Turns empty housing into makeshift animal shelter
Left behind when families were evacuated, two dogs play at Capt. Coulson’s “Noah’s Ark Operation” shelter.
As revolution gripped Egypt at the end of January, thousands of foreigners were evacuated from the country. Spouses and children of United States service people were ordered to leave the country on U.S. government aircraft. And that meant leaving their pets behind.
As the command judge advocate, Capt. Eric Coulson (photo right with his wife) found himself inundated with questions from embassy staff and military people asking what could be done for their pets.
“I had to tell them that the orders were legal,” he said. “But as the owner of two dogs myself, I struggled with the thought of leaving my own pets behind.”
So Coulson teamed with fellow pet guardian Major Alvaro Roa to create emergency shelter for cats and dogs. One of their “shelters” was the housing complex where Roa lived. The evacuation had left it empty, except for him. Since the complex had outside areas and breezeways with covering, they started using these for dogs who could be left with food and water where they’d be under cover but able to be outside.
“Some of the evacuees had asked if their animals could be left in their homes, so we also made house calls,” Coulson said. “And for cats, we placed them in several apartments with the permission of the residents, making sure we checked at least daily on their water, food, and litter. We provided as much personal attention as we could spare.”
Coulson and Roa also set up a Facebook page with photos of dogs and cats so families could see them. The page includes dozens of posts from grateful families, with messages like “Just want to thank you Eric for getting food to our dog BoJo, there in Maadi! Grateful for the help, so many miles away!”
Coulson and Roa enlisted Army veterinarian Lt. Col. Nancy Merrill to check the health of each of the animals left behind, and asked her to provide the necessary documentation to help get them back home to families who were ready to receive them. Their Facebook page shows many of those messages, too, like this one from a grateful mom:
“Thank you, so much !!!!! My baby Otis and my big boy Knox are home, they look really good. Many blessing for you guys !!!”