As people sought shelter from Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 29, the dark gray puppy with white patches greeted them, tail wagging.
The collie mix, with a makeshift leash made out of gauze, had followed humans walking nearly 3 miles from the Greater Third Ward to seek shelter at George R. Brown Emergency Center in Houston.
Lester Hernandez was immediately taken when he met the dog on his fourth day in Houston, where he was accompanied by the other 20 American Medical Response paramedics from Las Vegas assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I knew she needed a home,” he said.
All it took was a brief text exchange with his wife. She agreed.
The puppy was coming back to Las Vegas — in the front seat of the ambulance. Hernandez named her Houston.
She joined his 7-year-old German Shepherd, Rogue, who grew lonely after her father, Gambit, died six months ago.
“She missed having a companion,” Hernandez said.
Houston was a hungry and happy dog when she greeted police officers and paramedics at the shelt
er, said Mark Wilton, senior operations supervisor for American Medical.
“She must have eaten six McDonald’s cheeseburgers that day,” he said.
The local team drove 20 hours straight in six ambulances on Aug. 25. They joined the ambulance company’s 800 other paramedics from 42 states to help patients seeking refuge from local nursing homes, provide standby medical services and respond to 911 calls. Six local paramedics also were deployed to Florida to help victims of Hurricane Irma.
“Our employees were chomping at the bit to go out there to help,” said Damon Schilling, government affairs manager. “We’re happy Las Vegas could be a part of it.”
During their trip, Wilton and Hernandez said they saw extraordinary acts of kindness. A line of more than 2,000 volunteers snaked around the George R. Brown shelter. As the paramedics loaded the trucks with patients in the middle of the night, a couple walked down and offered them coffee.
Seeing the puppy outside the shelter was a source of comfort for Hernandez, among everything else he saw that day. A vet estimated she was 8 months old.
When Hernandez got back to Las Vegas, his 4-year-old son ran past him to embrace the puppy. Even though he is now home with a new family member, Hernandez said there is still work to be done for those affected by hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
“This is going to be ongoing for years,” he said. “Some people have nothing left.”
Contact Briana Erickson at email@example.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.