In Times of Trouble, We’re Here for Each Other

May 28, 2021


As floodwaters continued to rise and LSU closed on Tuesday, May 18, equine surgeons Drs. Mustajab Mirza and Britta Leise took to the road down Highway 30 to check on colleagues and clients who live along a stretch of road in St. Gabriel, just south of Baton Rouge, known for its ranchettes, horse pastures—and flooding. In 2016, historic flooding in south Louisiana affected many LSU SVM faculty, staff, and students.

The evening prior, Dr. Mirza had met Dr. Cherie Pucheu, Dermatology Service chief, at the SVM to help her unload her horses and goat and get the animals safely settled.

“Dr. Pucheu moved her horses before the water rise became an issue,” Dr. Mirza said.

Dr. Pucheu recalls that SVM people were there for her in 2016, as well, helping her sandbag her house.  

“At that time, Dr. Mirza advised me to move my horses and goat before the water got higher. He was right, and I’m glad I took his advice then. I remembered that advice and moved them early this time as well,” Dr. Pucheu said.

He also checked in with Dr. Mandi Lopez, professor & director of the Laboratory for Equine & Comparative Orthopedic Research, to see how she and her animals were faring.

“I appreciated him being in touch to make sure we were alright. We’re still dealing with the water,” Dr. Lopez said. 

Along the flooded road, Drs. Mirza and Leise checked on SVM clients, including Dick Fanguy, farrier; Susan Biehl, barn manager; Wesley Self; Gaitway Therapeutic Horsemanship Farms; and Dawn Kelly, supervising technician, Equine and Nuclear Medicine Imaging, and her daughter Nicole.

“It’s nice to know that our work family cares,” said Dawn Kelly, who remains displaced by recent floodwaters. She recalls Drs. Mirza and Anna Chapman helping her during the 2016 flood, along with Torri Collins, small animal technician, who trailered Kelly’s stranded horses to her own property to keep them safe.

Fanguy of Country Bayou Stables was out of town when the flooding occurred. His wife, Susan, was on site.

“When Dr. Mirza pulled into the driveway, it meant the whole world to us. Knowing I was gone, he physically came to our place to make sure we were okay,” Fanguy said.

“When people see a familiar face, it reminds them that they are not alone and we’re here for them,” Dr. Mirza said.

He is a member of the LSU SVM’s Disaster Training and Response Program in partnership with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART).

“When the flooding comes, it’s difficult to get to people and animals. You can’t put a horse in a boat,” said Dr. Mirza.

He believes that taking a wait-and-see approach to evacuation is tough on people and risky. High water can conceal fences and contain debris and contaminants.

“These situations are emotionally taxing, particularly this year. People are mentally fatigued by flooding, the pandemic, hurricanes because there’s no known and lasting relief in sight. They’re emotionally numb. This is true globally,” Dr. Mirza said.

That numbness can impact decision making in crisis situations. And that’s why being a member of a caring community like the SVM can be comforting and helpful in times of trouble.

“We look out for each other, and that’s part of what makes us great,” Dr. Pucheu said.

Memories of the 2016 flood and other disasters came back for Dr. Mirza, who recalled many of the SVM helpers: Ky Mortensen and Drs. Chance Armstrong, Laura Riggs, Dan Burba, Britta Leise, Rusty Moore, Dennis French, Rebecca McConnico, Frank Andrews, Wendy Wolfson, Martha Littlefield, Renee Poirrier, Rose Baker, Heidi Banse, Matt Welborn, Clare Scully, and others who offered assistance during natural disasters. 

“Dr. Brandy Duhon, in her leadership role with LSART, manages most, if not all, disasters when animals are in harm’s way. For me personally, I was pulled out of 2016 flood waters up to my chest and rising by Dr. Chapman. I was trying to get to some birds. Drs. Colin Mitchell and Chuck McCauley offered to fix my place after the 2016 flood. My dog and I were provided shelter by Cindy Meeker. These things meant a lot to me,” Dr. Mirza said.

“When tough times come, our SVM community members show up for each other, taking our mission to protect to a personal level when it means the most,” said Dean Joel Baines.


Sandra Sarr, MFA

Communications Coordinator