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Pet groomer tracks down lost animals

Editor's note: Times-Picayune photographer Susan Poag took pictures of Patricia Bateman and her family days after Hurricane Katrina as they tried to save several pets in their care. Poag recently met again with Bateman.

It was unwavering love, not her livelihood, that propelled Patricia Bateman and three family members to inch their way down debris-strewn St. Bernard Highway six days after Hurricane Katrina, pushing a broken cart stacked with 27 pets through the staggering heat.

Bateman, 56, owner of Groomingdale's pet grooming shop in Chalmette, rode out Katrina at her business, watching over her pets and those of her family and customers.

"We had our pets, our children's and then a few customers' pets. People kept asking, 'Do you mind taking care of mine?,' " Bateman said. Her generosity resulted in a small menagerie of 15 dogs, 10 cats and two birds, all of which rode out the storm along with Bateman; her husband, Robert Bateman; her sister, Holly Olivieri; and her nephew, Chuckie Glenn.

"We had never left before for any storm. I had been through Betsy as a child, and we had stayed in our building, year after year. We knew if we kept our kids' pets that they would be able to leave," Bateman said.

Rising water forced the group into a second-story apartment above the shop. But in the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane, a combination of heat, fear and exhaustion sent people and pets on a journey that has yet to come full circle.

Ordered to leave St. Bernard Parish and having lost the four family vehicles to the flood, the group set out on foot Sept. 4. Bateman said the four hoped to get to the ferry landing and make it to safety on the West Bank.

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