that could not save themselves.
"Chris McLaughlin gave her whole Yankee heart, her money, time, and energy to the Mississippi dogs displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and in that process (beyond all reason, beyond exhaustion) learned the definition of a meaningful life. This honest and heart-expanding tale of courage, cultural collision, and, yes, dogged determination will make you laugh, cry, adopt a dog (or twenty), drive straight into a hurricane, and face that big wind grinning. This is how we change the world. "- Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
"Mississippi Barking explores the devastating loss caused by Katrina and the ways it changed policies, both for people and for animals. In this outstandingly told story, author Chris McLaughlin reminds us that we must never forget the cost of this progress. This book is a memorial to what was lost. "- Leslie Irvine, author of Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters
"Mississippi Barking is an unforgettable story of unimaginable tragedy and the inspiring dedication of author Chris McLaughlin and a team of selfless, determined heroes. McLaughlin’s beautifully told story of her life-changing experience will no doubt change the lives of many shelter and stray animals, and likely some readers, too. Heart wrenching, yet hopeful, tragic and joyous, Mississippi Barking is a tale of determination and resilience—human and animal alike—I will not soon forget. I was deeply moved. "- Teresa J. Rhyne, author of The Dog Lived (and So Will I) and Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home
"Chris McLaughlin captures, with chilling clarity, the apocalyptic days of post-Katrina Mississippi, through the lens of a fierce protector and defender of the animals whose stories, until now, have gone largely untold. This is a wrenching story, beautifully written, told by a hero. "- Joyce Maynard, author of At Home in the World
"What an inspiring tale—and woman! Mississippi Barking takes us behind the scenes of Hurricane Katrina and shows us what human bravery and determination look like, and a kind of beautiful selflessness and compassion. Chris McLaughlin saves dogs stranded in the storm and saves herself along the way. I love this book so much. When I hear that a hurricane is hitting the Gulf, I want to imagine that Chris is there."- Martha Sherrill, author of Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain
"Mississippi Barking turns the idea of caring into an anthem for survival in a world filled with 'the language of destruction and despair.' These stories of dogs, people, and disaster are a roadmap of the heart, and Chris McLaughlin is a writer who reminds us that the only way forward is together. You may think she is speaking for the animals, but, in truth, she’s speaking for all of us."- Karen Auvinen, author of Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living