When Georgia Romain arrived at the Cutter Aviation landing strip Wednesday morning, she thought she was helping her mother, Gayle, pick up medical equipment for the obstetrics unit where her mom works.
Instead, Georgia was handed two terrier-mix puppies sent from a cat- and dog-rescue organization in Louisiana that transferred 100 cats and dogs to the Front Range to make room for animals left homeless in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
"I'm so happy," Georgia said through tears.
"We've been keeping this a secret for five weeks," said Gayle, who is from New Castle on the Western Slope. "Our family has never been without a dog, and ours died five months ago. It is the right time."
The space now open at Acadiana Animal Aid west of Baton Rouge will be filled with dogs and cats from the Houston Humane Society and shelters in southwestern Louisiana areas under pre-evacuation notice.
Some of the animals, like the Romains' two unnamed terriers, had families waiting for them at the airport. Others would go home with one of four rescue organizations. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region took 21 dogs to its Colorado Springs shelter and 17 to its Pueblo facility.
"This transfer ensures that we get our babies and surrounding municipal shelters' babies out of Louisiana, so when we do have animals come in from Houston and southwestern Louisiana, they don't have to be euthanized," said Drea Broussard, dog adoption coordinator for Acadiana Animal Aid.
The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region's busiest time of year is summer, even without a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, said Gretchen Pressley, the agency's spokeswoman. Although the shelter will be full, Pressley said, it was essential to help Acadiana Animal Aid.
"It's important for us to help our transfer partner and free up resources for them," Pressley said.
Broussard said Acadiana Animal Aid also was overwhelmed with shelter animals last August when Louisiana experienced massive flooding and needed to transfer its rescue animals. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region opened its doors to Acadiana then as well, she said.
"To be reached out to by Colorado rescues and continuously helped out by these awesome people, we can't say enough," Broussard said.
All dogs transferred to the local Humane Society already have been tested for heartworms or will be. Those that pass medical and behavior evaluations will be up for adoption as early as the end of the week, Pressley said.
"You're exhausted at the end of the day, sweaty and covered in stuff," Broussard said. "But you don't care because seeing parents pick up their dogs is what makes it worth it."