Call it fate, coincidence, or divine intervention, but when the floodwaters began to rise, fellow Texans rose to the occasion. One woman, 20 dogs, and three generous men with helping hands made for one inspiring story to come out of the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.
Independent animal rescuer, pet sitter, and employee of local veterinary clinic Long Drive Dog & Cat Hospital, Betty Walter, was in her southeast Houston home near the Sagemont subdivision when the storm began to take its toll. Though she grew anxious, her kind heart and love for animals outweighed the decision to evacuate her home, knowing that doing so would mean leaving her dogs behind without any confirmation that she would be able to return for their rescue anytime soon.
Before the floodwaters began to rise, Betty took the initiative to help local animals the best she could, accepting dogs into her home in addition to her own from various places including shelters seeking relocation, people nearby, homes she was pet-sitting, and even one dog that swam right up to her doorstep. That rescue animal definitely doggy-paddled to the right house, as Betty generously housed 20 dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to a Great Pyrenees. Carrying each one up to the attic herself, she ensured the safety of all 20 dogs and waited out the storm as water began to creep into her beloved home of fourteen years.
“You would be surprised how strong you are when you’re trying to think about your dogs’ safety,” Betty said. “I got a table, a couch, a hope chest, and then put a crate on top of it and had to use makeshift stairs to get them high enough off the ground in case the water rose.”
With water up to four feet high in her home after fourteen hours passed, Walter had just about lost all hope until a John Deere flatboat came floating up to her driveway. Navigating Betty’s rescue mission was resident of Kemah, Texas, William “Buck” Beasley and his two companions Anthony Hernandez and Jeremy Williams, whom he had just met. With their homes unharmed, Anthony and Jeremy drove up to flooded grounds hoping to find a way to lend a hand. Conveniently running into a man with a boat and a similar plan, the two men jumped on board with Buck and rode into the neighborhood where they found Betty Walter.
“Me and [Jeremy] actually got really lucky; our homes were completely fine, but just a couple streets down from us it was really devastating,” Anthony said. Feeling inclined to use their fortunate outcome to help others, the two set off for rescue efforts, unsure of what they might do, but confident in their decision to go.
“We just randomly started driving down Highway 45 and pulled off on the feeder road where the ground was high, and walked into this neighborhood; the water was already chest-high,” Anthony said. “We decided to walk through the main street, and as we were going in that’s where we saw Buck. We went up and talked to him and since he was right there – he had the boat, he had more things to help people – we said ‘Hey we’re here to help too; let us help you out.’”
Traveling through the waters that engulfed her neighborhood, the group of men generously answered Betty’s prayers. Doubtful that they would be able to accept the challenge of her unique situation, Betty was gratefully astonished by their heroic act and perfect timing. When Betty said “I’ve got quite a few dogs,” their immediate response was, “Okay, bring them down.”
As Buck lent his aid to her neighbor and his ten year-old Doberman, Anthony and Jeremy were next door assessing Betty’s situation to make a plan that assured both her and the rescue dogs would make it to safety together. To no surprise, the men did not hesitate to make it happen.
“As soon as I came around the corner and they told me what was going on, we took a look at the boat and figured we only had one dog in there and the water wasn’t crazy deep,” Buck said. “We just worked it out, we knew we could fit all the dogs in there and it would just be a nice and steady, slow and easy trip out of there.”
Successfully placing each dog on the boat (including her neighbor’s dog), all 21 animals floated to safety alongside the group as they walked beside the boat in high water to keep it from tipping over. What happened following their return to higher ground truly solidified the notion that these men had serendipitously rescued just the right person.
“Once we got to safety, we were so lucky because [Buck] had a house in Kemah, and he was already going to take 30 dogs from a shelter to his house but the shelter ended up finding foster homes for all the dogs,” Betty said. “His place was already set up for all of my dogs, and he just rescued the right person.”
Without a second thought, Buck left his boat with Anthony and Jeremy to facilitate more rescue efforts as he loaded Betty and her dogs into his truck and onward to his home. After an ambiguous phone call to his wife about the situation, she prepared to welcome them with open arms.
“As soon as we got back to the truck I called my wife, Amy, and told her, ‘I’m coming home with a truck full of dogs and two refugees that need a place to stay.’ There was no hesitation, no questions, she just said, ‘Great, I’ll see you when you get here,’” Buck said.
Worried that her shelves were not quite stocked to accommodate the incoming animals, Amy immediately put out a plea on Facebook asking for dog food, extra dog crates, and towels, informing that they were about to double the animal population at their home. The reaction was incredible, and Amy says that she cannot express the generosity of her friends and neighbors enough.
“By the time I got home there was a line of cars dropping off crates, dog food, blankets, towels, and everything you need to run a kennel basically,” Buck said. “It was instantaneous, and as the days progressed people just kept showing up.”
As Amy expressed, not only were the Beasleys a blessing to Betty, but Betty was also able to return the favor. Since she, her neighbor, and various volunteers were housed at their home, the Beasleys were given the ability and peace of mind to leave their own animals when duty called to help a dear friend in need.
“We had a call to go out and help save some goats for a friend of ours that we grew up with in Alvin. Her name is Dr. Leslie Easterwood; she’s a professor of veterinary medicine at [Texas] A&M and head veterinarian for the Houston livestock show and rodeo,” Amy said. “Her mother died in April of this year and she used to show goats, it was her pride and joy.”
Unable to get to the animals, the goats were in serious danger of drowning. Though she tried five different routes to get to her family, Dr. Easterwood could not get through the floodwaters to reach them and her stepfather. In desperation, she called the Beasleys for help.
“I would’ve never left my own animals and gone somewhere that I might have gotten stuck overnight, but because Betty and Junior (Betty’s neighbor) were here to take care of my dogs, we were able to pull eighteen goats out of the water just in the nick of time,” Amy said.
At the end of it all, it was safe to say that the happenings that unfolded were nearly too miraculous to be simply coincidental. Anthony and Jeremy were able to use Buck’s boat to save several more people, including an elderly woman who had only fifteen percent oxygen left on her portable machine. Dr. Easterwood could rest assured that her family and animals were well-attended, and Betty was able to relocate to a place where she and her 20 dogs could comfortably stay together. As Buck puts it, “we were very fortunate to be put in each other’s way, and we were just happy to help.”
Three of the dogs are still in Betty’s care, a few were sent to boarding before being picked up by their owners, seven were sent up north to a rescue group (Animal Rescue League in Iowa) that wanted to help, one dog was adopted, and the rest were placed in foster homes.
“I have to say I was mad at God at first for all the flooding,” Betty said. “But then I stepped back and said, ‘God just worked all this out,’ and it was just a miracle.”