NORMAN — The 2-year-old dachshund peered out from between bars, watching with warm, friendly eyes as a line of people began to trickle into the Cleveland County Fairgrounds. Around him, other dogs barked and wagged tails, or slept in their crates. In a smaller room in the back, kittens and cats waited for people to reach them.
As visitors passed, the tiny dog greeted them with a shy wiggling of his thin tail. The dachshund had lost one family, but on Sunday he was ready to be claimed by a new one.
Like the other pets at the fairgrounds, this dog was separated from his owners in a series of tornadoes and severe storms that ripped through Moore and the surrounding area in May.
In the month since the storms struck, more than 150 dogs and cats have been reunited with their owners, thanks to the efforts of area animal shelters and compassionate volunteers. However, an equal number of animals remained unclaimed.
The 150 unclaimed animals from three metro-area shelters were offered for adoption Sunday at a special one-day adoption event. Long before the doors opened, lines of potential pet owners formed, stretching across the fairgrounds' parking lot.
Angela Lester and daughters Halie, 9, and Kourtney, 3, of Oklahoma City, were some of the first in line.
“We have a small dog now, and we're hoping to find her a friend,” Lester said. “We want to welcome one of these dogs into our home.”
Kristi Scroggins, who has a veterinary clinic in Moore, recognized many of her patients at the event. In the wake of the storm, she and other veterinarians worked to treat injured animals, spay or neuter them and microchip them before adoption.
Like many of the vets, Scroggins worked on the pet tornado victims on a volunteer basis, but seeing the dogs and cats given a chance to start a new life was payment enough.
“I treated a lot of lacerations, broken legs, eye injuries from debris,” Scroggins said. “These animals have been through a lot, and they deserve a good home.”
Most of the people who came to the event were searching for a new pet, but others are still hoping to find old ones.
Haleigh Wilkes and her husband, Bryan, scoured the shelters' websites looking for their dog Tux. He wasn't there. Undaunted, they came to the adoption event to hand out fliers, hoping fellow dog lovers will reach out to help find him.
The Wilkes' duplex was hit in the May 20 tornado. Both of their dogs were sheltering in the garage at the time. One came into the house, but Tux bolted. Since then, the Wilkeses have continued to look for him, even creating a Facebook page where people can post sightings of Tux.
“It's been rough,” Haleigh Wilkes said. “It's sad for us, but it's nice to see all these people out here, helping other dogs find a loving home.”
By 6 p.m., all but a dozen of the pets had been adopted.
Some still looking
The state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department continues to post pictures of any newfound or unclaimed animals. Anyone searching for a pet should go to www.facebook.com/OklahomaAg.