Many counties were lucky enough to have large, fully staffed shelters that were reaching out to people over the local news stations. Donations came pouring in, and the help was much appreciated. But one county kept getting overlooked.
Only a little over 26,000 people reside in Nicholas County, West Virginia. The main industry was coal mining, but a decrease in coal production has led to a 76 percent drop in coal mining employment in this area just in the past few years. The people depend on one another as friends and neighbors, and no one proves that more than Nicholas County Animal Shelter director, Tracy Plambeck.
The day after the storm, Plambeck and her coworker, JJ Tompkins, began heading out to see what they could do to help. That meant shutting down the shelter because they are the only employees there. "In April of 2015, the county cut the shelter from four employees to two," Plambeck told The Dodo. "It's been JJ and I doing everything since then." That means cleaning, feeding, adoptions, surrenders and, now, recovery missions.
In the first day alone, they found deceased animals washed away in floodwaters along with people's belongings. They saw homes underwater. They picked up stray animals and dropped off food to people who had already set up tents while they waited for help to arrive. They had to do a lot of walking to find people, as there were no roads where roads had once been. They did this day after day, bringing in dog after dog, humanely trapping cat after cat.
But it didn't stop there. The shelter was inundated with people surrendering their pets, too. "People no longer had homes to go to anymore," said Plambeck. "They had no other choice but to leave their pets with us."