Sandy Dog Nannies helps take bite out of superstorm for displaced pets

Burlington, Vt., is a long way from New York and the Jersey Shore, but when Joan Shannon read about the storm ravaged victims of Hurricane Sandy and their struggles to care for their pets she knew she had to get involved.

“I thought that there was probably a need for temporary shelter for the dogs,” she said, explaining her efforts were aimed as much at pet owners who found themselves in an unimaginable situation.

Hundreds of families were left homeless, and unable to take their dogs with them were forced to leave their beloved pets behind in the unheated remnants of their houses.

Shannon founded Sandy Dog Nannies, an organization of volunteers willing to temporarily foster dogs affected by the storm.  Dog owners in need are asked to provide a profile of their hound which is then shared with approved foster families that have been vetted by the organization.  The dog’s owner then reviews the applications and reports on the potential foster homes and selects the most appropriate offer.

Sandy Dog Nannies couldn’t have come at a better time for Debbie Blair. Like so many, she lost almost everything in the storm. Her home in Breezy Point was battered by flood waters and high winds — and while she fared better than some of her neighbors she was struggling to look after her 11-year-old Cairn terrier, Jessie. 

“There’s such a peace of mind that I have that I know my dog is safe and being well taken care of,” said Blair.  “Dogs pick up on all our stress as well, so she was removed from all the craziness that was going on in my house.  It’s just a blessing.”

The initial idea of Sandy Dog Nannies was to transport the dogs to the green mountains of Vermont, placing them with willing families.  However, Shannon quickly discovered that while storm victims were crying out for help they wanted their faithful hounds in close proximity so they could visit.  Debbie Blair’s terrier was placed with Kerry Madden in Manhattan.  “I was guaranteeing them that this dog would be well taken care of and I wanted them to take care of their needs,” said Madden.  Little Jessie now enjoys thrice daily walks along the sidewalk with Madden’s two other dogs and Blair can concentrate on rebuilding her home knowing her dog is safe.

It will be months, and in some cases years before some of the neighborhoods impacted by Sandy are rebuilt.

“Nobody anticipates being in the position that these folks are in where there are just no good options,” said Shannon. “If we have given somebody an option, we’ve been successful.”

It’s an example of people helping people, and man’s best friend — at perhaps their greatest time of need.

HOW TO HELP: Click here for more on Sandy Dog Nannies.

Fox News' Molly Line and Andrew Fone contributed to this report.