Humane Society remembers 74 dogs lost in last year's fire

Humane Society remembers 74 dogs lost in last year's fire

The Humane Society of Southeast Texas marked the one-year anniversary of last year’s fire on Wednesday, March 15.

The staff held the memorial service with a blessing of the pets and a prayer from Pastor Dan Tatum, chaplain at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Monica Lee, development director at the Humane Society, opened the ceremony.

“This line of work is definitely one of those lines of work where you become a family,” Lee said. “Not only are all of our staff members and our board members part of our family, all of our volunteers are part of our family, all of our adopters are part of our family, and of course all of our alums, our precious babies are also part of our family.”

“Today, we are remembering 74 very important members who are part of our family who passed away one year ago today,” she added, but also said, “We look toward the future and remember all of the ones we have yet to save.” Sherry Mae Fontenot, animal health supervisor, recalled memories with other staff members of March 15, 2016.

“[It] was a good day,” Fontenot said. “The sun was shining, each of the dogs had played outside. They ran, they snuggled, gave kisses.”

Every dog in the shelter received extra playtime in the yard due to the increased number of volunteers and visitors that day, the staff recalled in a Facebook post March 14.

On the night of March 15, an electrical fire destroyed the shelter. First responders battled the fire for three hours while volunteers, board members and staff watched, helpless to save the animals inside, according to the Humane Society. Ultimately, the fire took the lives of 74 dogs, but 11 dogs and all of the shelter’s cats survived.

“That evening, 74 dogs gained their wings too soon. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of every single one of them,” Fontenot said. “Nothing will replace the sweet souls we lost.”

Pastor Dan Tatum sprinkled holy water over the 74 white crosses arranged in the shade, next to the temporary shelter buildings, and led the gathering in a prayer.

“I thought about this day, it’s a heavy day, and I think it’s a heavy day because we care so much. I love the fact that we have names on all of these crosses. They all mean something,” he said in his address.

He talked about his own pets, a dog named Sammy and cat named Heather, who accompanied his family in a cross-country move last year from Atlanta. The group laughed about his family and the two pets riding together for 11 hours in his Nissan Sentra.

“I’m grateful for them ... for the way that they cared for me and for the way that I will take good care of them,” Tatum said. “I think sometimes the line blurs between who is the companion for whom.”

Tatum recognized the connection that people share with their animal companions and how they enrich our lives even from early development in his benediction.

“God of furry beings,” he prayed, “in the beginning you honored us with the companionship of all creation, nurturing our souls through both human and animal community. Indeed they give light to our souls and nourish our hearts and we remember the animals of our childhood.

“Today, we reflect on our love for them and their love for us. We have become the person we are because we have loved these animals and we carry them in our hearts.”

The Humane Society also honored the firefighters on call the night of the fire with a meal sponsored by Courville’s Catering.

“These guys risked so much for our animals, and we will forever be grateful,” Humane Society staff said in a Facebook post on March 16. “Filling their bellies is only a small token of our gratitude, but we sure had fun doing it! Thank you again to Beaumont Fire [and] Rescue for all that you did that evening, and all that you do for our community each day.”