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Andrew Locke and Bob Sullivan

From Sept. 22-27, the posts in this blog about Rita's evacuation and devastation were reported and photographed by Bob Sullivan and Andrew Locke. Sullivan, 37, is MSNBC.com's technology and consumer fraud reporter. Locke, 34, in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial strategy, was on his second hurricane blog tour.

David Friedman and Miguel Llanos

From Sept. 18-22, the posts in this blog, examining Katrina's impact on the environment, were reported and photographed by Miguel Llanos and David Friedman. Llanos, 45, is MSNBC.com's environmental reporter. Photojournalist Friedman, 35, is a multimedia producer at MSNBC.com.

Kari Huus and Jim Seida

From Sept. 10-16, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Kari Huus and Jim Seida. Huus, 43, has been a journalist for 20 years and a reporter with MSNBC.com since 1996. Seida, 39, has been a media editor with the Web site since 1996.

Mike Brunker and Andrew Locke mugshot

From Sept. 2-9, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Mike Brunker, left, and Andrew Locke. A journalist for 25 years, Brunker, 49, is MSNBC.com's West Coast news editor. Locke, 34, has been a journalist for 17 years and is currently in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial media strategy.

How you can help

How to help the victims of Hurricane Rita

How to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

FOSTER CARE FOR MISS KITTY?

Posted: Tuesday, September 27 at 07:53 pm CT by Mike Brunker

UPDATE: Nov. 23, 2005, 10:15 a.m. PT -- Bill Harris died Monday in a Slidell, La., hospital. Click here to read Mr. Harris' obituary. Comments will be posted at the end of this blog entry.

Bill Harris, the Slidell, La., man who credits his survival during Hurricane Katrina to his beloved cat, Miss Kitty, is agonizing over long-term plans for her care amid indications that his stay at a no-animals nursing home will not be a short one.

Harris, who was moved to the Trinity Neurologic Rehabilitation Center in Slidell last week so that he could be near his mother, Jane, says his chronic kidney condition has worsened as a result of his ordeal over three days after the storm surge roared up a canal off Lake Pontchartrain and turned his condominium into kindling. That probably precludes a quick release from the nursing home, he admits.

050928_billcat_2
Bill Harris cradles Miss Kitty in his room at the Trinity Neurologic Rehabilitation Center in Slidell, La. (Donna Wackerbauer / Special to MSNBC)

He also has yet to receive any relief assistance from FEMA and counts as his worldly possessions the shorts he was wearing when he was rescued and a few sets of donated clothes that friends and the Red Cross provided him with since.

“I haven’t heard anything from them, but the lady I talked to on the phone said I was approved … so I must be on that list,” he says optimistically when I talk to him on the phone.

The uncertainty over the length of his stay at the nursing home has forced him to consider something he never thought he’d have to face: placing his pet with a foster family until he can get back on his feet. If it comes to that, he’s going to be very particular about the person or family that gets temporary guardianship of Miss Kitty, he says.

“Otherwise she might try and run away and find us,” he says. “She’s that type of cat.”

Donna Wackerbauer, a volunteer with the animal rescue group Noah’s Wish who helped recover Miss Kitty, says that she’ll keep the brown-and-yellow cat at the temporary shelter in a warehouse at a Slidell city complex as long as possible to give Harris time to work through his options.

And in the meantime, she and her rescue partner, Slidell animal control officer Horace Troullier, plan to bring the cat to the nursing home as often as possible so that Harris can have some “cuddle time” in an exterior courtyard.

Harris says his spirits, as well as those of his mother, were brightened when they brought Miss Kitty by Sunday for an unannounced visit.

“My mom was so surprised,” he says. “She hadn’t seen her in seven years. … She got right there up on my lap and on Mother’s lap.”

And Wackerbauer says Miss Kitty’s newfound fame preceded her to the nursing home.

“Everybody at Trinity knows the story,” Wackerbauer says of staff and other residents. “As soon as we walked in with that cat, they knew who we were and what we were doing.”

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