Katrina dog reunited with New Orleans family | SummitDaily.com

Katrina dog reunited with New Orleans family

DONNA GRAYgarfield county correspondent

Special to the Daily

Buster the Hurricane Katrina dog is back with his owners. He was picked up by Angelo Kingvalsky and his mother Lydia on Saturday, Dec. 17, from Camp Wolfgang, in Ennis, Texas, a shelter for German shepherd dogs.”It was immediately obvious this was Buster’s family,” said Wallace Swanson, who operates Camp Wolfgang. “He was ecstatic. He ran to them and licked their hands. His tail was wagging like it never wagged here.”The Kingvalskys were understandably happy to have Buster back.”It was great. He was very happy to see us … especially when he saw Mother,” Kingvalsky said via telephone. Kingvalsky and his mother remain in temporary housing in Dallas for the time being.

“He’s with my mother,” Kingvalsky said.”We were very concerned about Buster. I returned (to New Orleans) when I could and didn’t find him. We were hoping the worst hadn’t happened,” he said. “We prayed, and evidently our prayers were answered.”Buster’s story began on Aug. 29 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The Kingvalskys had evacuated their homes in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and eventually found temporary housing in Dallas.Buster, a German shepherd mix, was rescued and taken to a mass shelter in Gonzalez, La. There, along with eight other dogs, he came under the care of Sue Schmidt of Silt who drove to Gonzalez with others from Colorado to offer their services in rescuing dogs displaced by the hurricane. Schmidt brought the dogs back to Colorado and they were subsequently taken in by Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) in the hopes they would be reclaimed by their owners or adopted out locally.Buster became the center of a battle between Schmidt and CARE after the dog bit CARE director Leslie Rockey on Oct. 21, at Schmidt’s house in Silt. After turning Buster over to CARE to be quarantined, Schmidt feared he would ultimately be put to death because the shelter had declared him unadoptable.

In an effort to regain custody of the dog, Schmidt sued CARE but dropped the case on Nov. 28, when the Kingvalskys were identified as Buster’s owners. Although Schmidt said the Kingvalskys requested she take charge of Buster until they could take him back, on Dec. 8, he was transferred to Camp Wolfgang, which is near Dallas. Camp Wolfgang is a shelter and sanctuary that specializes in rescuing German shepherds and mixes and has expert skill in dealing with problem dogs.Swanson said Buster was “not particularly friendly” when he first came to Camp Wolfgang, “which was understandable considering what he’d been through.”But day by day he got better, Swanson said. “He took a liking to a volunteer (who) has a rare way with dogs.” Buster came to accept treats from the man and even wagged his tail.Swanson said there is hope for dogs with the toughest behavior problems. “Just because a dog has bitten doesn’t mean it should be euthanized,” he said.

All dogs who come to Camp Wolfgang are “desensitized” he said. Of the approximately 20 dogs with biting problems that have come to the shelter, all but one have been successfully adopted out.Swanson, who founded the shelter and sanctuary in the late 1970s, left a successful law practice in Dallas to care for abandoned German shepherds. The shelter has about 180 dogs in residence and has adopted out 700 between Washington state and south Florida, Swanson said.”Buster is a very lucky dog,” he said.Contact Donna Gray at (970) 945-8515 ext. 510 or dgray@postindependent.com.