Rescuers save 6 pit bulls and 2 puppies from a flooded home in N.C. — where they survived by floating on couch cushions

Abby Haglage
American Humane has been in North Carolina bringing pets to safety for nearly two weeks. (Photo: Kenn Bell for American Humane and Code 3 Associates)
American Humane has been in North Carolina bringing pets to safety for nearly two weeks. (Photo: Kenn Bell for American Humane and Code 3 Associates)

It has been more than a week since Hurricane Florence touched down near Wilmington, N.C., but those affected by it are still working to pick up the pieces. The storm was classified as a Category 1 hurricane by the National Weather Association, bringing more than 20 inches of rain to 25 cities, fueling 16 tornadoes, and leaving at least 31 people dead in its wake.

While rescuers work to ensure that all residents of North Carolina are safe, others are devoting time and resources to the pets that were left behind. In a post by @DogFiles, a website that captures inspiring stories about pets, rescuers are shown saving what turned out to be six pit bulls and two puppies from a flooded house.

The post shows pictures of the dramatic rescue and includes some gruesome details — including the way in which the dogs survived. “One by one, they carried the scared dogs out to the boats,” the post reads. “These dogs had spent over 5 days in rancid flood waters keeping themselves alive by floating on couch cushions and on top of dressers. They didn’t eat and probably didn’t sleep much either.”

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Day 3. This day was rough, to say the least. We got a call from a good neighbor that barking was coming from a flooded, abandoned house. We arrived like we always do, by boat. We had two boats, three members of American Humane Rescue and one member of Code 3 Associates. As they breached the door, I filmed video from my left hand and took these photos with my right hand, while standing and balancing myself on the boat. What followed was the most dramatic scene I’ve ever been involved with. They walked through darkness and chest deep water following the sound of the barking. They opened an interior door and the horrid smell of feces and urine in the water hit them hard. Then they saw the first dog. He was keeping himself from drowning my using the body of a dead dog to float on. They yelled out to us that they had a bunch of big pit bulls to bring out. One by one, they carried the scared dogs out to the boats. These dogs had spent over 5 days in rancid flood waters keeping themselves alive my floating on couch cushions and on top of dressers. They didn’t eat and probably didn’t sleep much either. While the second dog was being brought out, the first poor pup released his bowels on the boat. He was sick and had the diarrhea to prove it. That made it much harder for our team leader, Josh to maneuver around the boat and secure all the dogs in crates. I also noticed that all the dogs had their ears cropped, badly. Some still had the stitches in. When all was done, we had 6 large pitties and 2 puppies on board. I can report that all are warm and cozy at our shelter, getting lots of love and doing much better. I think these photos tell an incredible story and shows the drama and urgency of this water rescue. I couldn’t be more prouder of the team. At the same time they were working this rescue, they were also always checking to make sure I was safe. I never had a doubt that I was in good hands! @code3associates @americanhumane #hurricaneflorence

A post shared by Dog Files (@dogfiles) on Sep 24, 2018 at 6:06am PDT

The dogs had reportedly been floating in the house for five days, most of them relying on couch cushions but at least one of them by “using the body of a dead dog to float on.” The dogs appeared to the rescuers to be very sick, likely from floating in their own excrement. The team was led by American Humane, the nation’s first humane organization, which has been rescuing animals for more than 100 years.

Mark Stubis, the head of communications for American Humane, says the organization has been on the ground in North Carolina for almost two weeks (after arriving early to help with pre-evacuation). While most of the saves have involved dogs and cats, they aren’t the only animals that American Humane has come across. “We have [also] rescued horses, goats, deer, steer, turkeys, chickens, and even parakeets,” Stubis tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

In a flooded house, American Humane found six pit bulls and two puppies, including one floating on a deceased dog. (Photo: Kenn Bell for American Humane and Code 3 Associates)
In a flooded house, American Humane found six pit bulls and two puppies, including one floating on a deceased dog. (Photo: Kenn Bell for American Humane and Code 3 Associates)

While rescue operations will likely continue, Stubis notes that it’s important for families who have been reunited with their pets to be gentle with them. “Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals too, presenting new stresses and dangers,” Stubis tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Your pet’s behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children, or strangers.”

He adds: “Animals need comforting too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.”

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