Friday, July 28, 2006

From Katrina to Ketchum

Shelter finds home for last of displaced dogs

Express Staff Writer

Nicole Kohn, of Ketchum, recently adopted Creole, a Gulf Coast dog left homeless after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by David N. Seelig

A survivor hides behind a leather collar, studded with Swarovski crystals.

Creole, a black Labrador mix, is one of thousands of pets that were displaced last year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Rescue efforts saved thousands of animals that were later moved from the Gulf Coast to other areas, including the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, near Hailey.

"I love dogs. And, this is such a dog town. It was a natural fit," said Nicole Kohn, of Ketchum. Kohn and her husband, Peter Nyman, recently adopted Creole from the animal shelter. Creole was the last of the 13 displaced pets at the shelter to be adopted.

"I saw this piece in the Sun Valley Guide (magazine). She was so cute. I said, 'Let's get her home and give her a vacation," Kohn said.

The 2006 summer edition of the Sun Valley Guide features a photographic essay on valley residents with their Hurricane Katrina pets. At the time of the article, three of the pets had been reunited with their Southern owners. Valley residents had adopted the other displaced pets, except Creole.

In the article, Creole appears by herself, eyeing a fluorescent tennis ball, rather than pictured with a new owner.

The image left a lasting impression on the Ketchum couple, who had lost their Doberman pinscher, Athena, the month before. The couple saw Creole's picture in the magazine and adopted her soon thereafter.

"She is right at home," Kohn said.

Creole seems to agree. As Kohn was being interviewed, the newly adopted dog sat loyally next to her new owner. The dog is obedient, friendly, energetic and good with children.

"This is a very traumatized dog that survived a hurricane who is now very mellow," Kohn said. "I really credit the animal shelter with the work they do with these shelter dogs to prepare them to be with a family. It's extraordinary."

Before arriving to her new family, Creole was temporarily adopted by a Beverly Hills doctor. The adoption proved brief, after the dog repeatedly escaped from the doctor's small outdoor space. The owner decided the adoption was not the best match.

Creole was flown back to the Hailey shelter via private jet. She arrived at Friedman Memorial Airport as the only passenger on the plane.

Luckily, Creole found attentive new parents, who also happen to be in the dog-accessory business.

"Creole is now a lucky dog. She has a full-on wardrobe," said Kohn, who owns both the Isabella Cane and Sun Valley Dog dog-accessory businesses.

Despite the dog's extensive wardrobe and new loving home, reminders of Hurricane Katrina remain. Creole is still recovering from heartworm, a potentially fatal mosquito-borne illness. Creole recently finished her last treatment and should be in the clear by December, facilitated by the love and kindness of her new family.

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