Barbara (Barbie) Richard and her husband Darrell were not in Texas for Hurricane Harvey. They had flown out a week beforehand to take care of Darrell’s sick brother in San Diego, unaware a hurricane was going to strike. When they arrived back in Port Arthur, the Richards had lost more than just some things in their home.
Media Milwaukee stopped by their home to ask Barbara if she had any pets affected by the hurricane because dog crates stand inside her open garage. She told her story through sobs.
She had raised two stepchildren since they were seven and 8-years-old and are now in their 40s, thankful to God that they survived the storm while she was away. She has never birthed a child, but like many animal lovers, she considered her two puppies to be her babies and refers to them as such.
“I love animals,” said Richard. “My little babies, they were so cute.”
The crates in her garage were for her two dogs, her long-haired Yorkie named Baby and her Yorkie/Blue Chihuahua mix named Chu/yo.
Richard had inherited Baby from an old woman who had to leave after a previous hurricane hit. Chu/yo was the one pup of Baby and Chico, a full-blooded Blue Chihuahua.
“My husband gave me Chico for my birthday years ago,” said Richard. “He could fit in my hand.”
Chico died of a heart attack like Richard’s father had at age 63. She described how he worked four jobs, took care of five kids and her mother. Richard comes from a long line of good people taking care of others.
Before leaving for San Diego to care for her brother-in-law, she left Baby and Chu/yo at a dog kennel on Highway 365, where she had brought them a couple times before.
She had called the people at the kennel to let them know that the planes wouldn’t let them get back to Port Arthur because of the hurricane. When Richard finally got back two weeks later, she went to Miss Tina at the shelter and told her she was there to get her babies back. It was then that Richard learned that Baby and Chu/yo had drowned and had been buried.
Richard comes off as a woman who only has good in her heart. She tried her best to understand that what happened to her dogs was nobody’s fault, but she still had questions.
“I mean they went through things too,” said Richard. “I said, ‘What other dogs drowned?’, because there was a kennel full of dogs. I said, ‘What other puppies didn’t make it? Was it just my babies who drowned?’”
One other woman’s dog didn’t make it. She didn’t know who the lady was, but she said it didn’t matter.
Her dogs had been there a week, but Miss Tina had not told her the news until she arrived at the shelter to pick them up. Pushing aside the anger in her heart, Richard hugged Miss Tina and said “Thank God you’re alive. It’s okay,” and left.
“I never want to sue,” said Richard. “I don’t have the heart to be like that. I held her so tight. I was so angry because I didn’t expect that.”
Richard explained that this was why there were two dog crates in her garage. She goes in her garage as little as possible. She tries not to think about what happened because it hurts too bad.
Touched by the fact that student journalists had flown from Wisconsin to cover her town, she showed them her home and the damages, took them into the garage where she didn’t care to go, offered pizza, and hugged and thanked each one. Although she said she is hesitant to open her door to people she doesn’t know, she ended up talking at length about her home, her job at the Jefferson County courthouse, her family, how cute her pets were, and her life before and after Hurricane Harvey.
“It’s a long story, y’all, and I’m so sorry,” said Richard. “But God must have sent you all here. I’ve been needing to let this out. I’ve just been holding it all in.”
Richards’ kindness, love, and positivism are something to be admired. Despite losing her babies, who were talked about more as family members than as pets, she emphasized every few minutes, through tears, that God is good.
“I’m telling y’all, it’s so hurtful,” said Richards. “A lot of things are hurtful, but guess what, I promise you this; there are people way worse off than us.”