Surviving Superstorm Nemo: temporary shelters offer peace of mind to pet owners on Cape Cod

Shannon Walajtys with Jeanne and "Blackford" safe & warm at a temporary shelter following supertorm Nemo When Jeanne walked into the Falmouth High School shelter I could tell she was cold and very nervous. She struggled to stand but yet she gripped a cat carrier explaining how it contained her companion, Blackford, a 21 year old cat.

I believe that Blackford saved Jeanne’s life as it was only for his welfare that she entered the shelter. Her hesitation was being able to bring him with her – THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO!

Once Jeanne was convinced that she could in fact bring Blackford with her and he would be with competent and professional caregivers, she gladly left her freezing cold home with no power after 2 days of shivering under multiple blankets with no food.

The first thought I had about how to put Jeanne at ease was telling her how much I loved my 5 cats at home. She grabbed me tightly and figuratively did not let go for the next 36 hours!

Jeanne frequently visited to check on Blackford and shared stories of their 21 years together. It was truly the most comforting periods of her day; sitting on the floor and falling back into her routine of feeding, watering, and dispensing medicine to her companion.

You could see the hesitation grow with each step she took towards the door when pet visiting hours were over…like the strain of worrying about her own situation was beyond imagination without him.

The major winter storm that recently covered Cape Cod with snow, ice, and brought hurricane-force winds, led many residents into regional shelters where they could find a hot meal and warm place to sleep.

The American Red Cross (ARC) is a national partner of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and we are proud to work with them to develop and coordinate responsible pet components for ARC shelters across the country so that folks like Jeanne do not have to even consider leaving behind their beloved pets when disaster strikes.

IFAW Disaster Response responders supported the pets and their owners at the Falmouth High School shelter for only 36 hours, but the time spent with these brave animals and humans reinforces our mission to help alleviate their suffering.

The 30 dogs and cats that came in and out of our lives during that time all shared some of their unconditional love with us and we are grateful to have been a source of comfort and healing for them and their owners.

I put my cot near Blackford’s kennel overnight which probably made me feel better than him…but I bet he knows that.

Thank you for your continued support of IFAW’s Disaster Response efforts around the globe. 


With your help we can continue our hard work to help animals in crisis.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy