ST. ANNE — Call them “Hurricane Dogs.”
At least that is how Jean Vinke, of Limestone Township, describes the 29 dogs she and her daughter, Sierra Davis, rescued from the devastation left by Hurricane Laura as it passed through Texas and Louisiana more than two weeks ago.
The storm caused massive damages there, but Vinke, a longtime correctional guard at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, wanted to do something to help. Already involved in helping dogs — particularly retired police dogs — find loving homes through the “K9 Up Project Free” she and Terry Ryan, of Bourbonnais, started in 2019, Vinke just couldn’t sit back as she learned of the scores of dogs who had lost their homes or were simply abandoned as a result of Hurricane Laura.
So, just this past Saturday, shortly after completing her shift at the detention center, Vinke and Sierra set out for Sabine, La., where they had learned a kill-shelter was seeking help in placing dogs into new homes.
They rented a minivan and after more than a dozen hours of driving, they arrived in Sabine, in southwest Louisiana, where they found more dogs than they could ever load into their van.
“There is a lot of poverty there in addition to the hurricane,” Vinke explained. “There are so many people there displaced. They just keep bringing the dogs in. There were so many puppies there who needed to be placed. We just wanted to help.”
They filled up the van with 29 dogs. Where the dogs would eventually find a home was not exactly clear to Vinke, but she knew that Jordan Chapman, the executive director of the Kankakee County Humane Foundation in St. Anne, was more than willing to help out.
On Monday morning, following a 20-hour return trip to Kankakee County — a trip which included some potty breaks for a van-full of pups — Vinke dropped off 17 dogs at the foundation. Of the 17 dogs, 15 are less than 6 months old. Three of the fury, four-legged pups are under 8 weeks.
Breeds range from terrier mix, to golden retriever to black labs.
Chapman couldn’t resist taking in this pack.
“Before they left for Louisiana, I told her we would take some dogs. Just fill up the van with them.”
Her friend did just that.
“Unfortunately in these type of situations [hurricanes and other natural disasters], people leave their dogs behind,” Chapman said noting the dogs are full of life and seem to be thoroughly enjoying life near the northern region of the country, rather than its southern boundary.
“The dogs haven’t missed a beat,” she said.
Chapman noted the foundation shelter just happened to be somewhat low in terms of dogs as adoptions have been doing well recently, so there was plenty of bed space available.
“We’ve got plenty of dogs available. We’ve got little ones, big ones and they are all over on ages,” she said.
With the Monday delivery, the shelter at 2214 Illinois Route 1, St. Anne, now has 30 dogs in all. She noted dogs can be viewed in person or on the foundation’s Facebook page. Chapman advises potential adoptive families to fill out paperwork prior to arranging a visit.
Getting such a large influx of canines is not unheard of. Chapman noted in December they took in 19 dogs from the Pembroke Township area.
“These new dogs are looking very healthy,” Chapman said. “They look like such sweet dogs. We’re busy, but busy in a good way.”
She believes these dogs will be adopted out in no more than two weeks time.
“It’s going to take us longer to sort through the applications than it will be to find hones. It’s great we were able to help,” Chapman said.
Said Vinke: “The van was cramped, but it was worth it.”