6 min read

Woman Brings Entire Sanctuary Inside Her House To Survive Winter Storm

“Everyone was looking out for each other. I think that's like a big part of why we made it” ❤️🌈

When a history-making winter storm immobilized nearly the entire state of Texas last month, Carly Henry, the founder of Carly's Critter Camp outside Austin, had to launch a mission to rescue the animals in her own sanctuary.
 
It ended with dozens of animals (including giant tortoises, a baby goat, a young ram, a leopard gecko, crested geckos, bearded dragons, a chameleon, a tree frog, a corn snake, some ball pythons and dogs) all cuddled harmoniously in her living room around a crackling fireplace. 

turtles snakes and cows
Carly Henry

But the days and moments behind the peaceful photos she took were frantic. "It was crazy," Henry told The Dodo. 
 
Henry had tried to prepare for the freezing temperatures and snow. She stocked up on food and supplies, and neighbors loaned her heaters for the animals' living areas. "We thought we were prepared," Henry said. 
 
But as the storm hit, the power went out. The heaters stopped working. For animals sensitive to the cold, it was a life-or-death situation. 

sunset sky
Carly Henry

She rushed out to the sanctuary, which is next to her home, and started bringing in the reptiles and baby animals who were most vulnerable.

cow in front of a fire
Carly Henry

"It was just madness," Henry said. “Then I was like, 'Oh my gosh, now we have to get all the big tortoises.'"
 
Her three giant tortoises — Yoda, Tortellini, and Yoshi — each weigh between 70 and 120 pounds. They don't move very quickly and they're a bit stubborn, so Carly needed to carry them inside. 
 
With a surge of adrenaline, Henry picked up the smaller two, trudged through the snow and got them in the house. Henry had a volunteer help her with Yoshi, the largest tortoise, and her husband, who had a broken foot, helped haul him the final steps into the house. "It was very stressful," Henry said.

turtles snakes and cows in front of a fireplace
Carly Henry

Finally, everyone at risk from the elements was safe in front of the fire.

The storm lasted for days. The power and the heat would go on and off. So Henry, her husband and all the animals just stayed in front of the fire. They each took shifts, staying awake, making sure the flames were burning.

animals huddled together indoors
Carly Henry

All the smaller reptiles made themselves at home on top of the tortoises. 

animals huddled together in front of fireplace
Carly Henry

The chameleon tried to blend into a plant in front of the fireplace.

chameleon blending into houseplant
Carly Henry

One of the snakes found a perfect perch.

snake on top of statue
Carly Henry

The baby goat and ram, in particular, loved all the nonstop attention.

baby goat on top of turtle
Carly Henry

"I was so astounded by how well everybody got along," Henry said. 

Sometimes the tortoises aren't always friendly to one another, and Henry wonders if they all knew they had to weather this storm together to make it. "They haven't even looked at each other twice. It's been really interesting," Henry said. 

Animals huddled together on a couch
Carly Henry

Henry and her husband are particularly thankful for all the neighbors who pitched in to bring them supplies and offered assistance.

"This community is just willing to help. Random people were willing to risk their lives. Everyone was looking out for each other. I think that's like a big part of why we made it," Justin Henry, Carly's husband, told The Dodo.

Now the temperatures in Austin are back in the 70s, the sun is shining and Carly Henry is relieved all the animals are safe. And she has new friends to count on during an emergency. "To watch the community come together over animals — that's been my goal forever,” she said. "It was amazing. It was truly magical."

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