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Saving Stranded Strangers and their Dogs


How one Katy family offered to share their home with FOUR strangers and FIVE dogs that were stranded at Whole Foods

KATY MAGAZINE I October 2017

by Katrina Katsarelis I Photography by Sara Isola

As the flood waters rose to their front door on August 28, Lauren Black and her family knew they needed to evacuate their Cinco Ranch home immediately. They frantically started making calls requesting boats and by 8 PM they were rescued from their front door.

Deedra McFadden, Mike Pace with daughter Olivia. The Pace's opened their home to two couples and five dogs that were stranded in a parking lot during Hurricane Harvey

Just the clothes on our backs

The boat was loaded down with Lauren, her husband Steven, and her parents Kody and Kelley Whaley, who were staying with them temporarily. The foursome also had five family dogs, all of which were carried onto the rescue boats as well. "We left our home with a friend of the family's address in hand, our dogs, and some backpacks," Lauren says.

Evacuees Lauren and Steven Black with their dogs at the Pace's home

Desperation Sets In

From the boat drop off, they were all bused to Beck Junior High and then trucked to Whole Foods where buses waited to load up evacuees. "We were told that Cinco Ranch High School and Gallery Furniture shelters were full, and that George R Brown didn't allow pets," says Lauren Black. A volunteer saw the two couples and their dogs and asked if they could take them somewhere. Lauren says she remembered the address of the family friends she had written down. To the family's dismay, however, the volunteers said that address was not accessible by car. The family began to get heartsick and discouraged. "There we stood soaking wet, cold, with all our pets in front of Whole Foods at 9:00 PM at night with nowhere to go," says Lauren. "We were tired and stressed and feeling desperate."

The kindness of a stranger

A Katy man, Mike Pace, had read on Facebook that families were standing around in the rain at Whole Foods with nowhere to go so he went to see if he could help. Mike admits he had no idea what to expect or what he would see. As he walked around, he overheard a conversation about how the pets wouldn't be allowed at George R. Brown, and asked the two couples if they needed a place to stay. "We looked at each other confused and unsure if we heard him correctly," says Lauren who was certain nobody would offer to house them and their FIVE dogs! But the stranger reassured them all the dogs could come too. Relieved and grateful, the two couples and their dogs followed Mike to his Honda Pilot and they all got in. "We joked all the way to his house that his wife would never send him out for groceries again," laughs Lauren.

"We joked all the way to his house that

his wife would never send him out

for groceries again!"

All the comforts of home

The Pace's led each couple to a cozy guest room, each with their own bathroom, where they could take hot showers and relax. Their hosts also set up a comfy area with blankets and towels so the dogs could warm up and get some sleep. The exhausted dogs cuddled up together and fell fast asleep. "We all had the best night's sleep we'd had in a few days," says Lauren.

Piper, Boone, Blue, Kiki, and Koko cuddle up after being evacuated by boat

The next morning Lauren and her family awoke to a big pancake and egg breakfast prepared by their hosts Mike and Deedra who continued to make their stay comfortable. The dogs enjoyed some family play time with their littlest hostess Olivia, as well as a few treats. Later that day, Highway 99 and I-10 became passable so friends of the Black's and the Whaley's were able to get to them and take them to their next Harvey adventure. "We are so blessed for the kindness shown in our time of need, "says Lauren. "Mike and Deedra are our heroes!"

Left to right Kody Whaley, Kelley Whaley, Deedra McFadden, Lauren Black, Mike Pace, Olivia Pace, and Steven Black with all five pets they brought with them

The Reunion

The Blacks and the Whaley's say they were grateful to the family who housed them and were happy to be able to personally thank the Pace family for their kindness again at our photos shoot.

Mike is humble about the gratitude of the family they hosted. "Like most people in our community, I'm sure they would do the exact same thing if the tables were reversed and they learned someone needed a little help," he says.

After Mike and Deedra hosted this group, they signed up with local groups to host more. They also helped with cooking, wrangling, and spearheading high volume food prep, deliveries and donations to distribution centers to feed evacuees and first responders. They also mucked out many homes and continue to serve the community in many ways.

Katrina Katsarelis is the editor-in-chief of Katy Magazine.

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