for National Geographic News
After Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast last August, Gary Karcher and his three dogs sought refuge from the rising floodwaters on the second floor of his New Orleans home.
It wasn't long before police offered a boat ride to safety for Karcherbut not his dogs: Himie, a Rottweiler, and Precious and Pudgy, both dachshunds.
He refused to leave his pets behind.
After a week Karcher, who is diabetic, couldn't stay any longer. He had run out of insulin.
When the water subsided, he made preparations to leave.
He left plenty of food and water for the dogs. And he scribbled a note, put it in a small watertight bottle, and attached it to Himie's collar.
Then he quietly walked out the back door.
"It's like leaving your kids," the note said.
Now animal owners like Karcher won't have to choose between leaving their pets or risking their lives by remaining in storm-ravaged areas.
Government officials, emergency workers, and animal welfare groups are putting disaster plans into place to help both people and pets.
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