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Breeders facing tough choices

Two Louisiana evacuees in St. Petersburg must sell some dachshunds.

By LEONORA LaPETER
Published September 6, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - Somewhere on Interstate 10 between Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, as they listened to car radio reports of flooding in New Orleans, Lynne and Bill Mack realized they would have to get rid of the dachshunds.

Both of them had worked in New Orleans, he as a car dealership general manager, she as a nurse. Now their jobs were gone - underwater. The couple, who were headed to St. Petersburg to stay with family temporarily, didn't know where they would end up.

But they knew they couldn't find their way with 18 dachshunds in tow.

Across the southeast, thousands of residents of storm-torn cities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are trying to decide what to do with what's left of their old lives and how to start new ones.

For the Macks, it launched the painful process of deciding which dogs would stay and which would go. Will and Grace, the first they bought when they started breeding three years ago, would go.

Lili, a black and tan short-haired dachshund with an attachment to Lynne, would stay. So would Peanut, a red short-haired with no tail and bad hips. And Katey, a red dappled dachshund who had been a present to Bill Mack's father before he died.

"We had a nice life over there," said Bill Mack, 49, a large man who wore a New Orleans Saints T-shirt and a baseball cap over his gray ponytail. "We had a beautiful home, a lot of land, our little animals and we both had good jobs, and then one day it all changed. You just don't realize how fragile things are."

The Macks did not evacuate their home before Hurricane Katrina blew through Covington, located about 42 miles north of New Orleans. They stayed in their bedroom with all the dogs, which were strangely quiet as the deafening storm passed by. The floors shook and the windows bowed inward, and then a tree fell on the house.

After the storm passed, the Macks realized they were lucky. The 3,200-square foot New Orleans-style Acadian home with its large wrap-around porch and metal roof, was still standing.

Without power, the Macks decided to turn to Lynne Mack's brother, Gregory Powell, who lives in St. Petersburg. They made two trips back and forth to get the dogs during the past week.

As the radio reports described the devastation in New Orleans, the Macks reluctantly realized they would have to sell their home.

"It's a fun, remarkable place to live," Bill Mack said, "and obviously we liked to eat by the looks of us and it had great restaurants."

They are not sure where they will end up. Lynne Mack has a temporary job with a St. Petersburg company that sends dialysis patients on cruises. But she's hoping her employer in New Orleans, a national company, will find her a job in another community. Bill Mack has a temporary job at a car dealership in Covington, La.

Somehow, though, the cash needs to start flowing.

That's where the dogs come in. The couple started breeding dachshunds three years ago. The first year, they sold 10. The second year, 25. This past year, they sold 50 dogs. The money helped fund Bill Mack's passion, a race car.

Now they hope the money will help them live. Some, like the chocolate dachshunds, cost $100. Others, like a rare black and tan piebald dachshund, cost $1,000. There are two puppies, one for $450, the other for $650. Most of the dogs are bred to American Kennel Club standards. There are also two birds, a green-winged macaw and an African grey, and a lizard for sale. The Macks say it's like selling their children.

"It's the hardest decision we've ever had to make, who will stay and who will go," said Lynne Mack, 51. "It's all we really have left from our life there, and it's very, very hard."

[Last modified September 6, 2005, 22:07:01]


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