Being in a house with five people and eight dogs would be challenge well enough, but add the uncertainty of a hurricane and there is a lot of fun to be had. All four of my dogs were strangers to all four of the others, but my dogs are large so they remained sequestered for the evening in a spare room. Marco barked at odd times because that is what Marco does, which set the other seven dogs off, so sleep was something that came and went, but mostly went. The rain fell and the wind blew.
At four I noticed the clock was blinking so the power came and went also. As I was peeing, about five, the lights went out for good. The rain was falling much harder by then, and I let my four dogs out into the darkness, guiding them with a flashlight. Surely, I thought to myself, in a strange environment and a hostile darkness, none of them would wonder too far away. Lilith, who hates getting her feet wet and will not wander five feet from the backdoor during rain, ran off as if fired from a cannon. The other three peed on the ground and wanted to come right back in.
I cursed my stupidity and went out into the storm to find Lilith, but she had not gone far. I got her in with the rest of the pack and then fed them and discovered that for her long journey into the darkness, Lilith had not peed outside and left a puddle on the floor much larger than I would have thought she could have produced. The rain fell and the wind blew. The lights did not come back on.
The Waffle House was open and deserted, and we saw one vehicle on I-75 as we drove across it. We ordered food and coffee, blessed, rich, wonderful, coffee, and as breakfast was served the lights went out. The Huddle House has a disaster protocol so we ate by candlelight. The rain fell harder and the wind howled. A sign fell over in the road.
Eventually, the eight dogs were mixed into the same space, and everyone seemed to want to keep the peace, although my pack centered around me when I sat down. Lilith in particular doesn’t like disorder, and Tyger Linn seemed to be the one most willing to explore. The mass and bulk of the Cousins keep disagreement with them to a minimum, and even Tyger seemed subdued. There were two displaced people from Fort Myers who brought their two Labs, Mia and Emma, one an IPA and the other a stout. They are strangers in a strange land, also, and nervous, but they played with the two resident dogs, and mine played with no one, far too serious for that stuff.
One of the resident dogs is a loaner, his family unable to keep him yet unwilling to give him away. There are kind and generous people in this world, and the owner of the house has allowed Leo, a mutt mixed with smallish Great Pyrenees, to live with her until arrangements can be made. Leo’s family came to visit before the storm and their little girl, age five, had written him a letter. Leo’s bond with the little girl was very clear and very strong, and she will grow up in a world where people do not give their dogs away as a matter of convenience, and people will shelter dogs to help other people who love dogs. The rain began to fall and the wind began to blow as Leo’s family left, and Leo was once again, bereft.
All eight of the dogs here were rescued in some manner. The Cousins were dumped together as puppies, Lilith Anne was an owner surrender, Tyger Linn was a street stray, Leo was bounced around by a few people before his family got him, Drake was given away, and both Emma and Mia were from rescue groups. As the rain fell and the wind picked up, the dogs were walked, fed, dried off, loved on, and comforted. No one here spoke of deserting love or abandoning their humanity.
It is nearly noon now and they say the worst of the storm will soon be here for those of us in South Georgia. We have no power but there is still food at the Waffle House, and there is cold coffee. The people from Fort Myers have no home to return to after this storm has passed. I have no idea what has happened to my own home in Hickory Head but little do I care about stuff at this point in the storm. Money will buy stuff or repair stuff or replace stuff. Or it will not. But it doesn’t matter at all, does it?
I started to run from this storm and made all the right plans to go far away, and have the dogs boarded somewhere around Macon, which had I left Thursday, would have been about right. As the storm track was predicted to fade more eastward I stayed put and worried not at all. Thursday night the track prediction shifted and suddenly, my escape plan fell through. But still, even if the hurricane was a strong Category One or a weak Two, I felt as if we could survive it in place. And I knew if I did run, wherever I went, was somewhere someone with greater need, could not go.
It will be a few more hours yet, before I know if we survived it. Yet when huddled together with good people and strong hearts, there is little to fear. Given good people with strong hearts, very little can dismay and even less can cause concern. It is in good company that I have taken refuge from this storm, and I was not afraid before and I am less inclined towards fear ever may come.
But should this storm be the end of me, and my life should end here in the wind and the rain, then I die in good company, true companions that face such with simple bravery that speaks well of those who brought them to this place, in every way. For myself, I will ride this storm out with those I love, or I will not live to see the next day, for one thing storms will teach you about yourself is if you have chosen wisely in with who you seek shelter, and have you the heart, and the guts, to stand with them, in the driving rain, and the howling wind.