Long Beach resident and cat owner Randy Lerner was an eyewitness as Hurricane Sandy hit the shore of Long Island.
“I live across the street from the ocean,” he said, “and I watched the heavy waves as they pounded the shoreline. … Max slept under the sheets and only came out to sit on my lap a few times. He was so scared. We were in total darkness.”
The basement of Lerner’s apartment building flooded, and he had no heat or electricity. Two days later he decided to go to the Red Cross shelter at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex, with Maximilian, or Max, his 5-year-old Siamese cat, right across the street, at an emergency animal rescue center that was set up by North Shore Animal League America.
Lerner has faced many challenges in recent years, including a long battle with cancer. Max has been with him since he was 8 weeks old, and has been his steadfast companion. The last time Lerner came back from an overnight stay at the hospital, Max refused to leave his side for more than 24 hours. “He just wrapped himself around me — he knew I wasn’t feeling well,” Lerner said. “He knows when I’m coming home. He waits for the sound of the elevator. He’ll cry until I open the door and he can wrap himself around my shoulders. I’m all he’s ever known.”
Lerner visited Max often at the shelter, bringing him his favorite treats. “I was so happy when I found out about the North Shore Animal League emergency shelter,” he recalled. “I can’t imagine what I would do without him there.”
“We always monitor the weather, and if we see something coming, we mobilize,” said the organization’s communications manager, Lindsey Calabrese, adding that it sent rescue teams to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, to Colorado during wildfires and to Louisiana after Hurricane Isaac, among other efforts. During Hurricane Sandy, the league sent two mobile units to Mitchel Field, where the operation took over the complex’s gymnasium.
“People found out, and dropped their pets off,” said NSALA Offsite Director Anthony Angioletti. “Within the first three days, we had almost 100 animals there.”