Written by Tammy Toups, owner of Augustus and Bronco
November 30, 2017
The evening before the flood waters rose someone approached us going door to door advising that we were under a voluntary evacuation. When questioned about the storm – we were advised that the flood would be like the flood of 1994 – about a foot of water that would stay for a few hours and recede quickly. We based our decision to shelter in place on this information. Our house is 18” above grade to the road and that would calculate to roughly 2.5 feet of water in our yard before it ever reached our porch or entered our home. We had a plan… for our horses, our 5 dogs, ourselves, our property, and our home. We worked roughly 20 hours prior to the flood to be sure we had shelter, rations, water… we tried to think of everything… the information that we based our plan on did not include a 6 foot wall of water landing on our doorstep. We got 9… 9 feet of water as evidenced by water marks coming down from the highest log in our home….but I have gotten ahead of myself…
The day of the flood, the water began to come onto the porch – I was outside assessing the storm and a Sheriff in a boat began to call out to me – I went to the street – and he advised that we were about to be hit with a 6 foot wall of water – I was speechless…he said there was someone in the edition from livestock trying to help get other animals out – I told him to send them my way. I went to the house and called my daughter and asked her to call all the agencies she could reach and advise them that we needed to get our horses out, our dogs, and ourselves. We had a plan to get the horses out, the dogs, and ourselves when someone arrived. I called a friend with a boat, my daughter called Eli and Sabrina who helped rescued horses during the recent Evadale flood and we worked trying to prepare for the evacuation. During all the calls, the game warden showed up – he told my husband to get the 5 dogs and me and get in his boat – that he would take us to the highway and we could get back in with someone who had a motor boat because the horses couldn’t come out behind his air boat. Help was on the way – or so we thought. My daughter came to the highway – and took us all to a local church where we made a place to shelter the dogs. Eli and Sabrina were not allowed to cross over the bridge into Beaumont and were turned around. My friend arrived with his boat but was not allowed to launch it off the highway – he said the directives were that no one was going back in the edition except first responders. We were told that there were experienced rescuers working to get the people and the animals to the highway – not to worry. And, that when they got out to the highway there were people with trailers coming from all over that would help bring them wherever they needed to go to reach safety. We followed up with the agencies that were contacted to help with the rescue, as well as the Sheriff, Ford Park, local agencies and the numerous leads of where animals were transported to during and after the storm. We continue to look for them and follow up on any information that is provided we are certain that someone took them off the porch during the flood and are safe somewhere. We want to get information out to the public that we are continuing to look for them and post fliers in hopes that someone may have seen them and know where they are. I believe that someone is still watching out for them and does not know how to get them back to me. And, I need help to get the message out to contact me with any information – no matter how small it may seem – that may help us find them.
Aside from the fact that these boys are my family, they are also my service animals. I am a military veteran with a service connected disability, and these horses are my therapy animals. My Sorrel I got when he was 2 years old. He had been tied to a tree, rain scalded, and the halter was embedded in his face. He only weighed about 400 pounds when we brought him home. I began to care for his wounds, cut the halter out of his face, and worked with him daily to build trust. I did not realize when I got him the impact he would have on my life – but from the very start his condition and our interactions began to heal me… heal him… heal us both. I need him more now than he needed me then. This is Augustus. A few years later we got word of another horse in a precarious situation and brought him home. He had a bad infection in his shoulder and it was feared that he would have to be put down because it would not heal. Doc Schneiter cut a hole the size of a basketball in his shoulder to remove the tunneled infection. We worked with him several times a day and over time the wound closed nicely to about the size of a small hotdog bun – and we both learned to trust. This is Bronco. The bonds that I have with these animals surpasses understanding and the healing that we provide to each other on a daily basis cannot be easily explained. But, I need them now more than ever – and if they feel anything like I do – they are searching for me too. We have grown to be inseparable and the impact of their loss in unimaginable. We lost everything – 9 feet of water entered our home, covered our trucks, tractor, personal belongings… everything – but nothing has hit me harder than not being able to find my boys. So, if there is any way possible that you can help spread the word, photos, web sites, information on how to get them back to me – or help me to find them I would be grateful. I am sending this request out in peace – pleading for assistance with hope that someone will reach out to me… provide some information… so that I can come for them and bring them home. For more information: Check out Ch 12, The Examiner, Net Posse, and Facebook. We have a report that ran on Channel 12 along with internet access, The Examiner ran a full page story (17A) in the October 5 copy detailing our separation, we have contacted Net Posse who has agreed to represent the boys and assist in bringing them home. The Net Posse file # that corresponds with my boys is: #NR005344. There are pictures, narratives, Coggins reports, descriptions of their positive identifiers – as well as a flier that can be printed and posted in public to help spread the word. The address is NetPosse.com and you can find their file referencing #NR005344 Augustus and Bronco. And, Deputy Metts with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s livestock division has also agreed to help get them safely back home.
I am a little challenged in the electronics realm, but will try to see if I can copy and paste the Net Posse link – they have taken things that were posted and tried to group them all into one centralized location on the Net Posse web site. Please call if you would like to speak with me… and I would love for my daughter to be present as well… thank you for your time and consideration.
This was my response to the media yesterday… this was before I saw the picture…
To Net Posse… I want to thank everyone for being there for me and I pray that we remain friends even tho everything… as my daughter says. I am both speechless and devastated… riddled with guilt for not protecting my boys and brutally sick at the outcome… the bonds I have with my horses surpasses the common understanding of most within the “human realm”… and while I may never forgive the events of the storm, I have to believe in the hope that we will be reunited in the spirit realm… and I will hold on to my boys every day in my heart… in my thoughts… and in my actions… and I will honor them in death as I always have in life and I will continue to search for closure with both my boys. Yesterday I reached out to my ancestors… asking for guidance… confirmation… hope… peace… the range of emotions that follows news such as this… I do not know how to go on… I do not know what lies ahead… all that I know is I am here and they are not… there are strong unexplainable bonds that unite the living with the not… today I begin to try to live with and understand all that is happening… and I know that my boys… my ancestors… and all the good people in this world like you… will keep me going. I pray for love… for peace… and for understanding as we move through this… as well as the many other encounters that test our human nature… God Bless you all… Thank you for everything… Sending my love… Tammy
And Pam… wow… I cannot thank you enough for hanging in there with me… I know that was not an easy thing for you to do from so far away. Your words were comforting and your presence kept me calm. I want to thank you for your love and compassion that shined through this unimaginable set of circumstances. Thank you for facing this down with me… and I want to say what an honor it is to call you my friend…. T
Net Posse team member Pam was on the phone with me when the Sheriff arrived with a picture of a horse that drowned in the flood. He said he thought it was Augustus and that I needed to look at the picture. Pam kept me focused – is it not him… or is it that you do not want it to be him… she was right… so right… it was hard to see the photo at all… I absolutely did not want to see that photo… The Sheriff went to his truck while I was looking at the photo and talking to Pam… he sent my husband back with a black trash bag that was tied in a knot. When I looked up – he had an expression that cannot be explained… I asked “what is that… what are you bringing me”… he held it out and squeezed my hand around the knot in the bag. Time stopped as I looked into his eyes for what seemed eternity. He gently let go and I took the bag. I opened it… it was a tail… a horses tail… it vaguely resembled Augustus’ tail – but it was full of dirt and sand and disheveled… I cared for him meticulously and had never seen his tail this way before… so it was not easy for me to see if it was his or not. I felt the strands of hair and could not detect the same feelings… it did not feel soft and brushed… it did not smell of his conditioner… it was not the “right” color…I couldn’t see it. I did not want to see that photo… and I did not want to see his tail this way… but when I closed my eyes… and held his tail close to my heart… I knew…I did not even have to look at that photo… we have that kind of bond… all I needed to do was touch him… in any way… just touch him… and I would know. Now I know. Today I will reach out to Metts to find where he is… today I do not want to dig him up to touch him… to see if it is him… today I want to touch his spirit… apologize… hold him… let him know that this is not goodbye and that I will keep him with me always. I want him to know how much he has helped me and how much I love him… and that no matter about the future he will always be my boy… he has saved me in ways too big for words… and if he could just stay with me a little longer… if he will allow me to hold on to him… I will keep his spirit alive in me… with me… always.
Months later it is all so surreal… The despair of trying to face this alone would have been unbearable…Every flier that I go out and take down brings me back to the reality of what happened and how abruptly our lives were changed. The Net Posse team and my family have been right there with me spending countless hours and personal funds to assist in bringing my boys home… and remaining with me in the aftermath of not being able to bring them home. Surreal is an understatement… no one could have known… apparently no one did know what was coming our way… I am so sick with grief over the loss of my boys and the situation as a whole… so much so that we are implementing a plan as we speak to prevent this (to the best of our ability) from ever happening to anyone else. What happened to my family cannot be repeated – others cannot go through what I am going through – there has to be an emergency response plan in place for everyone – including our animals. I leave you in peace, and with the hope that all will come to fruition and my boys’ legacy will be carried on through the implementation of a program to address what happened and to guard against it happening again… to this terrible storm I whisper… “I am the storm”.
Note from Pam Miller, Reports Manager: The above story was written by Tammy Toups, the owner of Augustus and Bronco. Our hearts all break for their loss . Tammy is one of a kind. Working with her throughout this search for her beloved horses meant the world to not only me, but all of our volunteers. We hope that this story helps others and will aide in preventing the loss of another beloved horse during a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey.
To Tammy: I am thankful to call you my friend and am grateful for God allowing our paths to cross! One day I will get to meet you and give you that big hug you so much needed the day that Detective Metts came to your house with the photo. I felt as if I was there with you that day. May God Bless You and Your Family! Much Love, Pam
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