Like many Duke Energy employees, Chris Frank has an emergency response role: He’s a damage assessor – responsible for identifying what equipment, repairs and manpower are needed to restore power after major storms.
Frank worked 16-hour days across Florida’s Big Bend region for about a week after Hurricane Idalia passed through in September.
“The damage was unlike anything I’d seen before,” Frank said. “In many parts of these rural communities, we needed to completely rebuild – not just repair – entire circuits.”
Frank and other damage assessors from the Midwest spent most of their time in Florida working in the cities of Madison and Jasper. They also spent a day in Jennings, off Interstate 75 near the Georgia border.
While in Jennings to document and report damage, he came across a Duke Energy damage assessment crew standing along a rural road.
“I was wondering why they were standing there,” he said. “There weren’t any poles or lines down near them.”
When he pulled over, Frank discovered why: puppies. Seven of them.
“They just seemed so happy to see you,” he said, the proud owner of a 6-year-old rescue dog, Percy. “I felt an instant connection. I felt like they just wanted someone to care for them.”
By the time he arrived, the assessment crew had already contacted Animal Control. When Officer Ally arrived, she said she’d take the dogs with her. But that they’d likely be euthanized in a few days due to the department’s limited resources.
“I heard that,” Frank said, “and immediately knew there was no way I was going to let that happen.”
Later that day, he called the department to say he’d like to find a way to save the puppies. Ally, too, wanted to save them.
“She said she’d continue to care for them for a few days while I came up with a plan," Frank said.
When he got back to Ohio, his daughter, Brianna, who happens to be a veterinary technician, said she was headed to Nashville, Tenn., and would be happy to drive the puppies back to Ohio.
When he inquired about the best way to transport the litter from Florida to Tennessee, Officer Ally volunteered to make the drive.
And just like that, Frank was reunited with five of the seven puppies at his Ohio home. The other two remained in Florida; Ally adopted one and found a home for the second one.
The next day, he dropped the puppies off at a veterinarian’s office so they could be examined and vaccinated.
“I wanted to make sure each had a clean bill of health,” Frank said, “so I could in good faith begin finding homes for the ones we weren’t planning to adopt ourselves.”
Then the phone rang. It was Ally. She said Bug, the puppy she adopted from the litter, had just passed away from parvo, a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to unvaccinated dogs. Frank would later find out that Brat, the puppy Ally’s friend adopted, also succumbed to parvo.
Concerned, he called the vet who tested one of the dogs for the disease. And it was positive. That meant the other four puppies were likely affected, too. According to the veterinarian, treating parvo can be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Frank called his wife and together, they agreed to provide round-the-clock care to the puppies and help nurse them back to health. The alternative, he said, was euthanasia.
“There wasn’t even a discussion,” Frank said. “We knew we needed to do everything in our power to help these dogs.”
At 13 weeks old, four of five puppies are on the road to recovery. The fifth, Jasper, is “in bad shape, but fighting hard.”
“We’re going to keep at it,” he said. “I know each of them will get better and we’ll be able to find them forever homes.”