DARRINGTON, WA - After a rescue worker called her animal clinic saying dogs had been extracted from the destruction left behind by a massive mudslide, veterinary assistant Cassna Wemple and her colleagues raced to this small Washington town near the debris field.
They found one of the dogs at the fire station among a flurry of rescue workers and townspeople. Bonnie, an Australian shepherd, was wrapped in a comforter. She was muddy and had a broken leg in a splint. One of Bonnie's owners had just died in the slide. The other had been pulled out.
"She was just very much in shock," Wemple said.
In this rural community north of Seattle, Wemple said it's common for residents to have plenty of animals, including pigs, horses, rabbits, chickens, dogs and cats. When the deadly slide struck March 22, beloved pets and livestock also perished.
The full number of pets and livestock killed may never be known. Authorities also don't have a clear number of how many pets are missing or displaced by the slide, incident spokespeople have said. There are at least 37 horses displaced and at least 10 dogs that were missing, according to different animal services helping the recovery efforts.
"To know that their animals are lost and may or may not be found. It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking for the people and the animals," said Dee Cordell of the Everett Animal Services.
Wemple said rescue workers could hear horses crying from the debris hours after the slide, but because of the unsafe conditions, rescuers couldn't go in.
For those animals that survived, the community and outsiders have rallied in support with donations. Bag after bag of food for dogs, cats and chickens have filled up the rodeo grounds outside Darrington, which are serving as a makeshift shelter. At last count, it totaled nearly 45,000 pounds. On Saturday alone, 27 tons of donated food from Purina arrived.
Lilianna Andrews's seven horses are now at the rodeo grounds. Their house wasn't buried in the mud, but the displaced earth formed a dam, backing up the Stillaguamish River into a lake that rose waist-high in the house and as high as 10 feet in the barn.
"We got them out before they got any water on them," the 13-year-old said after helping unload hay at the rodeo grounds on Saturday. "But they would have drowned. So we just had to evacuate them from the water, and they've been staying here ever since."
The Andrews were in Seattle when a friend called to check on their whereabouts. When they realized it wasn't just a small mudslide blocking the road, they hurried home. Their dog, cats and chickens are fine too, Andrews said, although they haven't been able to get in to feed the chickens.
Volunteers are also tending to 20 horses that belonged to Summer Raffo, a farrier who died in the slide.
Wemple's clinic, Chuckanut Valley Veterinary, treated three dogs hurt from the slide. One of those dogs, named Blue, had to have one of his legs amputated last week. His owner is still hospitalized. The owner's daughter has visited the dog daily.
"He'll be happier in the long run. No more pain in that leg," Wemple said.
Bonnie's owner was Linda McPherson, a retired librarian. She was in her living room reading newspapers with her husband, Gary "Mac" McPherson, when the slide hit. She died. He lived. Bonnie has been kept at the clinic for rehabilitation. At night, one of the staffers takes her home.
A memorial is planned for next week for Linda McPherson. Wemple said the staffer will bring the Australian shepherd to the memorial for a reunion with her surviving owner.